Monday, July 30, 2007

Bonding In The Car!

I was driving my son to his mother's house this past weekend and he began asking when he could get his own car. His mom and I live about 15 minutes from each other and his school, job and friends are by my house. He usually has access to her car, when he's spending the week with her but when he's with me, I choose to drive him around; even dropping him off and picking him up from school -- which is only a few blocks from the house. I work out of the house, so I can always arrange my schedule to get him where he needs to be.

I only have the one car and could certainly let him have it to go to school, work and hang out with his friends but I kind of like knowing it's available when I need it. I've always just driven him to where he needs to be. I know many of you reading this think I'm crazy. Well, now that he's 18 that's just plain silly.

After our discussion about the car, I realized why I haven't worked real hard to get him one of his own -- he's my "car buddy". His mom and I divorced when he was in pre-school and at the time we lived about 25 minutes apart. We had found a private school for him to attend (Pre-School to 8th Grade) that was close to where she worked and not far from my office and since we switched custody each week, we found it easier to make the switch at school each Friday afternoon. He had clothes and personal stuff at each house, so this was a great arrangement but it required at least 40 minutes in the car each day -- 20 minutes to school and 20 minutes back home after school.

I realize this now, the time in the car was our time to bond! I don't recall any earth shattering conversations but over the last 14 years the two of us have really enjoyed our time in the car. I always made a point not to have the radio on while we were in the car, so I could catch up on his day. Most days, we talked from the time he got in the car to the time I said goodbye. Well, that habit is kind of hard to break. As he's grown older, our "car time" is about the only time we talk, so I'm beginning to see why I've avoided the subject of getting him his own car. I don't want to lose my "car buddy"

I think the bond we have as father and son, was strengthened by that time we shared in the car but he is now 18 years old and building his own life, so perhaps its time for me to let that part of our relationship end. To be honest I'm not looking forward to that. Who would have thought that 40 minutes in a car each day would have such an effect. I'm going to miss my "car buddy"

Saturday, July 28, 2007

But I'm 18! I Should Be Able To Do What I Want

Mom's House, Dad's House: Making Two Homes for Your Child

How many of you have heard this statement, "but I'm 18"? And I'm sure most of you have come up with the same response, "My house, my rules".

My son turned 18 in April but still has one year left of high school -- we waited a year to get him started in kindergarten. Up until just recently, I hadn't heard the "I'm 18" spiel but that didn't last for long. I've got a rule that he needs to be in by 1:00 AM and he needs to wake me up when he gets home -- he is still in high school. My reasoning -- not much good happens after midnight. He didn't really like that idea; not that he stays out that late very often but he wanted to have the option. (His mom wants him home by midnight when its her week so she's had the same conversation).

I wasn't sure how I was going to handle his response. He's legally able to do anything he wants. The armed forces keep sending him letters to join the fight, he doesn't have a legal curfew any longer, he has a job and has never gotten into any trouble. What Should I Do?!

I leaned on my childhood for a response. My folks had always said, "as long as you are living under my roof, you will live by my rules". I didn't want to say those exact words so I tried to explain the reason for wanting him home. Because I told him so!

Actually, we had a long talk about it. I just wanted him to know that the "curfew" was for my well being not only for his. I really don't like going to bed, not knowing when he's coming home or what he's doing. I told him I needed some time to adjust to this "being 18" thing and that he needed to prove to me that he was completely trustworthy. We agreed, that until he was out of High School that we would work with this arrangement and that if there was a need to stay out later, then he just needed to tell me and we would work it out.

Apparently, this communication thing works. I gave a little, he gave a little and we came up with an arrangement that works. Of course his mom isn't handling it the same way, but I told him, that moms really have a hard time with this and he needs to just suck it up until he's out of High School. The funny thing is, he's been living with his mom one week and me the next since he was around 4 years old and if he wanted to, he could choose to live with just one of us, rather than go back and forth between houses. To his credit it's never come up. He still loves his mom and wants to spend time with her and he's completely comfortable with our living situation.

Besides, he says when he graduates he''s moving out anyway; so his mom and I only have one year left. I'll believe it when I see it.

It's Been Awhile

I just looked at my directory of posts for this blog and was surprised that I hadn't posted anything here since April -- well that just won't do. It certainly isn't because I don't have anything to write, I've just been busy working on my other blogs.

Since my Squidoo lens on being a Single Dad is getting such a fantastic response, I've decided to post on this blog at least twice a week. I've got over 15 years of stories so it certainly won't be hard to come up with something.

I apologize for being away for so long.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Why Looking at my Son’s Baby Pictures made me Want More Kids!

Keeping Your Grandkids Alive till Their Ungrateful Parents Arrive: The Guide for Fun-Loving Granddads (Jungle of Utt Series)

It’s been awhile since I added anything to the Single Dad blog mostly because posts here take more out of me then my other blogs. I’ll try to get better at that; hopefully all of my readers still have the blog in their RSS reader.

I was moving some things, at the house, the other day and came across some of my son’s baby pictures. It had been a very long time since I had seen them. I stopped what I was doing and took some time to go through them, which brought a growing smile to my face. Those pictures were so funny and cute I almost cried – no kidding. I think it was more emotional for me because I’m approaching the empty nest and my testosterone level must be a little low right now also, there wasn’t one picture of me having to diaper my son, or take the midnight feeding, or drive him around in the car to get him to go to sleep – there were only cute, funny, no effort photos.

So, before I actually came to my senses, my mind started to wander and I began to think about how much fun it would be to have little kids again I even asked my son if I got remarried would he have a problem with me having more kids -- that is a problem I have, I often speak before I think. My son’s answer quickly brought me back to reality, “if you had another kid today you would be 63 years old when they were 16” he said “and you aren’t even dating anyone right now.” He then followed that with, “I would have no problem at all with you having more kids, but come on use your head.” Can you tell we have a close relationship?

As I was telling this story to an old girlfriend of mine – remember I have a problem speaking without thinking – she gave me the answer I was looking for, “that’s what grandkids are for” she said “we can love them, spoil them and then give them back”.

Of course she was right. Maybe I should have titled this post “That’s why God gives us Grandkids.”

Saturday, March 03, 2007

The Single Parent and the Empty Nest!

It occurred to me, just the other day, when my son mentioned for the 10th time in a week. “You know I’m going to be 18 in about a month” -- he actually only mentioned it once but I think I repeated it 9 more times to myself -- I wasn’t going to have a lot more time with him in the house. He is planning on going to college locally but since getting his job and his wheels he’s become very independent. He and his buddies are even talking about sharing an apartment while they are going to college.

You see I’m not his first stop when he needs a good meal or his clothes washed and since he’s making good money I’m not even getting asked for cash anymore. In fact he even offered to pay for dinner the other night, so it appears I am much less needed these days and soon I may not see him very much at all. This isn’t sitting well with me.

Most guys, I would think, look forward to the day the kids leave the house because it takes a little pressure off of them and they can start to enjoy themselves a little more. Moms of course don’t traditionally handle the empty nest very well and I’m expecting his Mom to have some difficulty with it. What surprises me is how I’m reacting. He has been such a huge part of my life and since I am not currently married or seriously dating I’m thinking I may actually get a little lonely.

I’m not going to stress out about it right now. I still have some time before he moves out but I think I may need to start planning my future a little. I’ve avoided serious dating relationships over the years because I didn’t want to complicate things with him – that is a topic for another post – maybe now is the time I should start looking for someone to spend my twilight years with – I think that scares me more then the empty nest. Yes, I have issues!

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Divorce! - Put the Kids First!

When I got divorced I was so angry. I couldn't understand why this was happening to me. Anger and hurt are natural emotions when going through this type of event but when they spill over into your relationship with your kids they can have a major negative impact. In our case it only took a single incident for us to realize we needed to put our son first.

One night after we had separated and I had brought my son back to his mom's after a visit, we got into an argument. It was very heated, I'm sure the neighbors considered calling 911. The majority of the yelling was being done right outside of my son's room with his door open. He was just a little over 2 years old at the time and at some point during our argument he stood up in his crib and yelled as loud as a little 2 year old can yell (which is pretty loud) Stop It! and then he started to cry. Both his Mom and I immediately stopped yelling and with astonished looks on our face went in to comfort him. Though we didn't discuss what happened at the time we both realized that our anger towards each other would never be a benefit to our child and could only do damage.

Amazingly we both came to this conclusion separately and were able to make changes in how we reacted towards each other from that day forward. Sure we still had arguments but never in front of my son.

Here are a few things we were able to do to lessen the impact of divorce for my son that may be helpful for you:

  • We stopped arguing in front of our son.
  • We never talked bad about the other parent to our son. (We may have done that to other family members but to our son)
  • We never forced him to take sides.
  • We tried as hard as possible to be consistent with discipline even if it required us both to sit down and talk to him together.
  • We made individual career, living, and school decisions with him in mind.
  • We decided to reduce the turmoil in his life by having him go to private school through 8th grade so he had some consistency. We tried to have his stuff at both houses so he wouldn't have to live out of a suitcase when he changed houses.
  • We also went to a week-on/week-off living arrangement.

I once heard a saying. "It takes 2 to make a good marriage buy only 1 to make a divorce" I would add to that "it takes 2 to make a workable divorce". I realize your situtation may be much different than mine but if you always put your children first in the decisions you make you can lessen the impact of your divorce on their life.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Discipline and the Single Parent!

When discussing parental discipline the topic can get very heated. A great many parents do not believe in spanking as a form of discipline while others believe if you take away spanking as an option you limit the effectiveness of discipline.

I’m not going to make any judgments about spanking in this post because methods of discipline are a parental decision. First off, reasonable people can differentiate spanking from beating a child and “Timeouts” are very effective for some children. My brother and I came from a household that used spanking as discipline. I don’t actually remember seeing my brother ever spanked but I got it a couple of times (and rightfully so). As young parents though we used different methods to discipline our children. I had to spank my son 2 times by the time he was 4 years old. The reason I remember it was because it hurt me to do it. From the time he was four I never had to spank him again. You see “Timeouts” wouldn’t work with my son, he enjoyed sitting in his room alone. My brother on the other hand used “Timeouts” because his children responded very well to that form of discipline. Now, many years later, his two kids and my son are all very well adjusted, respectful young adults. Parents need to treat their kids as individuals and discipline them when necessary with whatever method works best.

I’m no expert on this subject, but in my case because I clearly explained the rules and boundaries to my son and followed through with discipline that I explained would happen he quickly understood breaking the rules was counter-productive. Certainly, as kids get older the methods of discipline change. As they grow older it often is more effective to take away something that is of value to them, setting boundaries with clearly explained consequences is effective. What doesn’t work though is setting up rules that you won’t make stick. If kids don’t feel there will be any consequences to their actions no amount of yelling and threatening will work.

However you decide to discipline your child do it because you love them and want them understand proper behavior and that there are consequences to their actions.

Monday, February 05, 2007


My son and I drove by our first apartment the other day, really the only place we lived as a complete family (except for a brief attempt at reconciliation). My son was only 2 at the time so I didn't expect him to remember much but I asked anyway. He said the only thing he could remember was that I used to take him up the street to look at the horses and throw rocks in the pond. I was amazed, we really only did that a couple of times and the pond was actually just a puddle left over from a big storm. That got me thinking! We only have so much room in our heads for memories, what made him select that memory over so many others?

I thought back to my own childhood and the memories that stood out from my earliest days were related to emotional moments. Some of the memories were nice and some were not so pleasant but almost all of the early ones involved some type of emotion. I remember telling my Mother that I wanted to be a writer when I grew up and her saying "honey, you have to read something first" I remember thinking "I don't like to read so I guess I can't be a writer" I also remember walking home from school with my 2nd grade girlfriend and spilling milk on a girl I really liked in first grade and a crush on my 3rd grade teacher.

I asked my son to think about what he remembers from his early childhood. In addition to the memory I mentioned above, he remembered his Grandma taking him to see the construction workers building homes (when he was around 4 yrs. old). He remembered the cockroaches at his mom's house when they lived with her parents and he remembered me being late to pick him up from school one day (he was the only kid left). I remember that event also, I can still see the hurt in his face. Fortunately there were several more positive memories that involved me. I was struck by how much these events had apparently impacted him but I had to think hard to remember most of them.

It appears our deepest memories are made from emotional events; not from all the fun things we did while growing up but often from the everyday mundane things we did. They come from living and sharing an emotional connection. If you are a parent, my suggestion is to ask your kids what they remember from their early childhood and work on making those types of events a regular part of your relationship -- if they were positive. I’m no expert on memories but I do know we remember them for a reason.