We are not a broken family

I have been heading a single-parent family for nearly six years now. I am a teacher, and I can’t tell you how many times I’ve sat in meetings and conferences while others lamented the fact that we have to deal with “broken families.” I think it’s a hurtful phrase and one that I’ve had to work hard to overcome. My family is not broken. While maintaining our family’s privacy, I will just say divorce was not a decision that was taken lightly.

My ex-husband and I have made many compromises and more importantly, made peace with each other, in order to be the best co-parents possible for our kids. Yes, there are differences in our parenting styles, but we discuss all major decisions and are in general agreement on the important things. We face the same issues we would have been dealing with if we were still married.

Just because a children’s parents are divorced, it doesn’t have necessarily mean the family is broken. Broken to me means deficient in a way that is beyond repair. We may not have two parents living together in the same house, but I still consider my ex and his family my family and I always will.

We are bound together for the rest of our lives by our two children, and I want to make the best of it. I am happy that it’s not awkward or painful to sit together at recitals or meet up to go trick-or-treating. We will not have to sit in separate rows when our children graduate or get married.

Although it’s a sad statement about our society that the divorce rate is so high, the most practical way to help children is to give them a sense of family no matter what its makeup. I support the institution of marriage. When it works, it’s a beautiful partnership. But there are other types of families that work too. We may not look like the Pajamagram picture above, but we’re still a whole, beautiful family!

 

Please check out my first novel, Giving Myself Away, about a divorced mom making tough choices.

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Do you give your ex a Father’s Day gift?

 

The first few years after our divorce, I attempted to ignore Father’s Day as I dropped off the kids to spend the day with their dad. But as time has healed the pain of our failed marriage, I found myself wanting to acknowledge his continuing role in my life: the co-parent of our children.

I’ve decided to let go of things that disappoint me and celebra te what he means to the kids. They adore him and I believe that showing my appreciation boosts his confidence and shows our kids that they don’t have to fear they are “taking sides” by wholeheartedly and unreservedly loving their dad.

I am grateful that we are the kind of divorced parents who can peaceably go to parent-teacher night together, who can sit side by side at sports events, and who can talk without getting into the blame game.

Last year, I went through old pictures and made my ex a little photo album of our kids. He had very few baby photos because I seem to be the keeper of family history, so I knew it would be something he’d like. I felt I had reached a new place of acceptance that I could look at those photos without feeling angry, sad, wistful, or any other negative emotion. Instead, they reminded me that we had two beautiful babies who will always tie us together. We aren’t married anymore, but we will always be linked through our children, and maybe someday our grandchildren.

Now I can wish him Happy Father’s Day and mean it, and I can look for ways to let him know all year that I value his role in our children’s lives.

If you like reading about families, parenting, divorce and tough decisions, please check out my novel Giving Myself Away, available now.

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Free mini-fiction: The worst pickup line ever

Adriennes blog 20 butt picHi, I’m Adrienne.   I’m getting really tired of ranting about my divorce, so I asked my friend Rob what I should talk about.  He said I should tell you about the (very misguided) night my sister Kristen and I went to a bar.

You have to understand that we were both a mess.  I had a baby a few months ago but was recently mistaken for still being pregnant, and Kristen was getting over being dumped… by her married boyfriend.  So we weren’t A+ on the self-esteem scale.

Kristen and I don’t hang out together too often.  She’s a few years younger and doesn’t have kids.  She says she doesn’t want to have kids specifically because of me.  That’s what a stellar mom I am.

Normally Kristen would have a date or a girls’ night out with her real friends, but on this one particular Friday, I was home alone and so was she. I could have dealt with it by putting on PJs and watching The Ugly Truth for the fourth time, but Kristen does not sit at home and she does not spend time alone, ever.

She lured me out offering to make me look better (and less pregnant – she wasn’t promising any miracles).  I have brown, curly, almost kinky hair, whereas Kristen’s is blonde and straight (with a lot of money and labor, mind you).  I put on some mascara at 7 a.m. before work and that’s it for the day, while Kristen believes you must reapply at lunchtime and dinnertime and before going out at night.

I’m sure this is one of many reasons why she dates more than I do, but hey, we’re both single, so I don’t think she’s winning.

After carting in a mini suitcase of makeup, spackling my face, and spraying something sticky in my hair, Kristen pulled half the clothes out of my closet and finally approved of a sparkly black sweater over dark rinse jeans.  She made me put on heels too.

Our choice of hangouts is pretty slim pickings:  either a club dominated by people who are right around age 21 or one of the neighborhood bars where the average patron is 60+.  There’s not much in between.  I vetoed the club, so we ended up in one of those dingy establishments where everyone turns around to look at the door every time it opens to see who’s coming in.  They’re rarely surprised either, so it was an exciting night at the Lucky Mug when Kristen and Adrienne stepped through that door.

Obviously Kristen gets the most male attention, and she deserves it.  She works for it.  Besides, she was like insect repellent – all the gnats were bothering her and leaving me alone.  One guy in a black t-shirt that actually had a hole by the armpit strode up and bumped into her leg.

“I knee’d you,” he said.  “Get it?  Knee’d?  N-E-E-D?”

Kristen just glared as the guy’s friend yelled from across the bar, “Knee with a K, you dumbass!”

“Lay off, Eddie,” the bartender said, shooing him back to his friends, who were laughing at him and high-fiving each other.  He had probably fulfilled a dare just by coming over to talk to Kristen.

“What’ll you girls be having?” the bartender asked us as she wiped down the bar in front of us with an infectious-looking damp rag.  She thunked down a bowl of sad looking half-crushed party mix that I’m sure got scooped back into the gallon-size jar every night at closing time.  I could just imagine that those orange tortilla chips would taste like smoke.

As Kristen ordered us each a beer, I turned my back to the men at the end of the bar, only to hear one of them yell out, “Are those space pants?  Because your ass is out of this world!”  Another riot of laughter started up and Kristen said out of the corner of her mouth, “See, I told you those pants are good on you.  Look at that, you getting hit on already.”

So this is what I’ve been missing?  I think I was better off at home with my pint-sized pals Ben and Jerry.  I’ll tell you the rest of the story next time, but if you want to read more about Kristen and me and our swinging single lives, check out Giving Myself Away.   How about making me feel better by telling me the worst pickup line you ever heard?

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The only adult in the house

Adriennes blog 19 washing machine picHi, I’m Adrienne and I’m the only adult in my house.  Most of the time, I’m okay with that.  I get all the closet space, no one steals my stash of Oreos (that I keep too high up for the kids to notice), and the toilet seat is never up in the middle of the night.

Other times, it’s really hard.  I’ve lived on my own with no problem, but there’s something about having kids in the house that raises the stakes.  If there were a break-in or a fire, it’s not affecting only me anymore.  When there’s a tornado warning or a flood watch, it’s all on me to keep the kids out of harm’s way as best I can.

When Drew first moved out, I woke up countless nights to every little noise, convinced that something awful was happening.  Someone was trying to creep in the basement windows or pick the lock on the front door.  I’d startle awake, my heart pounding, and grab my cell phone.  But who to call?  After listening and sitting so still that all I could hear was the blood rushing though my head, I’d eventually calm down and realize it was just a noise like all houses make.

Then there are the times a major appliance breaks down.  I’ve had to figure out how to turn off the electricity and the water because pipes have leaked, the washing machine has become unbalanced, and the furnace made a scary sound.  Men probably feel intimidated about certain home repairs too, but they have a more exploratory nature, whereas I assume that anything I touch is going to break down even further with my intervention.

Growing up, I learned how to change the sheets and cook and iron and sew, but my dad didn’t teach me guy things because he never expected I’d need to know them.   As a result, I’m as unbalanced as the washer.  I don’t think of turning off the pipes to the outside faucets or cleaning the gutters because they were never in my realm of responsibility before.

I’m teaching my sons everything I know.  I hope they have someone to share the joys and responsibilities of home-ownership, but just in case, they won’t be as unprepared as I was.

Read more about my life after divorce in Giving Myself Away, available now.

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Available at Amazon.com in paperback and Kindle format

Available at Barnes and Noble in paperback and Nook format

What were you happiest your ex took with him in the divorce?

Adriennes blog 15 brown recliner picHi, I’m Adrienne.  I’m one of those people who likes to make lists.  You’ll find them stashed in drawers, hanging in the kitchen cabinets, and in the reminders app on my phone.  Not all of my lists are things to do.  Some of them are things to be grateful for.  There’s a list I pull out from my jewelry box every now and then when I’m feeling sorry for myself about being divorced.  The paper is getting fuzzy along the edges from being folded and unfolded so many times, but I’m happy to say I don’t need to look at this list as often as I used to.

Things I’m happy Drew took with him in the divorce:

  1. His hideous brown recliner.  You know the chair, the one that comes with you into your marriage.  You know it’s a bad idea to let him bring it with him, but you’re so happy to be pulling your separate lives together that you overlook that chair.  It might be a hand-me-down from his parents or he might have picked it up at the Salvation Army, but either way, it was part of his bachelor life and now it’s got memories.  Never mind the fact that it’s ugly as all get out, stained, and not even that comfortable anymore.  There’s no slipcover that’s going to make that lumpy excuse for furniture look respectable.  It doesn’t match anything else, and you just have to hope you have one of those man-cave rooms to hide it in, because it’s not going anywhere…until you get divorced, that is.
  2. His “collections.”  Beer steins, baseball cards, comic books, you name it.  The monetary value or the space it takes up is completely irrelevant.  The older his collection is, the more determined he is to keep it.  You can bet his mother can’t wait to get it out of her house.  I never saw Drew’s mom lifting such heavy stuff as the day she finally unloaded Drew’s boxes from their attic to ours.  Or maybe your man had a mother who threw out his stuff and he still resents her for it.  These are the ones to watch out for because if you so much as throw out an old receipt of theirs for a hot dog from a baseball game ten years ago, you’ve just discarded a piece of his life.
  3. His snoring.  I put up with it and I learned to sleep despite it, but wow, I’ve never slept so well in my life now that I’m single.  I can sleep on the left side of the bed, the right, or the middle, and there’s always room for me.  No one to snuggle up to, but at least it’s quiet and roomy.
  4. His clothes.  Clothes = laundry and some men never learned to unball their socks or take the stuff out of their pockets.  I’m already mom to two kids; did I really need to be his mom too.
  5. The love letters I wrote him.  I promised I’d love him forever, and of course I believed it.  Who doesn’t think their romance is the best, truest love the world has ever known?  I might be tempted to look back and get sentimental about old times I can’t recapture, but thankfully he’s removed the temptation.
  6. The petty resentment.  I spent a lot of time being mad at Drew for not doing the household things that I felt like he should be doing, such as taking the trash out, mowing the lawn, or fixing the broken vacuum cleaner.  Now there’s no one to nag but myself.  My “honey-do” lists are only for me, and I can check off the items or ignore them at will.
  7. His debt.  Some of it I was responsible for, but now that we’re divorced, what he does or doesn’t do financially can’t hurt me anymore.  There’s no one to negotiate with over what we can afford.  If I put something on the credit card, I know I’ll be the one paying for it.
  8. His pet snake, Lulubel.  Drew and his roommates bought a ball python during a drunken night of college partying, and somehow he inherited her by being last to move out of the guys’ apartment.  I will not miss weekly trips to the pet store to buy mice to sacrifice to Lulu, or the semi-regular dreams I had that she would escape and kill one of us in the night.

You might say this list sounds like sour grapes, but it gets me by on the days I miss being married, miss having the comfort of a spouse and someone to share all the joys and sorrows of life with.

What were you happiest to let go of when you and your spouse separated?

You can read more about my lists and my adventures with and without Drew in Giving Myself Away, available now.

GivingMyselfAwayCover

Available at Amazon.com in paperback and Kindle format

Available at Barnes and Noble in paperback and Nook format

Your family stickers make me feel bad

Adriennes blog 7 sticker family picHi, I’m Adrienne, the sometimes bitter divorcee.  I’m sitting behind you at a red light and I have to stare at your happy family outlined in glaring white decals on the back of your minivan:  Dad with his grilling tools, you with your shopping bags, and your sporty boy and girl, flanked by an obnoxiously cute dog.  Yes, I get it:  Your family is perfect.  Intact.  Whole.

I’m not going to put my family layout on my car because what would that look like, with me on one side, my ex and his new wife, her three kids, and their new baby on the other, and our two kids pasted to the middle, halfway between us?  Maybe we could even put my ex’s new wife’s ex somewhere on there too?  Who can keep up?  The whole lot of us are a family of some sort, but it’s not the kind you brag about.

Let’s be real:  I know your family isn’t perfect even if it is really great.  Even if your marriage is going strong, you’ve faced hardship and strife.  Your kids may be wonderful, but I’m sure they drive you around the bend at least some of the time.  Maybe your stickers are just your way of showing how grateful you are for the best parts of your life.

But I feel like you’re showing off.  Your family is superior to mine because you have a spatula-wielding dad in the picture.  It’s your right to decorate your car however you wish, but keep in mind all the families who are families, even if there are no kids, even if a parent or child has died, even if the grandparents are raising the child, even if the family configuration is one of many other scenarios that don’t play out well in stick-figure form.

You can read about my family, a little worse for the wear, but definitely not broken, in Giving Myself Away, coming soon from Assent Publishing.  Thanks for visiting, and please let me know how you feel about family stickers.

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If I get married again, I don’t want new dishes

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If I get married again, I don’t want new dishes.  The first time I got married, everything had to be matching and new.  I remember taking that handheld scanner at the department store and zapping the things we wanted to add to our shiny married life – vases and plates and platters, beer glasses and grilling tools and gadgets.  All the right stuff would make us the perfect couple, charting a course together through housewares and beyond.  The first time I married, I was young and idealistic and unrealistic.  When things got broken, I believed they couldn’t be fixed.

If I get married again, I want a mishmash of mixed-up sets of plates from both of us, chipped and old, tokens of the perfect marriage we were supposed to have the first time.  Every day when I open my cabinet to pull out a cereal bowl or a coffee mug, I want to remember the hardships of life and where I’ve been.  I want us to sit at a table with jumbled place settings, plates and kids not matching but fitting together nonetheless.  I want to remember that I’m not perfect, he’s not perfect, we’re not perfect.

If I get married again, I’m going to appreciate what I have a whole lot more.  This time, I’ll know that cracked doesn’t mean unfixable.  I will know that the things that get cracked just need to be treated with greater care.

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