It all comes back to .. (finishing some thoughts)

“Sometimes the best thing you can do as a parent, is keep your mouth shut.  My mother just listened .. and let me talk.  What a gift that was.” – Diane Keaton this morning, on the Today Show

……………….

What are the most important lessons your mother taught you?

……………….

I have seen the topic quite a bit recently in the news .. especially as we approach Mother’s Day.  I’ve been asked that particular question by friends recently as well.  And, it is a question I have been pondering myself, always have, but more and more as I work to navigate the ever changing waters that are motherhood.

Especially through divorce.

I have been trying to write for the past week, without much success, about some of the challenges facing us at the moment.

Much of it is relatively small in the grand scheme of things ..

 .. like making sure we’re out the door each morning in time to get to school on time.  Or .. navigating the increasing mood swings she’s having as she heads toward her tween years.  (This will be fun to write about).  Responding – or not to the occasional tantrum (of which we have not had one since that dreadful first night of spring break).  Listening to her constant push for a later bedtime as she gets older and balancing that with her need to get enough sleep.  Listening to her ask for anything that means more responsibility.  Yet struggling with how some of the most basic things she needs to do and is reminded of, she can’t somehow seem to get done.  Her being upset with me as I ask her to leave the cats alone and instead focus on her homework.  Not allowing any talking back and providing appropriate consequences when she does.  Keeping track of my jewelry, clothes or shoes ..as she can now fit into most of them… stuff like that.

I realized only this morning, just how similar a size we now are .. when I grabbed her rainboots to run out to the car.

And they fit.

As she grows and things are changing rapidly, some of these conversations and reflections will be easy and somewhat fun to write about.  And for her to have to reflect upon.

The problem is ..

There are bigger issues and conversations happening behind the scenes right now that are tough.  And are very big picture.  And that should stay behind the scenes, for now.

Especially because, we all know, that even in marriage parents don’t see eye to eye.

So what do you do, what is best to do, when it comes to divorce.  And your child’s future.  When you have two separate homes.  And two very strong, well meaning opinions that can’t quite merge.

…………….

Going back to the original question above, one many seem to be asking in their lives at this particular moment:

I believe the best advice I ever got from my own mother .. that I am relying on to get me through some of the smaller challenges of the day to day and of raising a child .. never came through actual words.

It came through her smile.  And her laughter.  Her ability to do both in the face of chaos.  And as Diane Keaton so eloquently stated this morning about her own mother, it was my mom’s ability to listen and respond in a way that, even if it was unintentional at the time, would ultimately help me take responsibility for my own actions and grow.

I’m not sure laughter and a smile are going to help on some of what is before us ..

I’m hoping there will be occasions however, where it won’t hurt either.  And in the meantime, I look forward to always working on my listening skills.

 

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It all comes back to being a mom ..

It’s been kind of a rough week on the home front for a few reasons.

One, I’m pretty hard on myself when I don’t feel like I’ve been the best mom I can be.

Two, sometimes so are others.  Hard on you, that is.  Certain that – if put in your shoes they could live your life and do the job better.

Three, it’s been an insanely busy week.  One where I’ve had much more on my plate than usual.  And usual is already ridiculous by most people’s standards.  On top of it, I haven’t felt well.  I do believe my nose is bleeding at the moment from blowing it so much, darn this cold/sinus infection/whatever it is.  So I’m sure I’m looking good to boot.

I sincerely don’t mean in any way to complain.

Everyone around me is sick.  Busy and hard on themselves I think at times, knowing if they had more time to do it all, they could do any of it better.  Some, I know are far more sick and challenged than I am at the moment so I try to rise everyday thanking the good Lord for whatever level of health I do have.

Just stating the facts.

But, everything this week:  event-wise, situation-wise, health-wise and otherwise, has come back to the whole issue of parenting for me and what I want for myself and my (and my ex’s) daughter.

Big picture stuff.

And big picture can be tough when you and your spouse or ex or whoever else might be in the picture .. can’t seem to ever get on the same page when it comes to even the little things.

(It sure is interesting, though trying to get it all worked out.  Thoughts to be shared perhaps, later.  For now, the Cowboy and I are off to solve the world’s problems over beer and a fish fry.  Isn’t that where all good problems are solved?)

(A Different) Perspective … A Friend Writes.

I’m not sure that my comments to the Cowboy are of any reassurance during weeks like this.

Weeks, where it’s the tail end of the two weeks essentially, without the kids.

I can’t imagine being in his shoes.. or ever putting someone else in the position he’s in.  But I’m increasingly becoming aware of how many people are.  In his shoes.  Parents who essentially are told they should appreciate any time they get to ‘visit’ their children.

And on the flipside, in the position of the other parent in many divorce scenarios.  The parent, given primary placement.  The one who gets most of the time with and control over the kids.  And how that can sometimes look.

It’s been an emotional past couple weeks.

It seems the further out he gets from the divorce and the less he continues to see the kids, with each passing day, month or now year .. the tougher it is for him to feel like he can really be a father to them.  The father he wants and hopes to be, anyway.  A few hours each week sitting in a restaurant because there’s not enough time now to go home or good weather to go to a park and play .. and four weekend days each month, is hardly enough time to get anyone back into a good groove.

Just when dad and kids seem to be settled in and getting reacquainted.. it’s time to pack for the trip back to their other home.

………..

Fortunately, more states are recognizing, through time, experience, and statistics .. the rules need to change.  In not all, but most scenarios.  Where two loving, responsible, protective parents both want to be a part of raising their children, and be present in their lives.

http://www.wctrib.com/event/article/id/90932/

Things will change.  Someday.  As more and more states.  And more and more parents, left on the outside looking in at their children’s lives for no apparent good reason other than a judge’s orders, decide that instead of giving up because nothing will change and it only causes more pain to try .. instead, keep trying.  Because it does matter.  Not just to them, but their kids.  That they are not alone.  And the more they come together and speak with one voice, someone will hear them.

But will it come soon enough for some families to heal.

……….

I mentioned it has been a tough couple weeks.

I can always tell when we’re a week into his time without the kids .. because there is an unshakeable sadness.  No matter what the Cowboy says to me, I know its eating at him.  That he hasn’t seen them.  That if he wants to talk with them, its dictated to him how that has to happen.  Yet the conditions are at times not met on the side giving dictation.

When there is a call, it’s quick.  Then usually .. ‘they’re busy and need to go.’

The few hours he had the chance to spend with them this past mid-week .. for many reasons, was emotionally overwhelming and tough.  And because of the weather, the circumstances and one of the boys crying for his mother, he took them home in heavy frustration and sadness a half hour early.  For a man who would give anything for extra time with his children .. this has all been very trying .. emotionally, physically and spiritually.

Not knowing what else to say .. because really, what can you .. I say, well then, let’s pray.

And, then I add.. “They’re healthy.  Let’s just be grateful they are healthy.  The rest will fall into place.  I don’t know when.  But it will.”

He agrees.  I’m not sure he wholeheartedly believes me.  But for the moment, he agrees.

………..

I wasn’t going to write about this today .. I was going to instead, write about another lesson learned by the Cowboy after spending more time than he’d probably like in the city .. (Because we have some great, entertaining lessons yet to be shared.  Like parking tickets.)

But I was reminded again today of why the health of our children, is above everything else, what is most critical.  I am actually, reminded of it daily.  Through my job, I see families put in situations that would bring any of us to our knees.  I have close friends who have lost a child.  And, who have children with severe disabilities.  I thank God each and every day my own daughter is healthy.  There is sincerely not a day that I take that for granted.

I saw this afternoon, a tweet from a dear friend of mine.  A friend I don’t talk with as much as I’d like anymore.  We’re all busy.  But I see it, and I shudder to think based on the content of the tweet, what might be happening.

I message him, ‘Just seeing this.  What is going on?  Are you all OK?’

He shoots back moments later, ‘We’re OK. This explains:’ and he sends me the following link.

‘Lessons from a young Skywalker:’

http://www.espnmilwaukee.com/common/more.php?m=49&post_id=7074

……….

Again, I’m not sure any of my comments or anyone’s are helpful to the Cowboy.  Reassuring.  Or comforting given the struggles he’s facing.

Only he knows.  And honestly, only he can figure out how to work through this stage of his family’s young .. challenging life.  Through his relationship with himself.  God.  And his faith in both.  Something right now, he’s giving everything he’s got.

……….

A wonderful opportunity presented itself this afternoon ..

The gift of a few extra hours with the kids to kick off the weekend.  The Cowboy got a call asking if he wanted to pick them up early.  No one is asking why.  Mom could have had something else she wanted to do this afternoon and it saved her from postponing or getting a sitter.  Or, she could have genuinely wanted to give them all more time together.

No one’s asking why.  Just celebrating the moments.

And grateful to their mother, for offering them up.

How seldom or how often any of us can ever have the chance to spend time with our kids, to hold them, hug them and be present with them, is such a gift.

Reassurance they are also healthy ..

I’m praying tonight, my friend Jason and his family continue to get nothing but the best news .. and care for their young Skywalker, in the meantime.

Small victories.

It has been a long past several weeks of watching someone I love really go out of his comfort zone .. sticking his neck out to do the right thing.

It hasn’t been easy.

And that is an understatement.

But the goal has always been, a healthier situation for the three children he and his ex-wife brought into this world together.  And for them all as a family, even in divorce.  So he’s stuck it out.  And stuck to the issue.  And shut out the noise of others working against him/others walking in his same shoes.

‎”Never bend your head. Always hold it high. Look the world right in the eye.”

– Helen Keller

The South Dakota Senate today passed House Bill 1055, a bill that aims to do what is in the best interest of children by working toward 50/50 placement whenever and wherever  possible.  It may not be the bill the Cowboy and others had hoped for.  Because it still only encourages a judge to give both parents equal placement when its in the best interest of a child.  But there were concerns the companion Senate bill went a bit too far.

HB 1055 is a small victory.

Or..

Maybe it is big.  Maybe even this small change will ripple further than anyone realizes.  Who can tell what the impact will be for children to spend more equal time with both parents and their families.. families who love and want to help raise them, parents who are encouraged through this legislation to better get along, to co-parent in a manner currently not fostered in the state of South Dakota.  Who can at this moment, fully appreciate what that will mean and the impact it will have on a child?

HB 1055 now heads to the Governor’s desk.

It is both sad yet wonderful everything involved with this discussion, *every letter written, every piece of testimony, will remain a matter of public record.  Because someday, the Cowboys children will understand just how hard their dad fought for them..  how much of a stand he had to take, to simply do what one might think would come natural – and that’s be their dad.

I don’t know that anyone reading this blog is among those I feel compelled to say something to, but:

On behalf of the Cowboy, a sincere thank you to all who worked hard for this, from the other dads, moms and grandparents who testified, to those who wrote in, to the legislators who took a stand, who came back at this year after year, who held meetings and who have been studying the issue to try and get it right this time.  Is it right?  We will see.  But still, thank you.  Thank you to the other dads who for years, have done their best to pave the way toward change.  Thank you especially .. to the legislators who fought hard to be the voice for so many children and families in your state, who otherwise might feel like no none cares that they are hurting.  And, for making sure dirty politics weren’t played today as best you could, for thoroughly understanding both sides of an issue because you had today, information from both sides.  Thank you for what may be seen as only a small victory by some.

I’m hoping in one little corner of South Dakota, that small victory will someday soon .. grow into a big fat wonderful opportunity for a good man to have more time, less stress, less conflict and all the space possible to love his kids.

Can’t sleep …

People always worry its a man that’s abusive in a relationship.

People often don’t believe there’s no abuse taking place if a hand isn’t risen.  Or that it hasn’t been documented.

I’m worried tonight .. ahem, this morning, about the Cowboy.

I may have no just cause.

But I am.

Because when certain people feel attacked and like they are losing control over a situation, they lash out.  Words and actions become even more irrational than they may normally be.  Things go awry.

The Cowboy is finally taking a stand against behaviors and a situation that if done to a woman, no one would hesitate to cry foul.

He doesn’t really care at this point, to address any of what’s happened to him .. and the kids in the past.  Or to her.  He hopes the fact the final paperwork has finally arrived and the divorce is final will allow everyone to move on.  But the one thing that does need to be addressed, is time with his kids.  The three things .. the three little people that mean the most to him in his life, he now sees four whole days a month.  He has to be creative to get any more time with than that.  And at every turn, he is often deliberately shut out.  Every turn.

A man who is a good and loving dad, and wants to be a part of raising his children, should not have to fight for what should be his to begin with, and that is time to love and raise his kids.

Somehow, according to the ex, that is just wrong.  And there is every effort being made on her part at this point to silence him.

Hell hath no fury like a woman who’s been scorned.

The Cowboys effort has never been to take their children away from their mother.  Has never been to smear her name.  Has never been to raise awareness that abuse comes in many forms and perhaps reveal testimony, facts and a judges findings to the public so both sides can be presented here.  None of us wants to drag anyones name through the mud like its somehow acceptable for others to do right now when it comes to the Cowboy.

While he has stayed the course and kept his message, along with every other person that testified yesterday before God and South Dakota state legislators about the need for both parents to have equal time with their children wherever and whenever possible, only two felt the need to bring in personal attacks.  And they were both women who will do anything to get their way.

One, seems willing to go to just about any length to ensure no one gets time with her kids, but her.

The other, a South Dakota State Senator, should be ashamed of the tactics deployed today.  But we expected nothing less.

We pray.  We hope someday things for everyone get better in this scenario.  And we, along with so many others who respect and stand alongside the Cowboy, are trying like crazy to stay about it all.

But in the quiet .. still night .. out in the Plains of South Dakota, there is a man, a woman feels very threatened by.  Not because he will raise a hand to her.

But because he is good.  And strong.  And fighting fair, unlike what either of them .. or many others for that fact, may have ever done in their marriage.  And deep down she has to know the mission he is on, is right.

I’m worried about the Cowboy.

A bit stir crazy ..

I’ve been following the Shared Parenting bill discussion live as much today as possible.

The numbers that showed up, thanks to the awareness these bills were even in the mix this year, was amazing today.

The Cowboy this morning, after the sponsors of the bill spoke, was the first to go.  He was followed by dad after dad, grandparents, and few mothers all speaking in favor of Senate Bill 60.  I know there are always two sides to every story and both feel their side worthy of consideration in any situation where child placement is concerned.  But there was no bashing of ex spouses or co-parents today.  There was just a lot of unbelievable sadness one parent has been removed from the mix, because current South Dakota legislation says that is what is best.

Only three spoke in favor of ONLY House Bill 1055 ..three lobbyists.  Two for child welfare organizations in South Dakota.  The other, the lobbyist for the SD State Bar.

The Cowboy’s mom even went.  I feel (and I’m sorry if you don’t agree for any reason), no matter what side you come at this from, her testimony fair.

So today, her comments to State Legislators on behalf of a bill that would ask a judge to strongly consider granting both parents equal time/placement of children in the event of a divorce, all signs pointing to that it is in the best interest of a child, is my post.

I’m going to go back to nervous waiting.. and let her words speak for themselves.

….

In support of Senate Bill 60

Shared Parenting Legislation

Every person in this room has a story, a story of the events of our lives. My name is (the Cowboys mom) and I am here today because I want to share a part of what is my…or our family’s story.

My husband and I both grew up in South Dakota. Our family roots extend well over 100 years in both the Eastern and Western part of the state. Some of my fondest memories of my life began with my visits to the center of the Badlands where my Grandpa and Grandma lived. We would go visit them every week-end and in the summer we would stay with them for several weeks.

My Grandparents had 34 grandchildren so I had lots of playmates, my cousins. The first picture you see in front of you is a picture published by the Rapid City Journal of some of my cousins and me at Range Days in Rapid City. This picture and story is there because of what my parents, grandparents, aunts & uncles did for all of us. The horses, the saddles, boots, hats and jeans are there because of them. They were there for us, and were able to give us their time and love and most importantly strong family ties.

Time… It’s a precious thing.

My story moves on and in 1973 my husband and I married and are blessed with three wonderful sons. They too were lucky enough to have both parents and both sets of grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins in their lives. My sons are now grown and have blessed us again with five beautiful grandchildren.

I believe one of the most important things children can have, is time with family. The current SD State Custody Guidelines has given the courts the power to grant non-custodial parents very limited quality time with their children and they with him or her, subsequently we as extended family members have also lost our quality time. We now have limited opportunity to mentor and share our life experiences with these children. Our grandchildren are also missing out on the values of sharing time with their extended family.

What will their story be?

As I wonder about their story, I can’t help but be reminded of one of their favorite movies, a story that we all know, The Wizard of Oz. If they have watched the movie once, they have watched it a hundred times. In reflecting on the last year and a half of our lives…their lives, I can see the similarities . A huge tornado called a divorce has swept these children from the life that they knew and taken them into a new life, a new chapter if you will. A chapter where they no longer see their Daddy on a daily basis, instead see him only 4 days out of thirty, a chapter where they are not allowed to even receive a phone call from him, simply because the SD guidelines use the word should in regards to phone calls. They were forced to change schools/babysitters and change their friends. They no longer get to see Grandpa and Grandma several times a week and have been wisped away from their cousins and aunts and uncles. The yellow brick road this past year has been a rough one to say the least.

As their Grandmother, I worry their memories won’t be of the great times we have had together as a family, but of the times they have had to leave their Dad after one of his four days a month that they get to be with him. Four days out of thirty…think about that. To a child…the days in between are an eternity.

I am concerned they will instead remember the times they cry and scream so hard that they kick their little cowboy boots off their feet as their time with Daddy comes to an end. Or, the times they leave a note on their Dads refrigerator asking him to call but again never receiving his calls.

The times our 7 year old granddaughter holds back her tears as she comforts her little 3 year old brother as he leaves his Daddy saying “ Isn’t it sad Daddy isn’t it sad?”

I could go on and on as they already have many, many more stories to tell. If their current situation continues, by the time they are young adults, what will their story be? How will these circumstances affect them as adults, and what stories will they tell their grandchildren?

As their Grandmother, I pray for them. And since I am only allowed a few hours a month with them, I remind them each time that I see them, that I hug them in my heart everyday.

Time is what not only our grandchildren need. But so many other families. Equal time with their Mommy and Daddy. Equal time with their grandparents, aunts,uncles and cousins. Time to create a story.

Like in the movie, I can’t help but think that somewhere…somewhere there has to be a wizard, a wizard to help these children have a happy ending to this chapter of their story.

In closing, I have but one question for each and every person in this room…What influence did your father have on your life and what would your story be without those influences?

Please support if not Senate Bill 60, House Bill 1055