Short Course In Human Relations

In the process of looking for something for a client today, I happened to stumble across the following photo. It struck me as something important to share – at the very least, with our kids.

Short Course in Human Relations

Short Course in Human Relations

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We may not all agree with the phrases used here, but numbers four through one to me, seem pretty spot on. And while I could be wrong, I don’t think some of these thoughts are shared or these qualities encouraged enough, anymore. We’ve all heard people talking terribly to one another. And, if you talk with just about any business owner, especially in the service industry, they’re hard pressed to come across employees that have great interpersonal skills let alone a strong worth ethic. The above to me, is a great reminder of some important phrases to have in our immediate vocabulary, if nothing else

Imagine if we all got back to genuinely caring about what others thought, asking please, saying thank you and thinking of others more than we thought of ourselves. What would that look like in our lives, our families, our work, even in divorce and matters of shared parenting.

Sure, it would still look very different to different people and situations would still be handled uniquely from person to person. I totally get that. I just can’t help but think perhaps a little more humility might be injected back into our everyday. And that would be a wonderful thing.

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Disclaimer: There are lawyers, judges, social workers, guardian ad litem, counselors, psychologists, researchers, etc that work diligently each and every day to genuinely do what is in the best interest of children and families when it comes to divorce and custody decisions. They are not in it for the money. They want to help make things as right as possible in a situation that has sadly gone wrong. Wherever and whenever you find these people, please share their names liberally.

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For those that have been fighting to change a very broken system in many states – the family court system – I’m not sure yet what this may mean. But the mere fact popular culture seems to now be looking at the disgusting under bowels of what can be one of the most underhanded, crooked, lacking of any continuity, back door, rewarding of mean spirited, unethical, say whatever you want to hurt another party, guilty until you can prove yourself innocent, shut the other parent out, full of extortion, family destroying industries versus trying to help mend what’s broken, perhaps there is some small glimpse of light at the end of the tunnel.

Check this out: #divorcecorp

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We just wrapped up having our kids, both our kids pretty much half of their entire winter break from school. We consider ourselves lucky in that.

Helping trim the tree

But the Cowboy said to me the other day, the five full days we just had them, was the first time in three years he’s been allowed time split down the middle with their mom – despite it’s what their court order states they should do together as parents, for their kids.

It’s also the most consecutive days we’ve had with the Cowboy’s kids since summer. I hadn’t really thought about that until this discussion. 

We were talking about this after the Cowboy was contacted by someone who was thrilled he was allowed 3 hours with his kids Christmas Eve night and for the first time in years, New Years Eve. No reason other than it’s just what he was being allowed by the child’s mother. He doesn’t have money to take her to court when she keeps the kids from what is supposed to be by law, his time with them. 50% of his income is already going to child support. Without spending money on legal help to force the custodial parent into sharing, there is no recourse. None.  He sadly, takes what she will allow. Three hours. He was moved to tears of joy, over just three hours. 

I asked the Cowboy to write something for me on all this because he was visibly upset, continuing to not understand why any parent would prevent the other, male or female, from having time with their kids. Rest assured that in most cases – both parents sincerely are fit parents and want time with their kids and their kids with both parents.

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“I am feeling so grateful for our kids, my wife and family and the time we’ve had recently. I am the administrator of several equal parenting pages on Facebook and I am just feeling terrible for some of these parents and their kids who are not able to see one another due to two things 1) a selfish parent and 2) the courts.

One father over Christmas posted about having plane tickets purchased for his children to come stay for a visit. The custodial parent who moved out of state, simply did not put the children on the plane. The dad and step-mother left waiting at the airport were out $1500 in airline tickets, the bigger cost was missed time spent together over the holidays.

I am saddened and frustrated that this can go on.  Stories like this happen everyday in every state, not just ours. Confused about how and why this further tearing apart of families is allowed to go on is what spurs me to keep fighting for these people. My own situation is nothing compared to this. I actually, for the first time in three years am getting to share equal time during my children’s Christmas vacation. I am so thankful for this, but I know what it’s like to be alienated from your children. It was only for a period of five weeks but honestly it was one of the worst times of my life.

Just viewed another parent posting pictures of his family and his daughter, he was so excited that he and his daughter got to spend 3 hours together on Christmas Eve. These people are amazing, to be so thankful for something so small. How can the other parent, the court systems allow this to continue?  But it does everyday.

The fact that one parent can mess with the other parents time (with no consequences) or that our courts often grant one parent maximum placement – even when both parents request equal time and placement and on every level it would work well for the kids – is beyond my comprehension.

I miss my children. But I know this isn’t about me. It’s about what is best for them and they need time with their mom as well as me to have the best chance at growing up the healthiest, happiest and well adjusted they can be. If the roles were reversed, the guilt would be overwhelming if I did not give my kids that time with her. I believe this is a core issue in many divorces where children are stuck in the middle – many of these parents have no idea how to feel guilt or to put their children’s needs before their own.

If you are a parent who has intentionally kept the other parent out of your child’s life for any reason other than they are abusive to that child, answer me this, why? There is long term damage being done to your child that will eventually surface. You may not notice it now, but when that child becomes a young adult, the relationship they are lacking will surface negatively in any number of ways. That’s not my opinion, that’s well documented. And I can put you in touch with adults now who were children of divorce and can tell you in no uncertain terms what you are doing to your own children and how it will impact them down the road.

But why should you care. It’s not about what’s best for your kids really, is it? This is more about what’s best for you, right? About trying to hurt someone you feel wronged you? About getting maximum monthly payments that your attorney told you was best, which comes with a consequence of less time for the other parent? About being the one ‘in control’, being able to say yes or no to letting the child see their mother or father depending more on your mood that what’s been legally agreed upon or decided? About proving a point you are somehow the better parent? Most would argue any parent keeping a child from the other parent is not a good parent at all.

Most everyone anyway, but the attorneys and/or judges (often former attorneys). But hey, what do they stand to lose other than your money should you choose to actually do what’s best for your kids and come to some easy agreements with the other parent of your child without hours upon hours, sometimes months if not years of their help.

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It is amazing to think of how many other, better things that money could go toward that would genuinely benefit our children.

Thanks to those that are honest in their work, that help to minimize conflict between parties, help moms and dads see the benefits to the kids of working together, communicating, sharing time as best as possible and allowing the kids to freely love the other parent. It’s all such a crazy concept, isn’t it? But one, that when adults can act like adults .. share (isn’t that what we teach our kids is best) and be nice, actually works.

Damned if you do ..

The Cowboy is standing at the sink, cleaning up after having just made us both some breakfast. We’ve both got busy days ahead. And we’re both already somewhat exhausted. Neither of us slept much last night, the dogs were out and barking incessantly for some reason until about sun-up this morning.

Further exhausting us, is a situation we both feel passionately about. One that we are confronted with on a daily basis through the eyes of so many others as well as our own situations; the healing of families after divorce and doing what is in the best interest of the children stuck in the middle of what can often be a tough situation.

The Cowboy is heading to a South Dakota Shared Parenting Rally here in just a bit, a group he’s quietly helped lead behind the scenes for a couple of years now. It’s a group he joined and quite honestly, helped to restart out of the pain of his own family’s situation. The mission since, has become far greater. I’m not overstating this – there isn’t a day when at least one person isn’t calling the Cowboy asking for advice, needing someone to understand where they’re at and asking why no one seems to care that their children have been ripped out of their lives other than four days a month for no apparent reason – a standard custody judgement in South Dakota no matter how good or fit both parents may be, no matter how close they may live, no matter that a growing amount of evidence shows it is best for children whenever possible to have as much time with both parents assuming they are both fit, willing, loving and able parents. 

“It’s a no win situation,” the Cowboy says to me, still standing at the sink, looking not at me but thoughtfully out the window. “All I want, all most people want that are in my situation, is more time with their kids. If you don’t fight for it, people say you don’t care. If you do fight for more time, you’re told you’re bitter and angry. You’re damned if you do, damned if you don’t.”

It’s not always about time, either. The concerns. There are so many other issues that surround children of divorce. And the parents, quite honestly. One parent badmouthing the other in front of the kids, phone calls or even standard visitation denied with no recourse for the offending parent, never any extra time given, important information about child development withheld, medical issues, the list goes on.

I’ve been cautious to post much of anything over the past year around the topic of our families for a number of reasons. These tough discussions permeate our everyday and are often the conversations the Cowboy and I have when we are alone. But I think there is an incredible amount we’ve learned and that we’ve learned through others that is worth sharing ..  discussions worth taking part in.

Information as simple as – does your state offer/promote collaborative divorce? There are so many I know of who look at me like, what are you talking about, when I ask if this is something they’ve considered.

Important questions to ask an attorney before you retain their services.

Important details to work through before you sign off on finalizing your divorce or custody arrangement.

Working out a communication plan in regard to the kids – if you have a tough time communicating in any way with your ex. What is a communication plan and what resources are available? And, do they work?

Divorce impacts over 50% of our society anymore, most often these couples have children. What states do divorce well? What can we learn from them? Where are there helpful resources for these families? How do you work with someone who doesn’t want to work with you but rather hurt you in a divorce/post divorce/through the kids? Is it possible?

What is happening legislatively across the nation when it comes to child custody arrangements, decisions and laws? Shared Parenting conversations and legislation are growing. But what does this mean?

The media, the family court system and our government like to talk about how big a problem fatherlessness is in our society, yet the system often seems stacked against men, especially. Why is this?

The less a non-custodial parent sees their kids, the more they’re required to pay in child support. May seem logical on some fronts and there are parents, countless parents tragically, who want nothing to do with their kids lives and be free of the financial burden. But I’m not sure that’s the norm. SO .. when you have a fit, loving, caring and genuine non-custodial parent asking for more time, not to get out of paying, but to genuinely have more time with their kids because it is what most likely best all around .. what incentive is there for a custodial parent to agree to any change the arrangement?

Deadbeat dads is another topic the media likes to latch on to and promote the heck out of, I know, I’ve worked in newsrooms that have done this. Let’s follow around the cop walking door to door with arrest warrants for those who haven’t paid up. That’s sexy ‘journalism’ to use the term loosely and is easy to promote, I can just hear the male announcer voice now booming 10 seconds of copy over how we have a society of deadbeat dads and how we can’t let them get away with it. While I will never think it is okay to walk away from your kids or the financial responsibility of them – I have now also seen firsthand why it would be easier for some dads, especially, (some moms too for the record) to walk away versus be put in the situation their ex spouses continually put them and their children in. I am amazed to even think I can now understand this. Not as easy a story to tell, but one equally worth sharing. Who’s got the guts (or quite honestly the time in a churn and burn world of media) to do it? Running stories that are deep and meaningful and true to both sides often bring out the Jerry Springer in many families. It’s a risky deal for news outlets and which side do you believe? Why perhaps the flip-side or even the front side often don’t get told. Stick to the facts of who hasn’t paid up and there’s your story.

What happens when two parents, both hurt by a marriage that didn’t work out for some reason, let go of the past and come together sincerely to move forward, work together, get along and operate in all honesty and do what is in the best interest of the child? What happens then? How does the child benefit/react/grow? What does this look like?

Where are there resources to help you learn to let go, get along? What are the warning signs your kids really aren’t handling the mess you’ve created well?

 

The system is broke in so many ways. How do you fix something so intimate as family and interpersonal relations? Can it be fixed? Who can help, if anyone? Who’s doing it well? I am not claiming to have any answers. But there are always others we can learn from.

I’m not saying I’m going to write about this everyday, but in light of some recent issues in our own family (positive and negative) and in a few conversations we’ve had with others in just the past week, I’m done being frustrated over saying nothing and the fear of saying anything. 

These conversations are happening, but they need to be happening on a broader scale than inside our own homes, or in isolated silos to friends who will listen and can empathize because they are in the same situation.

I’ve taken long enough to write this that the Cowboy has since left his perch at the sink where this whole conversation started, and has left for today’s Shared Parenting rally. Unsure if two people or two hundred people will turn out, he plans to be among them…

While others have told the Cowboy he’s an embarrassment for doing what he’s doing, I hope he knows how incredibly proud I am of what a good dad he is, of how much he cares about and for his kids, and that even if he can’t change his own situation, he’s doing what he can to create as positive a situation for other parents and children should they have to go down the same treacherous path.