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Thursday, January 8, 2015

Divorce

I recently asked my friends to suggest blog topics for me. Not that I need help finding topics bouncing around in my head so much as sometimes it's fun to force myself to write about a topic NOT bouncing around in my head.

This subject isn't a "fun" one to write about, but I think it is one that I have a different perspective on - a perspective that isn't written about often.

My parents are not divorced...from each other at least. My dad was married before though and has two sons from that marriage. Growing up, I never thought much about it other than knowing that I had these two brothers who had a different mother than my own. The implications of being a child of the second wife didn't hit me until well into my adult years.

Looking back, I remember my mother commenting that none of my aunts liked her. I remember going to one uncle's house to swim in his pool and my mom staying outside with us kids the whole time while my aunt stayed in the house. Because this happened every time we went there, I just thought it was normal. Again, looking back, I now see the oddness of that.

The point being, even though my own parents never divorced, I still experienced the repercussions of a divorce - not invited to family gatherings, never having close relationships with cousins, not feeling like a "real" member of the family. We were the second set of children, never truly fitting in with the rest of the family.

Children of divorced parents face so much that I cannot imagine. Two sets of parents. Feeling like you're betraying one parent if you enjoy time with the other. Multiple "sets" of siblings - those you share a mother with, those you share a father with, and those you share both parents with. Multiple extended families. I'm sure those children, like myself as a child, have a hard time figuring out where they fit in.

I was married once before and technically got divorced, but I really can't say I know what it feels like for a marriage to end. My first "husband" (I have a hard time even calling him that) and I never lived together. We were both in the Army - he stationed in California, me in Germany - and by the time I came home from Germany I was in love with my current husband and wanting a divorce from the first one. I tell people that he was really just a boyfriend that required paperwork to break up with.

So I don't claim to know what it feels like to get divorced. Just the thought of it makes my chest hurt though. I look at my husband and imagine him telling me he doesn't love me anymore and that he's leaving, or worse...that he loves someone else now...and it makes me feel physically ill. I can't imagine how I would react to that, yet men and women have that happen to them every day and have no choice but to continue on with their lives.

While it isn't the same, I can relate to the idea of having to continue on. When my son died - something I never wanted to happen for sure, but also something I had no control over - I couldn't imagine how I could continue to live without him. But, six years later, I'm still here. Broken in many ways; stronger in many as well.

So I think if there is anything I can say to people experiencing divorce, and possibly questioning how they're going to get through it, the only thing I can say with any certainty is "you just do." In the beginning, I'm sure it is nothing more than going through the motions of life, doing the things you know you have to do, but over time I would assume that you gradually start finding things to be happy about again.

As it was with us dealing with the death of a child, a big part of it will be allowing yourself to be happy again. It's very easy to wallow in misery. Sometimes being happy is a choice and you have to make that choice...as in, consciously tell yourself it's ok to be happy...before it can happen.

In my heart, I wish people would just work harder at their relationships. If you're unhappy, talk about it. Work together to find ways to be happy again. Never forget why you got together in the first place. Flirt. Go on dates. Say "I love you" every day.

In many cases - such as my first marriage - make sure you're getting married for the right reasons, and when you do - commit to it. Don't think of your marriage as something you can walk away from if it doesn't work...and it is work making a marriage successful. Just because you're crazy happy in the beginning does not mean you always will be. You have to work at it. If you're not willing to do that, you should stay single.

Easier said than done, though, right?


Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Filterless - read only if you don't mind being offended.

I really hate having to use sick leave for being sick. I'd far rather use it for a much-needed mental health/shopping day. I only get sick about once every five years though, and apparently it is time for my quinquennial illness. 

So, as I sit here on the sofa with my tissues, hand sanitizer and coffee (because seriously, coffee NEVER tastes bad) and look at my News Feed on Facebook, I find that my normal barely-there filter has gone completely AWOL in the face of my snotty-nosed misery. So while I'm feeling lousy and just don't care, let me share a few thoughts on topics recently trending on my wall.

Marriage. Specifically, youngsters getting married. How do I define "youngster"? I don't consider anyone under the age of 25 to completely be an adult. Sorry. You're just not. Are you old enough to fall in love? Sure. Be hormonal and think that is love? Absolutely. Play house like real adults? Yep. Choose the person you are meant to spend the rest of your life with? 

Hell no.

I know there are those of you who married your high school sweetheart and beg to differ, but you know what? Every statistical observation has outliers. I accept that. 

Then there are you young people who are just so in LOVE. 

I can hear you all now. 

But Shannon, you just don't understand. I KNOW this is right. 

All I can say is - WHATEVER!

You don't even know who you are yet - because you haven't even become the person you're meant to be yet. I firmly believe you have to go through a few of life's trials on your own - as an adult - before you know yourself well enough to make an informed decision on whether or not another adult is the right person for you. Did your parents marry young? Are they still married? Are they happy?

That last one is the killer question in my mind. I know a few people who have been married for decades, but are not happy. They just reached the point where their marriage was a hard habit to break, so they continued to share space, but not feeling.

I married someone when I was 24 (not yet an "adult" by my definition) and it was a huge mistake. I met Mike while I was married to that other person. I won't say that meeting Mike was what made me realize my first marriage was a mistake though; I knew that within 24 hours of walking out of that tacky little wedding chapel in Lake Tahoe. But I knew when I met Mike that he was the one I was supposed to be with (see "How I Met Your Father, Part 1").

Here's the thing - there were a few other times before that where I knew the current guy was "the one."  It wasn't until I did meet the right one and could compare that feeling to all the other times I thought I had met the right one that I was able to see that those first few were nothing more than infatuation. I was in love with the idea of being in love. 

Sorry, but you are too.

I had a young lady - a friend of a friend, if you will - add me as a friend on Facebook a few years ago. She was a senior in high school. Her boyfriend had just graduated and left for the Marines. She wanted to be friends with me because we were both "military wives." 

::snort::

She and all her little friends who were the girlfriends of young military men (not full adults yet) were amusing, but just like I knew would happen, those relationships ended. Little girls playing at being women. 

So, excuse me for not "liking" all of your posts about how happy you are, because me thinks you are trying too hard to convince me. The bottom line is that whether your relationship works or not really doesn't matter to me. So, instead of wasting my wall space trying to convince the world that getting married young is so great, just live your life. Time will be your evidence of either being right or wrong.

Whew...that topic went on longer than I expected. Next up in the flow of filterless ravings from a sick woman is parenting.

I will try to keep this one a little less verbose. Please do not perceive that as me being less opinionated on the subject. I just need a nap.

I am not a bible thumper, therefore I don't subscribe to the "judge not" idea that no one else subscribes to either, but swears that they do because of their religion. I judge you. Sometimes harshly. Especially if your children are wee beasties that show no signs of ever having been given boundaries or consequences.

In an effort to keep this short and reach my nap faster, here are the actions that I see all around me that make me turn to my daughter and say, "If you ever let your children act that way, I will steal them from you and raise them myself."

1. Throwing fits in stores. 

My kids knew when we were in the grocery store that they had to have one hand on the cart at all times and that the answer to every request to buy something was "no." If they didn't, the cart would be left in the store - full if necessary - and we'd be taking a trip to the car where some form of discipline would take place.

To answer your question - yes, it happened. In grocery stores, malls...you name it. We followed through. So consistently, in fact, that Keeghan once said to me upon seeing another child misbehaving in public, "Mama, we'd get in so much trouble if we acted that way." 

Start young. Set limits. Establish consequences. Follow through. It's not that hard. Which brings me to my next observation:

2. You are never too tired to parent.

From the moment that first child is born, you don't get to stop being a parent. You don't get to hand that duty off to someone else. Sure, if you're lucky, you and your spouse give each other breaks occasionally, but you can't count on those. If you wake up tired, oh well! When you start letting your child get away with being a brat because you're just "too tired" to deal with it, you have become a bad parent in my book. 

Because here's the thing...when you start phoning it in as a parent, other people stop wanting to be around you. A bratty child is the biggest social life killer of all, because no one wants to spend their down time watching you let your kids get away with bad behavior. When my children were small, I would have been horribly offended if I knew that someone else wanted to discipline my child for me because I wasn't doing my job well as a parent. Consequently, I was probably more strict than most, but it paid off. I was never embarrassed to have my children around other adults. Are you?

Lastly, here is my current parenting pet peeve.

3. Stop letting video games, television and iPads raise your children. 

I see it everywhere. Toddlers with expensive iPads in their hands while riding in the grocery cart at the commissary and God help everyone in the building if the battery dies! Child is bored? Heaven forbid you interact with the child to entertain them. No! Just hand them your smart phone and let them play Angry Birds for two hours.

Don't get me wrong - my kids watched TV, too. From 2000 to 2001, while Mike was in Korea for a year and Keeghan only went to preschool three mornings a week, Nick Jr. was my favorite babysitter in the mornings so I could get homework done. But I was always right there in the same room with him, and if he wanted to talk to me about something that was happening on Dora the Explorer or Blue's Clues, I stopped and interacted with him. 

My kids watched movies. We played video games, but always with me in the room with them. Oftentimes, I was the one playing the game with them watching (I can't count the hours spent playing Spyro the Dragon with Mackenzie and Keeghan yelling out to tell me where all the gems were that I needed to collect). Both children learned to use the mouse on the computer by sitting on my lap and playing JumpStart Toddler. 

The point being - we interacted.

That interaction is what I see missing. Parents are phoning it in far too often. They're giving their children everything they want and nothing that they need. It frightens me to imagine what the world will be like when these children hit the adult world and find that everything isn't easy and free and that they'll actually have to earn people's affection and abide by the rules of society.

Meh...they'll probably just get married young so they can get it from their buddy/spouse.