Divorced Parenting 101 Part 1: Caught On Videotape!

Besides the fact that I’ve had that nightmare, heart-sinking experience with each of my kids at one time or another, where I lose them in a mall, a giant fabric store outlet or just forgot them at the gym, I have found most of my Mom-of-the-Year experiences to have humorous outcomes.  I generally like to share them on Facebook in mini-form, in order to get as many of those addicting little red numbers as possible in the left corner of the screen, as “likes” and comments under my posts.  It’s a sick addiction, and unfortunately, I feed my addiction at the expense of my own children.  It’s my meth.  At least my perfect pearly whites aren’t falling out.

However, I won’t apologize for it.  I think people generally like my little anecdotes because they can relate to them, or at least laugh at my expense, which I’ll happily take.  I’m human and make many mistakes, and parenting opens the coffers for a plethora of mishaps to slide through.  These parenting mistakes keep me humble and help me to understand other moms and dads when they struggle with their own children and parenting styles.

Like when that lady at Walmart, several years ago, somewhat violently spanked her child in the parking lot, unknowingly getting videotaped on the security cameras.  The news went viral.  Now, I’m not condoning spanking, even though I’ve implemented that type of punishment in my own household.  In fact, even now, when my kids are 12, 11, and 9, all’s I need to do is say the words: “Do you want me to get out the wooden spoon?”  They shape up pretty quickly and begin to eat their brussel sprouts and asparagus with a flourish.  I don’t ever have to follow through with my threats, thankfully.  They’re just too old to get a spanking these days.

The point of my example about the lady at Walmart is that even though her circumstances were less than stellar (I think she was mad at her daughter because her daughter thwarted her attempts to shoplift), I’ve had those less-than-popular mom moments myself and regretted my actions to the Nth degree.  I felt for that lady in the parking lot, even though I didn’t know the circumstances at the time.  If there was a video recorder in my house, I would be extremely embarrassed at what could be aired by the nightly news for all to see.  My momentary Tourette’s syndrome, for starters.

I certainly have not punished my kids for their lack of thievery skills, but I have inappropriately punished them before.  If I had just taken a step back and breathed for a couple seconds, I might have acted differently. Parenting is tough, and when you don’t have the other parent in the household anymore, it can become even more daunting to follow through with discipline and it’s easy to take out your frustrations on your own beautiful children.

Not only is it tough to parent on your own, without your now or soon-to-be ex to back you up, it’s especially hard to be a good parent when you’re going through the process of a marriage dissolving.  Your own emotions stemming from your deteriorating relationship with your spouse can really bring out the worst in you.  We all know that taking these things out on your kids isn’t right, but you are not alone if you’ve done this.  I did.  They just didn’t understand why I was going ballistically psycho over the fact that Dora’s incessant singing was really pissing me off.  And depending on how old they are, it can be especially difficult.  Younger kids really won’t get it, and older kids may simply rebel.

I’m not a counselor, but I can speak from experience by saying that taking healthy steps to alleviate the pressure and stress you’re feeling can be a benefit not just for you, but for your kids as well.  Is there someone you love and trust who can regularly take your kids for brief amounts of time to give you a breather?  If so, take advantage of that.  During that time, do something that helps you to relax and reflect, like taking a walk and listening to your favorite music.  I highly recommend journaling all of your thoughts during that time as well.  It will help you to sort through your crazy but valid feelings and keep you from puking horrible things all over the true object of your anger, which is your spouse.  A very wise and dear friend of mine once said: “Emily, the best letter (or email) ever written was the one that was never sent.”  I have found this to be true time and time again.  Try it.  It can only help you, so why not?

As a side note, there’s no shame in seeking medical attention from your doctor to discuss the possibility of medicinal help.  I did, and I’m so glad for it.  Don’t hesitate to ask.  They would understand with empathy, I’m guessing.

A word of caution: Do your best to try not to turn to something with which you self-medicate, to keep you from dealing with your feelings and situations.  It doesn’t help in the end, only in the moment.  I am speaking from experience, here.  Mixing vodka with my wine (and listening to Norah Jones’ song “Turn Me On” on repeat) became a regular occurrence every evening for a short span of time, and when I woke up in the morning, my problems were still there bitch-slapping me in the face, not to mention the fact that I still had to play Mommy.  I get the desire to do that, however.  Hang in there.  You’re not alone.

(And then I just thought:  Hmmm.  I was hammered and the kids were home, even if they were sleeping.  What if something had happened and I couldn’t drive them to the hospital?  Yeah, that should have been reason enough for me to not add that vodka to my pinot.  Maybe I just should have stuck with wine in a limited amount.  Just something to think about.)

The perfect recipe for being a parent is really tough to master.  Add a cup of marital unhappiness, a teaspoon of resentment toward your spouse, a dash of bitterness at your situation, and the recipe can easily flop.  Leaving out the important ingredient of having your partner to help you parent on a daily basis can cause a culinary disaster of major proportions.  Do your best for your personal health, both mentally and physically, so that you can learn to effectively parent as a single mom or dad.   My hope for both parents is that you will eventually get to a point where you can parent alone and together, despite your single status.

Hang in there.  You’re not alone.  And remember, your kids are way quicker to forgive you than you are to forgive yourself.  Simply ask them for their forgiveness.  They’ll respect you for it because they love you.

Look for my funny stuff to come, titled Mom-of-the-Year Chronicles.  It will add a little levity to your not-so-great experiences you’re going through right now.  Try to find humor in as many things as you can during this trying time.  Laughter is sometimes just the medicine you may need.

Blessings, Emily

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