Summertime is here!

This week marks that time of year when School’s out for Summer. As a kid growing up this was the best time of year, a time to turn up the music and let loose. As the schools slowly let out I have watched as parents and families start to celebrate the upcoming break, excited with all they plan to do. As a single parent the joys of summer are often tempered by challenges. Summer throws a kink into the coparenting relationship and messes with the schedules. Add in summer camp and vacation coordination and you have a pot of stress ready to boil over. It happens every year and always manages to work itself out. So you relax, breath deep, and enjoy the sunshine on your face.

After all it is summer. A time for family and fun. A time to get outside and enjoy the sunshine and a chance to reach out and explore more of the world without concerns of homework and school. A time to enjoy the pool, waterpark, and beaches … a time to enjoy the great outdoors.

Yet you can’t, as a parent, completely relax. In all that summertime excitement you need to remember to keep the family safe. For a single parent this is just one more of those challenges times as your attention is that much more stretched. That is why when the Digital Dads recently had a podcast episode on this very topic that I wanted to share – not just for single parents … but all parents. They discussed, with Dr. Shoba Srikantan out of Orlando, many of the summer safety tips we should keep in mind. I won’t go into a lot of the details as I would encourage all parents to take a listen. However, the key takeaway for me was ‘be vigilant’. It only takes a few second for a child to escape your protective zone.

While the podcast seemed primarily focused on water safety, a big concern in the summer, summertime is a time for heightened awareness all around. Summertime offers kids more time to explore and to be more independent. As such, it might be a good time to discuss any rules or boundaries you have regarding playing outside or at the park. As they mentioned repeatedly, we as parents can’t relax. We are not off the clock while the kids are around – so stay vigilant and don’t let your guard down, especially when there are dangers around. The podcast also reminded me that I need to go get at least my CPR certification, Dr. Dad is always on duty so I better have the skills.

However, I thought I would add a few additional points to remember. I know we have all been told them before, but never hurts to get a refresher right.

Mind the Fire

One of my favorite activities during the summer is getting the change to go camping, now granted in the hot summer heat of Florida it tends to be put off until later in the fall – but for many this is the prime time of year to pitch a tent or park your RV and enjoy the great outdoors. There is often nothing better than roasting marshmallows over an open fire under a full moon, with nothing around you but trees and the sound of wind flowing through the trees. So, remember Smokey Bear and pay attention – a tossed match or renegade spark is all it takes.

Don’t Feed The Wildlife

My kids are some of the worst for this, always tossing crumbs out for the birds and turtles. They are cute, and pleasant. It is such a thrill to get close to wild animals. Your heart starts racing and you can feel the blood rush through your body. I admit, I am one that loves the encounters. But you have to be careful. Animals are primal, creatures of habits. Once they associate food and attention from humans they will seek it out, and sweet creates one moment can be aggressive the next. They are Unpredictable. They are wild. Which is why it is a thrill, just recognize it and keep yourself safe.

Be Prepared

As with almost every aspect of life, make sure you are equipped before heading out. A simple 45-min, late afternoon, drive into the woods can turn into an overnight stay (I will save that story for another day). So before heading out make sure you have the right gear – first aid kit, matches, and a plan.

With that, enjoy a safe and happy summer. Lets get on with those adventures!

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On childcare

A letter to my other half

This last week or so has been a tense one around this house.  Accusations have been tossed around like hand grenades, implications and exaggerations have been made and shared among family and friends, and I fear we are going to end up, once more, caught in the costly quagmire of lawyers and court paperwork.

We had a short, dismissive and antagonistic conversation regarding some childcare later this week, but during it there were a few things said that caught my attention.  It was nothing new, nothing that hadn’t been said a many times before, but maybe I just heard it differently at that moment.  After dwelling on it for the evening I felt I needed to open up to her and provide some context to my decisions. After writing it I felt it showcased some of the key turmoils that bestow divorced parents – two parents who want the best for their children, but also two parents competing for their children’s attention. So I thought I would share it here. To some, these issues will sound petty and foolish – but let me be clear: these issues are real, they are emotional, and they are raw. They strike at the very fabric holding our current lives together.

Dear __,

Our conversation yesterday was rough, as have been the last few days. We have once again fallen into the valley of mistrust, attacks, and demonization of each other in an attempt to secure our own positions. So I wanted to take a moment and open up to you, as I feel some of my stances on things may have seemed to be an attack on you to and on your role as mother … of which, has come across to me, as causing you pain, anxiety, and anger – none of which is intended.

You have implied several times now that I am intentionally withholding the children from you. To me it comes across as I am attempting to use the boys to melodiously attack you. I don’t really expect you to believe this, but my primary focus is not towards you at all … but on me.

After our separation, as you know, I had a difficult time. I felt my role as father slipping away, relegated to a guy paying a check and enjoying fleeting momentary event with the kids. Things could easily have gone that way, to be truthful this had defined much of my role as dad up to that point. I believe you had seen that those last few years I had been working hard to change that … I saw what it was doing to you, to our life, and I then transposed that to how it would impact the boys. During the divorce those changes felt like they were getting reversed, I saw myself as being replaced and my role diminishing in the eyes of the children. You insisted that was not the case, or that it need not be the case. That it depended on my actions … over time I took those words to heart.

I am not perfect; I am emotional and reactionary. Some of the decisions I have made have been protectionary in nature – especially those made early on. Our mediated agreement reflects some of that, and today I live with those lumps as I know you do.

However, somethings I still hold to, partially for my own sanity and some because I believe it will help the boys. After school care is one of those things where I believe to help the children better define their lives – the fact is they have two homes now and thus they should treat their lives as such. Their day-to-day thus needs to reflect that. I believe it would add confusion to the kids at where “home” really was.

I know you feel you provide superior childcare services than anyone else – and I know you would. However, I have to choose my childcare based on trust and cooperation and at this point that is not possible in our relationship. There are still too many wounds and scars and the added tension after a long day of work – everyday – is just not something I am willing to entertain at this time. It would add stress to my life and that is not healthy for me or the boys.

We have a few defined qualifiers in our agreement that adequately protects childcare options, and I think it does it’s job.

This issue also comes up during vacation selections. Twice over the last 12 months you have issued complaints after I have made my vacation selection – selections that are appropriate, well intentioned, and within the bounds of our parenting agreement. In both cases I have been, and am, willing to work with you on. However, when I am pushed onto the defensive due to attacks against myself and/or my friends I find it increasingly difficult to do so. This is not how I want to act, this is not how I want our relationship to be defined moving forward. In both cases, I knew my selections would not be well received, but they were within the bounds of our agreements. They were also not done out of malice but out of a desire to coordinate with work and family.

In the end I do want to work with you, to find a way where we both feel secure in our roles as parents. Which is why I feel so strongly that on my days I get to make the choices and on your days I stay out of it. I trust you to make safe and appropriate decisions, and I trust you follow the agreement in place.

The role of a single parent is not easy. I have to find a harmony between work, home, and social lives. It is a struggle, but one I am not willing to take pass on. I have defined my role as dad in the boys lives and I am standing behind those choices. I requested 50-50 custody, and I will hold to that the best I can. I appreciate the assistance you can and do provide, but I don’t think you can fault me for looking elsewhere for my initial parenting support.

Today I am fully involved in the boys life, their school, their friends, and their growth. I am pushing them, mentoring them, and training them for the world. They are better off for it, and I am better off for it.

With that all said, if you can still take Joe Thursday evening and Friday after school that would be appreciated, Owen and I are expected back in town at 8pm. We will be helping both the class trip and cleanup for Dads club movie night upon our return, I will let you know when we are headed your way (unless you want to meet us at the school).

As for Thursday after school, the boys and I have dinner plans. However, since Joe will be spending the night, if you would like to pick them up after school that sounds reasonable – though it is not required as I do have childcare available. Please let me know so I can make the arrangements.

I hope you can understand a little more of how I am tackling these decisions. It is not out of anger towards you, but out of a need for me to fully separate my life from being dependent on yours. It is what I need to do, it is what you requested.

Once we regain some of the lost respect and we rebuild some of the trust, we may be able to work once more as a team. I look forward to that day.

Sincerely, Cam

I hope this was read in the manor it was intended, not out of malice, anger, or revenge – but as part of an open and honest conversation.

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Unhealthy Reactions

Received a text this morning and it instantly caused my blood pressure to rise.  The text itself was completely reasonable; nothing abnormal was requested and the words were chosen to avoid conflict.  Yet, my initial reaction, an emotional reaction, did not match.

My mind immediately went to the “who” decided to gift theme park tickets, tickets are not cheap so that is a decent gift – not typically one made by just a friend. Then it was “what” theme park, was it really too hard to say? Finally, “when” … Friday … a school day? This couldn’t have happened on Mother’s Day? or the weekend prior? You have to take the kids out of school – for a theme park? Expires this week, have you been sitting on them a while? … and didn’t you just go to a theme park this past Sunday?

The mind is an annoying creature, one that can be overridden by the heart at seemingly anytime. This stupid little text, that moment when our worlds collide, is the hardest part of the co-parenting relationship. It charted a path right through all the minefields left behind as the worlds separated, and preyed on the fears and anxieties of the absent parent.

While everything that needed to be said was stated, I queued on all the things that were not. The key elements on who and where were specifically left out, which only leads my mind to wonder. Of course, it could all be simple stuff … grandparents or tickets not used and passed along … possibly it just felt too complicated to say. However, the absence was noted.

Then the core of it hits, the jealousy. I hate missing out on their adventures, and to be truthful I still hate taking adventures with the boys without her. I always had that notion of family, we did things together. When the boys were young I did not want her taking the boys to Disney during the week … without me. I did not want to miss out on being there … with them. My biggest fears throughout the divorce was another guy stepping in as “Dad” to complete the family on such outings. I easily saw my place in their life lost to the lights, sounds, and excitement of the moment. My role slowly being eroded away as someone new steps in … my mind wanders …

Back in reality, I know the kids would much prefer that I joined them, and I have come to understand that there is no one that can replace me – I can only give my role up, and THAT AIN’T HAPPENING!. The boys will love to take me on an adventure there at some point in time, and share there favorite rides. We have had, and will have plenty of adventures. They should get some adventures with their mother. She can choose when she wants to pull them out of school for a “fun day” … and I should just take notes.

So, instead of responding in that moment I let it sit with me all day. I let the emotions run their course. Yes, I have concerns, but none really valid. Yes, I have questions, but non I really have a right to ask. And, yes, this is the way the world works, but I do have a choice … so I can choose to be confrontational, or I can choose to start working towards a better relationship with her. One day…

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