It’s a Party

It happens ever year, once every spring for the last 11 years. My oldest boy gets just a little bit older. It has been great watching him grow up; watching his first steps turn into running and jumps, then into inline skating and bike rides. Every year I dream about what the next year will bring, and with each year I treasure more and more the years gone by.
Birthday Balloons
Of course, this is immediately followed up with the birthday of our second son. Just over 2-years and a month apart. He brings his own personality into the mix, and while we tried a combined birthday between them a few years back, it was clear that while they are best friends they need their own parties.

I really enjoyed hosting the parties for the boys, the little kid in me had a chance to escape for a while. Yet, I was never the planner of the party. I would help setup, help facilitate, even planned some of the activities a couple years – but I was not the one who put on the show. That had always been my wife, and she did a fantastic job of it. Often going far above what was needed to make the day special not only for the kids but all the visiting parents as well.

When we separated the birthday parties was one of the scarier things I felt I was facing. What would happen with their parties? I wasn’t the planner, am I going to be left out of these big events in their lives? Granted, I knew that was the emotions talking. Practically speaking I could organize a birthday party, I had the skills, but I also knew it wasn’t something I excelled at.

I was also trying to look beyond my own personal fears and to what would be best for the boys. Not a child of divorce, nor did I grow up with a lot friend who were children of divorce (especially, joint custody), it was not something I could envision. My understanding came from TV and there the two parents were always trying to one-up the other parent. It became a competition of who was the better parent … and that was not what I wanted for my kids. So, in the spirit of co-parenting, with maybe a little bit of fear mixed in, I was in full support of us doing a joint-family birthday celebration for each of the boys. Two parents coming together to make a single special day for the boys. Had to be easy right, we’d been doing it for years now.

Well, that first year didn’t start out well. We talked about it and coordinated splitting the tasks of the party. While I was to book something and coordinate the theme events, she would take care of the food. With an army theme requested I was calling laser tag and paint ball places in the area which proved to be harder than originally thought. Especially with my full-time job occupying more and more of my time. Ages limits and availability also proved to be a problem, so I was looking into plan B options and looking at the calendar … things just were not going to happen in time, we were going to have to push things back a week or so. Well, that was the last straw I guess as unknown to me she sent out invites for a party at her place – I was no longer invited, nor told.

My fears were becoming reality and I had to throw together a quick “birthday dinner” with friends last minute. I must say, the boys have a lot of good friends who showed a lot of love and compassion and showed for both parties … so thank you!. It was a nice dinner, but it was the first birthday party I missed of my son’s and that was not ok.

Our youngest saw the chaos that surrounded his brother’s party and took it upon himself to plan his. He, at 8 yrs old, came to us with the date, the place, the theme, and all the people he wanted to come. HE was going to have ONE PARTY, we would ALL be there … and we better GET IT DONE. So with the who, what, and where covered … we had a whole lot less to discuss. This time I took the decorations and the cake, she would bring the food. And not to toot my own horn too much but I rocked it! I had some DIY decorations, I brought games, grabbed balloons, and we picked out the fantastic cake … it was a party just the way he wanted.

As for the party itself, well it went off kind of awkward to tell the truth. There was constant tension between her[mom] and I (at least that is how I felt). I felt under a spotlight with her just waiting for me to screw something up. I found there was still a ton of negative emotions streaming through me, and it was all I could do to not just keep quiet. I think our friends also felt it awkward, as conversations and stories could not happen as they once did. As much as I had hoped this would be a birthday like any other … it wasn’t. On the plus side, and the most important side, our son had a good time. I am sure he felt the vibes, but he never let it bother him. He included both of us in different activities and enjoy his time with friends.

And now we are back at that time of the year once again, choices need to be made. This year we, as parents, are not talking as much as we should be. In fact, we are talking less that last year. I am surprised that emotions have not settled down, but they haven’t. In fact, in some ways they have gotten worse. Resentment and mistrust still looms over almost every interaction we have, and I think I hate that as much as all the stuff that has caused it.

I work hard to keep our parental strife away from the kids, yet they have to see it. They must feel the energy. This year both kids came to me and requested separate birthday parties, with themes for both.

I think the only reason not to is a selfish desire to not lose that family unit, to have something that we work on together. And possibly a little bit of the “how the heck to I throw this together on my own?”! Yet, the boys have different friends groups at her place and at my place now. So with the family formally now split, does it make sense to host two birthday parties?

Tonight I am leaning to yes, as much as it pains me I am starting to think that it is probably best for the boys as well as for the emotional strain between the parents. This was I can allow myself to focus on the boys, and not on emotions that have no business at a birthday party. Maybe the best co-parenting choice is not co-hosting the party.

So, with that … anyone know of some fun pre-teen activities and decorations for a fighter-plane themed birthday?

Co-parenting the Puppy


Our dog Shiloh is the most loving dog I have ever known. Obedient, emotional, and playful. I forgot how much a part of my life she was until this past week.

The boys recently when camping with their mother and friends and decided to leave Shiloh at home. Apparently, not finding another sitter, my ex turned to me to take care of the dog. While there are a number of things that have bothered me about this scenario, I want to focus on the dog sitting. Not out of any inconvenience to me or annoyance at the situation, but on reflection.

Shiloh came into our lives while my youngest not yet a year old, barely walking. With me traveling a little more for work, my wife desired company around the house and thought getting a dog would help. Having owned a couple dogs as a child each with their own special memories I thought it would be great for the boys as well. Reluctant at first, I was easily sold and became invested myself. Instead of pet stores we turned to shelters and had almost given up when she crossed our path.

In fact, the puppy we last went to meet at the shelter came with a sibling and we didn’t have space for two. However, they had another available that was not yet on the website. Just a year old, she had just been returned due to a family moving and she couldn’t join them. However, she was still a happy pup and bonded with our family well. I can still see her taking up a spot next to my youngest as he ventured across the gated area, the connection between them was instant. And she became part of our family.

She was already house broken and knew several commands, so there was not much to teach. We took a little bit to get her walking calmly in public, but I think that was more her age and energy than anything else. She use to pull us around the area on our rollerblades, which made the walks more enjoyable for all. Countless times it was just her and I at the house, I would take lunches at home and took extra time during the morning and evening walks. Yet, at the end of the day, she was my wife’s pet.

Thus, when we separated, I knew who she should primarily go with. Consistency for the children and for all of us was my greatest concern, and Shiloh staying at her house seemed to be the right decision. Unfortunately, where I first found residence did not allow pets so we didn’t work in any time-sharing. If I was needed, I stayed at the house. With a souring relationship with the ex made the dreams of us all spending time at the park seemed to vanish. When she was injured I was unable to provide addition financial assistance, and I felt that was resented. It was another wedge in the splitting timber.

That brings us back to today. Day-to-day coparenting is tough, and managed primarily through parent hand-offs being done at the school or at summer camp. We do our best to co-parent, focus as much as possibly on the children but even after almost two years emotions can still run high and resentments run deep. Thus we find ourselves essentially as we did when I first left. While my residence has changed and she can come visit today, the times remain infrequent if not completely random. Drop-off/Pick-up is difficult to coordinate and any vet bills just add fuel to a fire that doesn’t seem to want to die down.

Practically speaking, it is probably best. I can work long hours and no longer live within a distance for lunches at home. I know it sounds like weak excuses, and they may just be my self-justifications, but as with my children the main goal is to provide the best life possible for them.

OutsideWhen I was asked to take her over the weekend I was thus thrilled. While it took a few hours to settle into the place, I think she really started to feel at home here. She has been here before, but it feels like forever ago now. When the boys came home they asked if she could stay for a bit longer. We agreed, since I had some time off work and they were on spring break seemed like a good time for a visit. Our youngest has been asking for a while now, so I know it was important for him.

This experience made me sit back and reflect. Life needed to go on, and the overall time-sharing of the pets might have resulted more than our emotions could bare. However, they are part of the family. To ease the transition for both us and the children we split toys, stuffed animals, and pictures. Now I am left wondering if we left a major component of the house out. I know the place felt more like home with her here, did the boys?

My only annoyance with the situation is that I wasn’t the first call she made, however, I am extremely thankful that I got the opportunity. I only hope we can do it again very soon.

Seize the Moment

Chess Board

Some days the world seems to get away from you. It is not that anything major is going wrong, just that things don’t connect the way they should. These are the days where you miss appointments or just can’t get what you want done finished. They happen to me more than I would like, might be a little to do with the ADHD but don’t like to carry that crutch. I attempt to put everything in the calendar, with reminder times. I use to do lists and lots of little notes. But sometimes things, even big things, slip through the cracks. Recently it was the chess club championship.

I had the time, I had the desire, but I didn’t have the reminder setup – and it slipped and I failed. I felt horrible … How could I do this? How could I miss this? I missed my son’s devastating 2nd place finish. Missed cheering him on. Missed being his support. Most of all … he missed me doing those things too. I picked him up only to be mortified at myself, double by the fact that he had taken the loss so hard (2nd is so much harder to take than finishing last). Not one of those proud parent moments … damn it! I can do better.

Today I wanted to reverse the failures, I took the day off from contract hunting, interviews, and projects. No, not the whole day, as I can’t ignore other aspects of my life but days like yesterday make me realize that these are important times in life. I have flexible hours at the moment and I won’t always have those. So today I showed up for lunch, I brought ice-cream, and we grabbed a chess set. We played a game at the picnic tables while we ate … just my son and I.

I took advantage of the fact that the school lunch periods are broken up by grade, so I had a chance for quality one-on-one time with both boys. We talked, we discussed, we thought, we learned, we lived.

I wish every day could be like this – but they can’t, it would make these special days not so special. Next year things will change, my oldest enters middle-school. Slowly, I am sure, the desire to “hang with dad” will get less and less. Even now I think back to all those missed moments that I had to work or was tired or dishes needed cleaning … but isn’t that life too. Isn’t that training too?

I tell myself “there are times to live life, and there are times just livings”. Times to seize the moment. Today I was seizing, just happy I could.