Life as a co-parent has left both of us feeling a little threatened in our role at times. I was almost right away. I was out of the home that I built, struggling to make ends meet, clinging to the notion that I was still dad. I had visions of all the deadbeat and absentee dads from movies and book constantly running through my head. The life I had known was crumbling before me … and then she was with another man, a family friend for several years, and I saw myself just fading completely. “Family” outings and vacations were now a thing … and in my head, if there was another guy there what role would I have.

It hurt, but more so it made me mad. If you happened to talk to me during that period of my life, you knew it. My very existence felt threatened … and for me this wasn’t acceptable. I vowed to stay engaged … and I have done just that. It has not been an easy path. One with lots of ups and downs. Yet, I fight through the struggle to ensure my time with the boys is secure … they know they are loved, they have a safe and fun place to be, and that dad is both interested and invested in both their schooling and their lives.

This has developed some tense moments between their mother and myself. However, I have not relented. I refuse to be defined on her terms – even when it costs me more money, it often costs me less stress. In some cases I take things too far, draw my lines too early, and push too hard in demanding my allotted time. It results in fights, stress, and has resulted in additional lawyer bills.

Why? Because I felt threatened.

When life is going good? When we are happy? We don’t end up feeling as threatened. Deep down we know, no one can take away our roles … we have to give up on them. Just giving up a weekend, being missed on an email notification from the teacher, or being included in a standard doctors checkup. It takes you giving up on showing love.

Don’t get me wrong. I don’t appreciate being left out of communications and if I find out I will say something. I won’t accept failure to adhere to the parenting plan, especially if it is going to impact my time with the boys. That is what the kids expect.

While the boys and I fight over homework, chores, and what is acceptable in-door behavior – what they always know is that I want the best for them, that I love them, and that I will always be there. That is because I am Dad. That is what matters.

Loneliness Strikes

Pains of the heart are not always easy to predict.  Like a river monster, it lies beneath the water waiting for a perfect time to strike.  Sometimes taking just a nibble and other times grabbing a large chunk of your otherwise stable emotions.  

These last couple weeks have been a roller coaster ride.  My love life has, for a while now, been lacking.  For the most part that has been ok as I have a lot going on.  In fact the last girl felt as if I had too many things going on and she didn’t see a place for her.  That was a hard pill to swallow, but I took it as a sign to go heads down on rebuilding me and my goals.  Yet, no one wants to be out of the dating scene … so I kept fishing and dreaming.

My first nibble came on Match, a lovely young lady that lived on the other coast of Florida (or a 3 hr drive away).  We talked, flirted, and discussed if we could ever meet – eventually planning on this upcoming coming weekend.

Then I met a girl more local.  One I did not expect and took me by surprise.  We seemed to hit it off right away and the rest of my world faded away.  From what I could tell she felt the same.   Yet, there was a catch, as there often is with such matters.  She was fresh out of a relationship and was getting her first real taste of being single.  Matters to which I understood all too well.

But it felt good. 

We had agreed to be friends, feeling that it would be best given her recent past and my lack of time … and the fact we were both parents.  Yet, I could not help but pursue … and it was not rebuffed.  Instead we would just take things slow.

No promises were ever made, no expectations broken, no lives were lost.

That was when the monster lurking just below the surface struck.  In the last few days the conversations have been more distant, the intensity has subsided.   This is the minefield I knew I was entering.  Could be nothing, just something in my head or could be just our busy lives.   We had specifically called out “taking it slow” … casual dating.  Yet as she chooses activities with others instead of ones with me I am hurt.  What I am feeling right now is not jealousy or disappointment … it is loneliness.  And it was unexpected.

Tonight I am missing our conversations.

It is not sexy or strong, and not attractive from either side.  It is one of the fastest  confidence killers and it will eats you up inside if you let it.  Building upon itself, feeding on its own negative energy.

Loneliness, despite its “forever” feeling, is temporarily.   Knowing that is half the battle and allows me to move on … to whatever and whoever lies ahead! 


As Christmas gets closer and we start to look to time off from work, I start to ponder how Christmas is going to shape up for my kids. I have worked hard over the last few years to maintain a relaxed holiday for the boys, but I have also focused on define some traditions that the boys will remember.

Growing up I remember stringing up the lights on the tree, helping dad put the lights on the house, baking cookies with mom, and participating in the many holiday activities that came our way. I remember that for a few years my Dad pulled out his old trumpet and my mom sat at the piano as we sang Christmas carols. We did eggnog by the fireplace, and setting up the tree was always a highlight. Yet, none really felt like “traditions” to me at the time. There was always fun activities, but often they did not seem consistent from year to year.

It was not that my parents didn’t try or that we, as kids, didn’t have a good time. It was just how things flowed. We were often traveling for the holidays, either to visit family or escape to a resort somewhere. When visiting family we often took on a few of the traditions exercised in their homes. Some cousins would open a single gift on Christmas Eve, some of us would put on skits or shows, sometimes we would have puzzles going, and sometimes we would just relax around the fire. Different family members handled each holiday in their own way, so that was how we celebrated … yet as time past I saw the patterns, those patterns are what became our Christmas traditions. As we built our own family we defined a few Christmas traditions of our own, these traditions were based off the patterns we saw growing up – just molded to fit our lives together.

Traditions are the threads that string together generations, they bind our future together with our past.

Over the last couple years, as I forged a new home, I worked hard to maintain the traditions that had defined our family. I was steadfast in my mindset of ensuring consistency for our children, not just in the rules of the household but throughout their life. Even as my world collapsed I did not want to expose them by disrupting their patterns and our family traditions. Our first separated Halloween and Thanksgiving we spent together as a family, we put up the Christmas tree together, and we spent our Christmas eve together. Over time this had become more difficult as we were also attempting to forge new lives. That first Christmas eve things fell apart and almost none of the activities I wanted to do as a family panned out. She had invited family friends to join us for the evening where I had expectations of a quiet “family” evening with the boys and no outside distractions. Truth be told, I was hoping for a chance of reconnection – a last ditch attempt to create a spark – and I think she was looking to ensure a distraction. We made the best of things for the boys … but it was obvious that it was uncomfortable and didn’t go the way either of us wanted. That was the last of our ‘joint’ family holidays…

While I told myself that it was for the boys, that I wanted them to see us continuing to work together and live as a unit, what I realized was that it was really me that didn’t want to lose the family. I was trying to force the image of the old world on what was quickly becoming my new reality. I needed to make my life my own, and this meant rewriting a lot of the previous patterns. It meant holding onto those things that I found most important while adjusting them to fit my adjusted family unit.

Traditions are not just the fluff and the ceremony, but the foundation on which our family cultures are built.

Over time, the boys and I created new traditions for our family. We start first outside the typical holidays and ceremonies by creating “Super Fun Fridays”, where we would go eat dinner at a local Steak ‘n Shake after I picked them up from their after-school program. This was an intentional bonding time I had manufactured to ensure dedicated time together every week. For a while we held a daily-reading period each night before bed, or sit Sunday evening after dinner and watch a movie. These were intended to grow into everyday traditions that the boys could hold onto as their world changed. Events and activities they could wrap themselves in like an old cozy blanket.

Some traditions, however, I have maintained as their ceremony remain at the core of how I want to define my family culture. So like every year since the boys were born, we shared in putting up and decorating the Christmas tree. Each year roles have changed as the boys have gotten older and grown into taking on new roles. However, it remains something we do together, it is how we start the season.

Traditions are what you make them.

Recently we made some modifications to our parenting plan surrounding the winter break schedule. During negotiations there were a few choices I had to make that would define how our Christmas split would be handled, and thus directly impact some of the ceremonial traditions that I have defined. So I was left torn over the situation, unhappy with my options, but I was reminded that current traditions are no set in stone – they are not an all-or-nothing scenario. They can be adjusted to fit your life or current situation.

Your traditions help define you and your family culture, they can be as unique as you are. If you can’t find your footing start small by defining a simple pattern. What starts off as scheduled time together can blossom into a tradition.

It is the emotions of the event that make them special and their consistency that brings comfort. What, where, or when isn’t as important as what is defined by doing it.

Happy holidays from our family to yours!