Posts Tagged ‘healthy relationships’

Today is the day celebrated as Father’s Day.  It’s usually a day of cookouts, family time, gift giving, and laughter.  Handmade cards and pictures from little kids; stories about their childhood from those that are grown. Memories are made, and memories are revisited.

Sadly, not all kids get to experience having a Father in their life.  They watch from the sidelines as friends, cousins, neighbors, celebrate this day.  Equally as sad is that not all Father’s get to experience Father’s Day with their children.  Some by choice, it is true.  But many, because they are denied that right in one form or fashion.

I have been on both sides of the coin not only in my own childhood, but in the childhoods of my children and stepchildren.  My biological father was an alcoholic who had an affair, which caused he and my mother to divorce.  Once divorced and ordered to pay child support, medical expenses and save for my education, he made one support payment ($8O) and promptly left for California where he would not have to pay.  (Remember, this was about 45 years ago so CS enforcement was not what it is today.)  My mother never received another dime from him and I saw this man exactly three times between the ages of 3 and 18.  In sharp contrast is my step-dad, Charlie, who was always there for me.  Charlie loved me and my siblings.  We were his children.  Charlie has been gone from us for over 26 years, but when I think of my “Dad” I think of him.  His wisdom still guides me and I love him as much today as ever.

In the case of my own children, their biological father isn’t any better than mine.  While we were married, my ex-husband was somewhat active in the life of our daughter, but not our son.  Because of his disability, I suppose.  Once we separated, he took the kids on visitation only three times.  Only after my daughter contacted him when she was 17 did he begin somewhat of a relationship with her, but again, never our son.  To this day, as my daughter sits in prison, her biological father does nothing to support her.  He had seen our son three times in 10 years and that was only because I invited him to my son’s birthday parties and dog sat for him once.

Then there is my husband.  He is not only a truly wonderful man, he is a magnificent Father.  A huge part of what attracted me to him was his love for and his devotion to his children.  And eventually, his love for, and support of, my children.  He continues to offer support and guidance to my daughter through her challenges.   He recently adopted my son, autism and all.  He is their Dad in every sense of the word.

My husband wants every minute he can possibly get with all of our children.  Unfortunately, sometimes he is denied that right.  If you’ve read any of my other posts you are well aware of the antics we experience at the whimsy of the ex.  If you’re not familiar with our story let’s just sum it up with these three key phrases:  parental alienation, abusive/personality disordered woman, using  the children as pawns for control and manipulation.  By my way of thinking, if a child is blessed enough to have a father who cares, who wants to be active in their life and provide a solid, positive influence, why would you want to interfere in that?

Today I have thought a lot about my stepdaughter that isn’t my husband’s biological child.  How do you think she feels about Father’s Day?  To our knowledge, she doesn’t know the identity of her biological father.  At 10 years old her mother very effectively stole her father from her.  She was told by her mother the day we had the children’s cheeks swabbed that her daddy wasn’t really her daddy.  She was made to be the outcast by her mother.  Biology didn’t change the way my husband felt about his daughter.  He had loved her and cared for her from the time she was a baby.  Now suddenly he was the bad guy.  And all so the mother could hide her crimes.  This young girl is now graduated from high school and about to be an adult.  She suffers emotional issues and has trouble making and keeping friends.  Her own siblings have long been fearful of her.  She has been in trouble with the law.  Why?  In my opinion because the loving relationship she had with the man she knew as her father was destroyed.  You see, whether as an ex you like it or not, Daddy‘s are very important.

This type of thing is happening to men all the time.  We are making progress in the courts and in the views of society but we still have a long way to go.  Just because a woman is a mother does not automatically make her the better parent.  Just because a parent has physical custody does not give them the right to interfere with the relationship between a child and the other parent.  As a stepparent I feel it is important to support both parents to the children regardless of your feelings.  And believe me, I know that at times the feelings can be very negative.  But children need both parents.  Little girls and boys need a Daddy.  No matter what their age.  And kids need to be allowed to be kids.  They don’t need to have your emotional baggage and insecurities dumped on them.  It’s hard enough just being a kid.

So a big, enthusiastic Happy Father’s Day to all you wonderful men who love and adore your children as my husband does.  Much love to you.  Keep your head up and work towards doing the best you can to make things right.  If we can’t make the changes fast enough to help ourselves, at least we can work towards keeping these things from happening to other families in the future.

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A friend of mine recently asked me what I think about the following quote:

“{Individuals with autism, a child with a different ability, etc} are the ultimate square pegs; and the problem with pounding a square peg into a round hole is not that the hammering is hard work. It’s that you’re destroying the peg.” ~Paul Collins~

On so many levels, I absolutely agree that we are indeed destroying the peg by trying to make it fit into the hole. But what upsets me the most about this train of thought is that in our society, anyone who doesn’t follow the “herd mentality” is considered a “square” peg.  If you are an original thinker, if you happen to learn differently, if you have some type of disability, most often this is seen as a problem.  Why?  Why the terrible need to force everyone to be the same?

Throughout history, great achievement and growth has come from those wonderful square pegs that just do not fit into the round holes of society.  Thomas Jefferson was considered “uneducable” by his teachers and kicked out of school.  Helen Keller was deaf, mute and blind.  Albert Einstein was thought to be on the autism spectrum.  Beethoven was deaf and suffered from depression.  Yet consider all the contributions these amazing people made to the world. 

My life is full of square pegs.  In my opinion, how we treat people, the support they get and the extent to which we allow them to spread their wings and fly determines how they interact with society and how society responds to them. 

My son who is severely affected by autism is a constant source of joy for all who know him.  He hasn’t said a word in many years.  Yet, he is probably one of the most effective communicators you will ever meet.   Through his actions, his facial expression and body language, he shares his beautiful, loving spirit. 

My stepson has learning disabilities.  He struggles in school academically in spite of modifications made to his studies.  It’s not that he can’t learn, he simply does not learn the same way as most other kids learn.  He recently took his written drivers exam.  He passed it on the very first try!  NONE of our other children did that.  They all took the test mutiple times.  But my husband took great care to sit with him and go over the material every time he was here at the house with us.  Having the material explained to him in a manner he could understand and retain, made all the difference. 

Just because these guys don’t fit the plain round mold doesn’t mean they aren’t wonderful.  They are incredible young men that I love with all my heart.  They are unique.  They are just square pegs. 

We are not all the same.  I don’t think we are intended to be.  Why do we always focus on the deficit?  Is it to make ourselves feel better about our own short-comings that we don’t want to admit?  Does it make us feel smarter somehow to knock someone else down?  That not only hurts them but it hurts us too.  There is so much to be learned from those who are different from us.  Especially, in my humble opinion, those with special needs. 

I don’t think you can make a square peg fit into a round hole.  You can pound them down, but they will always stand a little taller than the plain round pegs.

“Why are you trying so hard to fit in when you were born to stand out?”  -Quote from movie “What A Girl Wants”

He finally appears.  After having cleaned all the flower beds and raked all the leaves.  The six-foot long black snake.  There all along.  Lurking.  Waiting for an opportunity to slither right through all your hard work.

Have you ever had a friendship like that?  Someone you thought stood beside you through the trials, only to find out they were part of the trials?

It’s heart breaking, isn’t it?  To think someone is on your side.  To think your secrets are safe.  To think someone truly understands you.  And then to have them turn on you.  Like a starving wolf after its prey.  Has this ever happened to you?  It has happened to me.  More than once.  Most recently in relation to my real estate career.  Actually more in my real estate career than at any other time in my life.  At the risk of giving my own profession a big, black eye, I will state that I do not find this surprising.  For although there are some absolutely wonderful, professional, people in real estate, it is also chock-full of people who are virtually unemployable in any other setting.

You would think it would be easy.  Spotting them, that is.  The back-stabbing, lying, two-faced leach that has attached itself to you and/or your business, but it’s not.  Perhaps that sounds a little bitter.  I really don’t mean for it to, it’s just I have little tolerance for this type of behavior.  You put yourself out on a limb to help someone, and they take advantage of you.  Is it that sometimes we are just too trusting?  When we put ourselves out there, helping others, offering our support, are we leaving ourselves open to be easy prey?  Would we be doing ourselves a favor to withdraw?  Is it better to just let every person fend for themselves and not get involved?  This has been a question I have asked myself often.  It has been a vow I have made to myself after every hurt and heartache I have experienced from those I once called friend.

But is it really any way to live?  All shriveled up inside of ourselves.  Afraid of putting ourselves out there for fear of being taken advantage of or having our feelings hurt.   The way I see it, that’s when they win.  That’s when the snake wraps itself around you and chokes the life out of us.  We must never consent to being anyones victim.  Yeah, we are gonna get knocked down, and you bet, sometimes it’s gonna hurt.  But we have to pull ourselves up and put ourselves back out there again.  Anything less and we lose.

It’s my belief that the people we attract into our lives – the good, the bad, the ugly – are all there for a reason.  Maybe we have to learn from them; maybe they have to learn from us.  I don’t believe in accidents.  I am, however, a firm believer in “what goes around comes around.”  And I believe that the “what” picks up speed as it is going around.  Sometimes, at least in my own personal experience, it seems we make the same mistakes with the same types of people.  I have a soft heart.  I am a sucker for a sob story.  I have faith that everyone CAN achieve their dreams.  What I have had to learn the hard way are the hard truths that not everyone wants to WORK for their dreams.  Sure, they sound good out loud, maybe even look good on paper, but in reality, it’s just too much work for some people.  That’s okay.  That’s their decision.  And it’s their problem to figure out how to make it work.  I really cannot help.  I can encourage, but it stops there.

Even after all the heartache, headaches and money spent, I am thankful for the experiences.  I’ve learned a lot more about character, a lot more about human nature.  I’ve learned a lot about myself and gained an even greater appreciation for the amazing people I have in my life who have loved and supported me with friendship for many, many years.  Like the black snake above, some people will slither through my life; others are the rocks that hold everything in place.  Thank God for them.

The key is to get to know people and trust them to be who they are. Instead, we trust people to be who we want them to be- and when they’re not, we cry.”  Anonymous

You may be deceived if you trust too much, but you will live in torment if you do not trust enough.” – Frank Crane

This wasn’t always the case.  Some of my long time friends and work associates will tell you that at one point I considered a funeral and a wedding nearly the same event.  I know, it is morbid, but that’s how I felt.  In my eyes, it was a certain death, either way.

Blame it on my background.  My mom and dad divorced when I was three and my dad quickly disappeared from the picture.  Actually, he disappeared from the entire state to avoid having to pay child support.  At that time the State and Federal child support programs didn’t exist.  My mother remarried.  I spent the rest of my childhood working my butt off in some twisted real-life version of Cinderella.  Only there was no handsome prince.

During my school years I could best be described as a bookworm.  I read daily, I wrote, I painted.  Books, art and animals were, and still are, passions of mine.  Dating was something I didn’t do until I was out of school.  And then, sparingly.  I was a free spirit interested in learning about people, places, things.  Come to think of it, I still have those free-spirited tendencies.

Having watched my mother’s marriage to a very controlling man, I always thought there was no way I would marry a man like that!  Well, at the tender young age of twenty-one I ended up pregnant, and then married to a man just like that.  For the next twelve years I was like a caged lion.  Pacing, pacing, pacing.  Work and my children were my constants as my husband and I lived vastly different, and separate lives, out of the same home.  The only “real” marriage I had to use for comparison was my Grandparents.  But those were different times, right?  And what would happen if the children didn’t have their father?  This thought in particular tormented me.  I only wanted the best for them.  At the time, I thought that had to be two parents.

Now, being married to someone you have no desire to spend any time with does have its perks.  Almost every weekend I took my children on outings; children’s museums, children’s theater, events with their favorite characters…we had so much fun.  At work I excelled in whatever projects I was given.  I was focused and driven.  I was well paid.  But still, at the end of the day, something was missing.  When I looked in the mirror I saw a woman who lived a big, fat lie!

I finally screwed up the courage to divorce him.  No easy task mind you.  The one thing I learned during my divorce is that controlling people tend to get a little crazy when they lose control.  But in the end, when it was over, he disappeared too.  No contact with our children at all.

To give us a fresh start I bought a new home.  A small house outside of town on an acre.  Lots of trees.  Gravel road.  Quiet.  A good place for a single mom to raise two beautiful children.  Work was going good.  The kids and I were back to our weekend adventures.  It was grand.

So who can blame me when my daughter and her best friend started bugging me about meeting their Science teacher and I told them both to get lost?  I wasn’t interested in dating someone.  Why would I mess up this great little life I had going on?  And to top it off, he had four kids.  Four small children and an ex-wife.  No thank you girls!

Thankfully, I didn’t stick to my resolve.  After about six months of pestering, they wore me down.  I gave in and agreed to meet this man.  It struck me that my daughter was so insistent that I would like him.  He couldn’t be all bad, right?  I could at least enjoy a cup of coffee with him.

The rest is history.  Two things moved me that morning; my husbands obvious love for his children, and his patience.  As we sat and swapped stories, compared history, talked about our marriages and our divorces, I couldn’t help but relax.  He touched my hand and he touched my heart.  Eleven years later he still touches my heart.  More than ever in fact.  Even after we have gone through so much.

How is it that I can have a bond this strong with a man who I met while my heart was so hardened?  We often say that it is because our first marriages were so unhappy.  Maybe that is some of it.  It takes more than simple appreciation but I believe that goes a long way.  I know I am thankful every day to be so blessed.  Thankful for the love he shows all of our children.

This marriage bears no resemblance to my first save perhaps the real legal document filed at the courthouse.  My husband and I have no biological children together.  We simply didn’t feel the need or the want to add to the six already here.  Maybe that is a big part of it.  We don’t have any “ties” that bind.  We are together because we want to be together.  We are together because trust each other.  We respect each other as separate and independent people.  We allow and honestly encourage each other to pursue our goals and dreams.  We have freedom.  Freedom to embrace who we truly are and that which is important to us.  That to me is the definition of true love.