Our Pages

Friday, September 7, 2012

And Now...Real Life Begins

Several months ago, I met the most wonderful man. In fact, I’m very tempted to use the word “perfect” but that feels like I’m tempting fate, so I’ll leave it at “wonderful” for now. But he really, truly is perfect, or perhaps just perfect for me. Feel free to confirm that with the other Lady Scribes, as many of them have, by now, met my scientist.
For the longest while, we had to schedule time to see each other way in advance as we both lead busy lives with the responsibility of children. My son spends the night with his father/father’s family every Friday and Saturday. He also does dinner with his father on Tuesday and Thursday nights, so I don’t necessarily need to rush home twice a week from work, but he's with me most of the time, which I am quite happy about. And the scientist has his daughter every other week. So, yes, for a good while, it only was feasible for us to see each other every other weekend when neither of our children were waiting for us.  
That has changed.
My scientist has now met my son, and I have now met his daughter (who is extremely sweet and very cute).  My son and his daughter have met and even share a lot of the same interests. All in all, the four of us get along quite well, and we all like each other, which is certainly a blessing. But there’s still an adjustment period, and I’m not quite sure what to do about it. More specifically, I’m not sure how to help my son through it.
For nearly 15 years, he’s had my undivided attention. Such is life for an only child. He’s always had his father’s attention and his grandparents’ attention. But now he’s having to share mine. And even though he’s at an age when hanging out with mom is the furthest thing from cool, he’s still having a hard time adjusting to this new set of circumstances he finds himself in. I wish I knew how best to help him.
Being a parent, I’ve spent a lot of time evaluating my own childhood. What do I think my parents did right? What do I think they did wrong? And then using those experiences to make the right decision in regards to raising my son. 

But now we’ve entered an area that I have no experience in. Even though my parents separated when I was 15, my father kept his girlfriends (and subsequent wives) at arm’s length from my siblings and me. And my mother has never gone on a date that I know of. I don’t have any idea how it feels to have to share my parent with someone else. I don’t have any idea how it feels to have to share my space with someone other than my own siblings. I can’t relate at all to my son’s situation, but I can tell that he’s having a difficult time.  
Were you ever in a similar situation as a child? Or have you helped a child through a similar situation? What helped? What didn’t?
My parenting path is in “off road conditions” as my GPS would put it. Any insight or guidance is more than welcome.

19 comments:

  1. Ava, let me tell you I have been in your son's situation. However, it sounds like you are trying to balance the situation fairly well. At least your son hasn't written you a letter saying he feels neglected.

    When my parents decided they wanted a divorce, my dad started dating a woman with kids and he hung out more with her & her kids than his own. That kinda stung.

    You just need to let him know that he's not being replaced and that you will always be there for him. (side note: my parents ended up staying together. Seriously I wonder I manage)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Melody ~ How old where you? Did you meet the woman your father was dating? (So strange your parents ended up staying together. Mine should have never gotten married, let alone had 4 children, but that's another story for another day.)

      And - no - my son hasn't written a letter saying he feels neglected because...well, you know... that would involve writing and that's too close to homework. ;) And he's not what you'd call the communicative sort. To get an answer out of him, I have to already know the answer and the right questions in the right order to get it out of him.

      Delete
    2. I was about 14 or 15 years old. I was in high school when this all went down. Rough years in high school. No fun.

      Delete
    3. Oh, Melody! I bet that was rough. I'm glad it's all turned out, but those had to be difficult years.

      I'm not sure if there's anything to be done, other than just going through it; but I hate the idea of making his life more difficult.

      Delete
  2. My parents split when I was 3 and dated/remarried. I don't know if they did it right or not, but I managed and I think I'm pretty resilient. I think with any situation involving your kids it's best to keep communication open, and I know you do that. Some of it might mean providing reassurance that he is still important to you and that you have enough love in your heart to love him and other people. Learning this will likely be helpful to him as an adult, because we are capable of loving many people in our lives without it devaluing what we have with someone else. He'll find he has to share his wife's love with his children and her family and friends. You are so tenderhearted and gentle with him. I know you will do it the right way. :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks, Sam. I am certainly trying my best with him. He's at such a difficult age as it is with high school and everything else. I tell him every day how much I love him and try to be there for him as much as possible.

      Delete
    2. I also worry a lot about my son who just started high school. It IS a tough age. I mostly worry about how he feels about himself and how friends are treating him. He definitely needs his parents more right now. I've noticed he has been hanging out with us a lot more after dinner or in the afternoons just talking.

      Delete
    3. Samantha ~ I'm not sure if Freshman year is harder on the student or their parents. :) At least my son has joined a couple of clubs. That makes me rest a *tiny* bit easier. Good luck with your son's first year!

      Delete
  3. That's a tough situation, Ava. My parents divorced when I was thirteen. Mom has never even gone on a date since, much like your mother. My dad did date and marry another woman, though. I was a teen when he started dating Cheryl, and I was still at the point where I wasn't speaking to him at all. (There was a three-year stretch or so where I wouldn't say a single word to him. If he called, I hung up the phone or tossed it to a sibling who was speaking to him.)

    He did introduce Cheryl to my siblings who were on better terms with him, and she became part of their lives. Eventually, when I started to make things right with Dad, I got to know her too. She had a son who is about my age, and he became very close with my two brothers. We did things with her family, and she did things with our family. In fact, they were married at one of our family reunions, with my Great Uncle George performing the service.

    When I was first getting to know her, I resented her because she was trying too hard. I don't know if she thought I'd been avoiding my dad because of her or what, but that wasn't the case. I didn't know her, so I didn't care about her. I DID know him, though, and I was a teenager, and I was mad at him for many, many things. She wasn't a factor in my avoidance of him or anger toward him...but I felt like she was trying to buy my affection. She took me shopping for clothes and took me out to expensive dinners, and all sorts of other things like that. It wasn't necessary, and it made it to where I didn't really trust her too much for a while. Eventually, though, it just started to be normal things we'd all do...and that was when I started to like her.

    Cheryl died several years ago, and by then she and my dad were separated. Her son is still as close as anything with my two brothers, and still involved in our family.

    So...what to take from this? Don't push it. Do things together--all of you--and let your kids get to know how things will be as a family unit of sorts. After that's become fairly commonplace, then do things one on one with the kids, too, not just with you and the scientist. (All the while, be sure that you and your son have things you do just the two of you.) But don't, under any circumstances, try to buy the kids' affections. They're old enough and smart enough that they'll see straight through it. Let it evolve naturally. :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Cat ~ I swear we are so alike! There were several years I didn't talk to my father either. Eventually I had to come to terms with him, but (like I told Melody above) that's another story for another day.

      I'm so glad that you eventually got along with Cheryl and that her son is still close to your brothers. That gives me hope. :)

      Delete
  4. Yikes, this is a tough subject for me. My parents divorced when I was 12, my brother 8. My dad remarried right away to a woman who had an 8-yr-old boy. My brother instantly became the "replaced" one. It was very hard of him. The new woman and I hit it off really well. Probably because I was having a hard time with my mother. She too remarried fairly quickly and suddenly it was all about him. Everything changed. The food we ate, when and how we ate. Even what she would buy us for Christmas (fun stuff became necessary stuff) He had a say in every aspect of our lives. If she wanted him as part of her life that was one thing, but he didn't need to come in and start interfering with MY life. That's the key, I think. With my dad's new wife, she was there all the time, but she was an addition to our lives. She didn't try and change everything. And she was all about having fun. ;) But then 3 years later she left and I had to go through losing another person, this time forever. New woman comes onto scene. And she's all about building new life with my dad and her kids, that didn't really include me or my brother. That was obvious. She wasn't really interested in us, or made sure we were included. Kids see and hear everything, but more than that they feel everything. Especially teens, even though they aren't real good an interpreting how they feel. I'd say take it real slow with changes. Chances are, since you have such an awesome relationship, he wants you to be happy. But he's also a teenager which means the world revolves around him, which also means he probably doesn't want your happiness to change his life too terribly much. Because you know, it's all about him!! LOL! Teens you gotta love them! Good luck!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Cynthia ~ Wow. Lots of wisdom here. I'm going to re-read you post at least 50 times, I'm sure. :)

      The agreement the scientist and I have is that we're not going to try and parent the other's child. If his daughter wants or needs something, she needs to ask him. And the same goes for my son. If one of them has acted up, the parent who belongs to them will take care of the matter. Maybe that's a pie in the sky attitude that will vanish sometime in the future, we'll have to see. But now, with everything so new, we're holding to this and my hope is that will make things easier on the children as well.

      I didn't even like my own father telling me what to do when I was a teen, and I can't imagine I would have reacted well to an adult whose blood I didn't share trying to do so.

      Delete
  5. WOW. What a tough situation, Ava! I guess I'm in the minority b/c my parents are still married. Maybe it has something to do with the fact that my dad's on a ship 6 months out of the year? ;) LOL!

    And I was reading your reply to Cynthia. I think you totally have this right. It's like I tell my sister, who's married to a man with kids by his first wife, you are there to support HIM not discipline. Stay out of it, unless it's to enforce his rules, like bedtimes and junk food. But his kids aren't teens.

    It seems to be a tricky situation, but I think you will get through it with flying colors and someday be the one giving out advice on this very subject!

    XOXO

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Marquita ~ First of all... Thanks! (You know how I love giving advice. Very strange for me to be asking for it, right?)

      How old are your sister's stepchildren? How is that going? And how long have they all been together?

      And finally... LOL... I think you father's 6 months at sea every year may be a contributing factor. ;)

      Delete
    2. LOL! Sometimes a person *just* has to ask!

      They are 7, 6, 4, so pretty little. It's going well. The mom actually likes my sister and so does her partner, which makes it nice for all involved. I think it's been over a year and a half.

      Yeah, my mom and dad joke about it all the time. Like just when they can't stand being around each other anymore, he goes on the ship and then they miss one another. ;)

      Delete
  6. My father died when I was a baby. My mom was left with three little children all under three years old. She worked very hard and had the help and companionship of our grandparents and aunt who lived across the street. I remember one time that she went out on a date. We kids were confused because we didn't know what it meant. However, that was the only time I remember it. She said later that she was unimpressed. They went to a movie and for a coke afterward. I think he even expected her to pay for her own coke. Cheap!

    Growing up without a Dad was difficult at times. However, never having known him I guess made it easier. I remember sometimes my friends saying their Dad spanked them and such. It was then that I thought I was glad not to have a Dad. Of course, I wish I had known him. It's an emptiness that never goes away no matter how old one gets.

    I think that families can be blended together. It takes a lot of patience and children must have a sense of belonging and security. Being a stepparent is tricky. I think the key is to be yourself, express love but don't fawn over your stepchild and don't try to be the "real" parent that you're not. In other words, don't try to replace your stepchild's real parent. Good luck! Go with your heart.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Connie ~ Oh, wow. I bet there is an emptiness that never goes away. I can't really imagine what that must be like. But it sounds like your mother did an amazing job with the three of you and loved you very much.

      Funny about the cheap guy. Since I've been dating over the last three years, I've met some *really* cheap guys. And really creepy guys too. Very happy with *my* guy. :)

      And you're right, I'm going with my heart on everything and doing what I think is best. I just can't help worrying about my little boy (who is now taller than me.)

      Delete
  7. Ava, I wish I had some great wisdom to depart, but I'd already moved out on my own by the time my parents divorced. I never had to find my place in a newly knit family. But knowing you, and having seen you with your son, I don't doubt he's still number one in your heart. As long as you remind him of that (subtly--we are talking teenage boy here), he'll confidently make a place for himself in the new family scenario. And in all honesty, you can't make that for him--he has to figure out what he wants in that arena on his own. Big hugs and good luck! <3

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks, Andris. :) I'm sure you're right. He just seems so content to be all by himself, and because that is the complete opposite of me, it tends to worry me.

      Delete