CustodialDad on September 28th, 2010

Well, it took a long 3 1/2 years but this past month I finally received a final divorce decree.  This was after a 2 week long trial on all issues.  I thought to myself “finally”!  And while I believe there’s never a “winner” in a divorce, especially if it goes to trial (with the exception of the divorce attorneys of course), I felt I had “won”.  There were so many lies and allegations thrown out by my ex and her attorney during the past 3 1/2 years; the judge didn’t believe most of them.  And in this respect, I feel vindicated.  Of course, the fact that the settlement offers I had made at the beginning of this whole process was substantially better than what she had gotten at trial was completely lost on her.

So I was feeling happy and relieved that it was finally over!  And looking forward to starting over both personally and financially (3 1/2 years of endless senseless motions, depositions, and temporary hearings have done a number on my credit and finances).

…that is until a week later, I got an email from my attorney with attachments showing post-judgement motions my ex had filed.  Motion for Reconsideration and Motion for a New Trial!   My heart sank.  The only bright side was that it wasn’t about custody.  It was about money and going after some pot of gold at the end of the rainbow that doesn’t exist.  So now we have to wait another couple of months to go back to divorce court for a hearing on these motions.  The irrationality of it all…

My attorney says that such motions are rarely granted so I am trying to keep my spirits up and staying focused on my boy.  Having been financially drained by this divorce, I may not be able to give him all the nice things I wish I could have, but what I have to give is my time and my love.

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CustodialDad on March 12th, 2010

An noted in my previous post about change in custody, this past week was the first week of our 50/50 custody arrangement for our son.  His mother had emailed me saying that his skin looked very irritated prior to returning him.  Our son has had a problems with eczema in the past so I figured it wasn’t anything to worry about; I would apply some Desonide which his doctor had prescribed and which worked wonderfully in clearing it up.

Well, when I removed his clothes and took a look at his body, I was shocked.  It looked as if his mother had not applied any lotion or medication during the 4 days that he was with her.  Patches of red skin with part of it peeling around his underarms, back, inner elbow and knee, and waist.  I couldn’t believe she had let it get to such a point!  For anyone familiar with eczema, it starts out as small red patches which gets progressively worse if left untreated.  The good part is that it is easily treated with lotion, cortisone cream, and/or Desonide.  If properly treated, the condition disappears within a couple of days.   During the years I had been dealing with his eczema, I had never seen it get this bad.

My first reaction was to draw up an oatmeal bath followed by application of lotion and Desonide.  Afterwards, I couldn’t help just holding him in my arms while holding back the tears.  My son is such a trooper that the poor thing didn’t even complain even though I knew it had to hurt and itch.

After putting him to bed, I sat down at my computer to email his mother.  My first reaction was to vent and ask how she could let this happen.  But we have to live with this schedule for many years to come.  I didn’t want to shut down the lines of communication by playing the blame game.   So instead of venting, I just stated that I wanted to coordinate his skin regimen to avoid having his skin get to this point.  I made it perfectly clear I wasn’t blaming her and that I wanted to maintain honest open dialog without offending her.

What was her reply?  That she was tired of me blaming her and that his skin was like that when she picked him up 4 days prior!  I had stated in the email “I am not blaming you”, not once but twice!  And he had no signs of eczema when I bathed him the night before she picked him up.  I so wanted to reply that if his skin was like that 4 days ago and she had treated it for 4 days, it would never have gotten to the point it was when he came back home.  But once again, I thought better of it and just reiterated that I wasn’t trying to blame her.  And that i just wanted to coordinate a proper treatment in light of the new schedule.  She never replied back…

The good news is that just one day after having treated it with lotion and Desonide, his skin is already starting to clear up.  I am looking foward to getting home tonight and letting him splash around in the oatmeal bath.  He loves pouring the oatmeal bath powder in the tub and turning on the jets to watch it swirl around.  Afterwards, I will go over his body inch by inch to ensure I’ve applied the Desonide to all affected areas…the joys of parenthood and my Friday night!

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CustodialDad on March 12th, 2010

Do you have a preference or even a condition that the person you date be another single parent?  I know love is hard enough to find without putting conditions on it but personally, I am finding that another single parent ups the compatibility score.  A common saying I often hear when dating other single parents is that we both “get it”.  ”It” being an understanding that our lives as parents to our children takes precedence over anything and everything.

I mean, would a non-parent be as understanding if you had to cancel a date because your child wasn’t feeling well?  As single parents we’ve all had to alter our plans at one time or another because of our children.  We’ve learn to take it in stride and can even appreciate and respect another parent putting their children ahead of all else.  I find it a “turn-on” and is a good gauge of how she may be with my own child.

Then there is being able to relate to each other as single parents.  The hectic and sometimes chaotic life of a single parent is so unique that I think only another single parent can truly understand what it is like…the struggles, the loneliness, the feeling of being overwhelmed, and the little triumphs that keep us going.  There is so much too do, so much you wish for, and so little time to do it all.  The personal satisfaction at the end of the day when the dishes are done, laundry is folded, your child is sound asleep in bed, and you kiss him on his forehead and tell him “I love you so much my son”.  A non-parent may find it hard to understand but another single parent knows from experience that it’s things like this that keep us going.

And if the other single parent has a child similar in age to your own, it makes things a lot easier in introducing each other to the children.  The introduction isn’t done as “here’s daddy’s or mommy’s special friend” but as just a playdate (I am thinking in terms of young children; things may be a little different with teenagers).

I’d love to hear about other single parents’ experiences in dating other single parents as well as non-parents.

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CustodialDad on March 10th, 2010

A member of a divorce support group to which I belong asked if it was possible to do a divorce amicably.  He is at the beginning stage of the divorce and his soon-to-be ex suggested that they use the attorney that she had retained.  He is feeling lost and confused as most of us are when confronted with such a life changing experience.

So is it possible?  The answer is really dependent on individual circumstances and the parties involved.  Here’s is what I told him…

First, I am not an attorney so what’s noted below is just my opinion based on personal experience.

With a divorce that lasted 3 years, I would say being able to do it amicably is an ideal solution. A contentious divorce is a sure road to financial ruin and can often result in the fight costing more than what is being fought for. The exception being your children. If she isn’t willing to give you the parenting time that you think is best for you and your children, then you have no choice but to fight. And in that case, I would say beg, borrow or do what you have to do to ensure that you are involved as the father to your children.

All the rest is just a business decision. Make a list of what material and financial issues are important to you. Cross-reference that to what she wants. If there are conflicts, then financially quantify how much it is worth to you with the understanding that a divorce attorney will cost you at least $250/hr (with most decent ones charging $400/hr). I think it’s vital to keep pride and emotions out of splitting up the possessions and money. Sometimes it’s better to “let her win” than it is to fight when it comes to such things.

Regarding child support, I think it’s a pretty standard formula calculated using what is called the child support worksheet. I think the only complication would be if either one of you is trying to impute income to the other side. But if you have both worked during the marriage and have a history of income, it should be pretty straight-forward.

The only other point would be alimony. Since she left you and started seeing another man, you would probably have a case for paying no alimony…especially if she is living with the other man.

I’m always sad to hear about someone just starting a divorce process but it seems like both of you just want out which bodes well for being able to do it “cleanly”. In any event, if she has retained an attorney, you should at least consult with one. Just try not to let that snowball into a fight where you end up communicating only through attorneys.

Good luck!

How was your divorce? Were you and your spouse able to divorce amicably?

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CustodialDad on March 8th, 2010

I can’t believe it’s been a month since I last posted on the blog.  It seems time has a way of slipping through your fingers when you’re a single parent.  My son’s mother and I went back to court this past 2 weeks and the custody arrangement was changed to a 50/50 “one week on/one week off” agreement.   The reason for the change was a combination of her improvement, my sincere desire for her to be more involved in our son’s life, and my lack of finances for another protracted legal battle.  I think, and have to believe, that it will be good for my son in the long run.

It’s been almost exactly 3 years since I fled the house with my son.  Without getting into the details of why I had to do what I did, I left with no shoes on my feet and just the clothes on our backs.  Since that time, I’ve had my son 80% of the time.  Initially, my son’s mother had supervised visitations which eventually moved to unsupervised.  I couldn’t have imagined on the day I left with our son that what I had thought would be just a few days to give her time to cool down would turn into 3 years.  Life sometimes has a way of shattering all your hopes and expectations I suppose.

So this past week was the first week of the 50/50 custody arrangement and the first time that my son has been away from me for more than a couple of days.  Feeling sad and missing him dearly, the only thing I could think of was my hope that he was having fun and not missing me as much as I missed him.  Over the last 3 years, my whole life has been about being a full time dad to my son.  There hasn’t been a single moment that I wasn’t with him when he was not in school or with his mother.  Whether it was taking him to events, playdates, or anything else, I have made sure I was there with him.  I’ve rearranged my work schedule and put my social and career life on the back burner so that I would be there for him.

And while divorce is never easy on a child, I felt we were fortunate in that we had separated when he was too young to really understand what was happening.  He was 2 1/2 years old and though I’m sure he knew something had changed, I did my best to be there for him “double time” to give him the attention and love that a child needs at such an age.  When we agreed to go to a 50/50 custody, the thing that broke my heart most was that he would be put through another major change in his life at an age when he becoming cognizant of such things…I felt like he would be going through another divorce.

I pray that I’ve made the right decision in agreeing to the change in custody.  And I hope he knows that I did it because I felt having his mother be more involved in his life is a good thing for a child.  That I love him and miss him so much my heart aches.

…and though I don’t want him to be sad, there is a part of me that wishes he misses me as much as I miss him….

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CustodialDad on February 8th, 2010

My 5 yr old son and I were walking through some wooded area at the park and there was an old treehouse.  We talked about how high it was (he said it was as “high as the sky”; actually, it was maybe 20 feet in the trees) and how they had to use hammer and wood to build it.  He then turned to me and asked “can we build one too?  I can help you!”

I remember when I was growing up, building a treehouse was like a rite of passage.  I grew up in your “typical” middle-class neighborhood where everyone knew each other and all the neighborhood kids played together until the sun went down.  …and the neighborhood actually had trees around the homes!

I am now in what might be called a McMansion.  Developers raze the land, build these oversized homes, and then landscape by planting bushes and a few small trees.  There isn’t a tree in the neighborhood that would support a treehouse for a squirrel.  But my son continued telling me about how we can use a ladder to climb and the type of wood we would need to build the treehouse.  What’s a father to do?

For me, it was remembering the treehouse I had built so many years ago, and the fact that my parents still lived at the same house I grew up in and which was full of so many memories of playing fort in that treehouse.   The treehouse from my youth is mostly rotted away but the tree is still standing and what better way to come full circle than to recondition it for use by another generation.

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CustodialDad on February 8th, 2010

Time goes so fastKids, especially young kids, thrive on routines.  Routines give a young mind structure and security in an unfamiliar world.  And routines aid the parents in teaching discipline.  For single parents routines also serve as a time management tool.  This last part obviously also applies to intact households but I think it’s especially true for the single parent households.  Single parents lives are so hectic that routines allow us to compartmentalize the numerous tasks at hand.

Before I became a single parent, I never really thought of setting up my life around routines.  There was a certain unpredictability to my days.  Of course I went to work daily, came home at a certain hour, and usually ate around the same time, but there was two of us to divide the chores and parenting of our son.  If one of us was tired or needed to do something unexpected, the other would step in to help pick up the slack.  And with two people handling the workload, we obviously had more time for doing something on a whim…we had that extra time after all that needed to be done was done.

After having taken care of my son as the custodial parent for 3 years now, I’ve managed to establish…or fallen into…routines to help me manage my time and tasks.  It’s sort of a weekly cycle that repeats week after week.  I know what I have to do, sometimes without even thinking, based on day of the week and even hour of the day.  I know some people might think of the repetitiveness of it all as “boring” but I see it as sort of the opposite.  These routines allow me to get a handle on the numerous necessary tasks facing me as a single working custodial parent and better focus on being a father to my son.  There were times in the past when I’ve been so overwhelmed by all the things I knew I had to do that my mind couldn’t focus on being the best possible parent to my son.  Routines helped me alleviate the pressures.  Certain things can get repetitive but watching my son grow and mature offers up new joy and amazement on a daily basis!

One thing I did realize is that routines have skewed my perception of time.  It seems to make time go so fast!  Living on a weekly cycle of routines makes a month seem like 4 days.  It’s already Feb 8 when Christmas just seemed like it was last week!  Maybe I’m just getting…or maybe time just flies when you’re having fun.

How about other single parents out there?  How much of your life is based on routines?  How do you break up the routines to slow down father time?

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CustodialDad on February 6th, 2010

We all do it.  Making sure our kids’ hairs are combed before school.  I bathe my son before he goes to bed and sometimes his hair will still be a little damp when he falls asleep.  I don’t know if you’ve ever gone to bed with damp hair but it can lead to some interesting hair “styles” when you wake up.

So the other day my son woke up with one of these hairdos and I put some water on it to make it comb-able.  As hard as I tried, a few strands of hair just wouldn’t sit down!  If you’re old enough to remember the “Little Rascals”, you remember Alfafa (sp?) and his hair.  Well that’s what I was dealing with.  Between fixing him breakfast, packing his lunch, having him go “poo poo” (my son is a morning “poo poo’er”), getting him dressed, and all else that goes with the school day morning routine, we were on a tight time clock.  After a few minutes of trying to get those few strands of hair to sit down, I told my son “ok let’s put our shoes on, we have to get going”.

He looked at himself in the mirror, bent his head slightly forward to see the top of his head, and then said “I like it flat”!  In response, I said “your hair looks fine kiddo”.  And him…”no, see that?  make it flat”!  Mind you, he is 5 yrs old!

I couldn’t help laughing and somewhat amazed as I felt like he was maturing right before my eyes.  …and images of John Travolta in “Saturday Night Fever (SNF)” flashing in my head!  I don’t know if you remember but it’s the dinner scene where his father touches his hair and Travolta says “hey not the hair!”.

I grabbed the hair gel I had sitting around for those SNF karaoke nights and put a dab on the stubborn strands of hair to get it to sit “flat”.  My son looked at it and said “yea, yea, I like it”.  As we were walking out of the bathroom, he asked me “can we use that everyday”?

I thought, never let this boy watch SNF!

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CustodialDad on February 4th, 2010

I recently purchased an Ipod Touch for my 5 yr old son.  I decided to get him one after he kept borrowing my phone to play games or watch videos I had loaded on it for him.  I know some of you are saying a 5 yr old doesn’t need an Ipod!  And yes I agree but I justified it after seeing all the great educational apps for kids that are available for the Ipod Touch.

Educational Apps for KidsFirst thing I did was load all the episodes of Leap Frog series of DVD’s as well as the Blue’s Clues DVD’s we owned.  Then I went searching for educational apps at the Itunes store.  After, I sat down with my boy to help walk him through navigating the Ipod Touch as well as teach him how to use the apps.  Within a few minutes, he was saying “give it to me, I know how to do it”.  And sure enough, he was swiping and tapping like a pro!

I own a Google Android phone and every time my son tried to use it, he always got lost in the navigation of the device.  With the Apple Ipod Touch, he pretty much figured it out just through experimentation.  This is what truly blew me away about the Apple Ipod Touch.  Everything seems so intuitive that even a 5 yr old can figure it out!

Now regarding the educational apps for kids, there are literally thousands of them.  Here are the ones I’ve currently have loaded on his Ipod Touch.

Good Ipod Touch Apps for Kids

  • Clifford’s BE BIG with Words
  • Doodle Buddy
  • Five Little Monkeys
  • Giraffe’s Matching Zoo
  • iWrite Words (Tracing Game)
  • KidCalc FREE Math Fun
  • Shape Builder – The Preschool Learning Puzzle Game
  • Sketchmania
  • Sneezies Lite
  • Tower Bloxx Deluxe 3D Free
  • Wheels on the Bus

If you take the plunge and splurge for an Ipod Touch for your kids, I don’t think you will go wrong with any of the apps I’ve listed above.   I’ve not seen it mentioned before but I think parents who buy their kids the Ipod Touch eventually end up buying less “dedicated” educational toys like Leap Frog. I know I have which tends to even out the costs over the long run. Most of the apps I’ve listed are free.

Oh, and my son is a big time Star Wars fan (from Legos; I have not let him watch the actual movies) so I have one additional app called Lightsaber Unleashed which basically turns the Ipod Touch into a light saber.

If you do buy your child one, just remember to establish a time limit (I have it set at 30 minutes/day) from the start!

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CustodialDad on January 23rd, 2010

What prompts single parents to search the web for single parenting info?  When I became a single custodial parent, I started reading single parenting sites and blogs as a way to learn to be a better single parent and see how other single parents were coping with the challenges that we all face.  And I found a great deal of information in these areas, but I also discovered, to my surprise, that dating is a HUGE part of internet talk by single parents.

datingBeing the working custodial dad of a 5 year old boy, my week is filled with getting him ready for school, rushing off to work, and then racing back to pick him up after school….then of course, the  real day begins as after school hours are the real parenting time.  The day then doesn’t end until I tuck him in and read him his nightly stories.  By the time I am done, all I can think about is either going to bed, sitting down catching up on some reading, or just sitting in front of the TV “vegging” out.  Who has time for dating???

Even if I had the time and energy to date, I am not sure if I would have the emotional availability to give to a relationship.  And without being able to give a part of my heart to another person, I don’t think it would be fair to start down that road to intimacy.  I’m sure some may say just do it for the “booty call” or find a FWB, but at this point in my life, sex for sex sake just isn’t that important to me.  Maybe it’s my age or being emotionally and physically drained by the divorce and devoting my life to my son, but pure physical intimacy just isn’t very appealing.

But as I’ve seen, dating and sex seems to be a “hot” topic at many single parenting blogs.  So how about you?  How often do you go on dates, and do you do it with the hope of meeting that someone “special” or does just physical intimacy suffice?  …and how do you find the time???

How often do you date?

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