Co-Parenting: Bonus

Last week some friends and I were discussing Mr. C and I and why I’m not rushing down the aisle. LOL. Multiple reasons, but love isn’t one of them. I explained that I’m not ready and we’ve just created this great space and relationship and do things in our own time.

I started telling them about Mr. C’s son getting accepted into the school he wanted to go to and how he was heading to college in the fall and I’m super excited for him. Sad for my man because he’s going to miss the hell out of his son, but excited that they are embarking on this journey together. Mr. C calls me for advice about college and questions he should ask and I try to dole out tips, information and suggestions. I like it. I feel like I’m providing valuable input.

One of the things that I may not have mentioned is that Mr. C raised his son by himself. He is an excellent father and one of the things that I love about him is that no matter how busy he was providing, he was always there for his son. That speaks volumes for me. He and I definitely have different parenting styles, but he loves being a dad. It works for him.

So, knowing that we are dating for the purpose of marriage it comes as no surprise that I’m excited about his son’s next phase of his life. I love being a mom and although his son is 9 years older than Munch and headed to college this fall while Munch heads to fourth grade, it warms my heart to know that I will have a bonus son when we marry.

My friends were asking “Bonus son?” I said “Yep, he’s the unexpected bonus I receive when I marry his dad. I didn’t have to give birth to him, but my life is immeasurably better because he’s in it.” They smiled. “I like that” said my friend.

Just like Munch and I are a package deal, Mr. C and his son are one. We are going to be a blended family someday and I don’t expect everything to be perfect, but I expect that we’ll try. I will be the bonus mom that won’t quit. The best bonus mom ever! He may get tired of me sending care packages while he’s away, but I honestly can’t wait.

Bonuses are a blessing. Unexpected blessings that are extras and while I will gain a bonus son, he’ll gain a bonus mom and a bonus brother. We’re going to be one blessed family.

 

Want to keep in touch? You can find me on social media at the following links: Twitter @mskeeinmd, Facebook page A Thomas Point of View and my Instagram page https://www.instagram.com/mskeeinmd/.

Divorced Again

I told you in yesterday’s post Failure of the Court how we went to court for a modification of custody to find out that we are still legally married to each other. The court failed us. We thought we were divorced, but the divorce wasn’t worth the paper it was written on. It was a sham.

In Maryland you can have both your divorce and custody tied together if there are no issues. It’s simpler, more effective and cheaper. I chose this route since I filed for divorce. It saved us time and money. However, because our custody was tied to the divorce and not separate. There was no custody agreement because there was no divorce.

You see the dilemma?

We were both having mini-breakdowns and trying to navigate what happens now. The magistrate explains that he can’t discuss custody because we’re still legally married and that divorce we were given is invalid so we can’t modify the custody as part of the divorce because the divorce is invalid. Basically, no one has custody. Are you freaking kidding me? What?

We were trying to digest all the information that was provided. The magistrate informed us that he was upset over the situation as well and wanted to get out of meeting with us because he couldn’t bear to hear that one of us had remarried and what that meant because he had defended a woman that had a similar situation in another county.

In Maryland, bigamy is a felony that can result in an individual spending up to nine years in jail.  The only way out of it is if your “ex-spouse” has been gone for seven continuous years or you don’t know where your “ex-spouse” is living at the time of your new marriage. That meant that if either of us had been remarried we would have been charged criminally with a felony because the courts screwed up our divorce. They don’t care if you knew about their screw up or not because you are charged criminally and divorce is a civil case.

This is getting more frustrating.

To learn that even if you didn’t know that your divorce was invalid and the courts were at fault and you get remarried you could still catch a felony case? To put it in perspective, our magistrate then tells us a story of a client he had a few years ago that went through this. She went through a bitter custody and property divorce. Her ex was upset because it wasn’t favorable to him. They settled custody and property and then the woman’s attorney filed for divorce. The divorce was filed 11 months after their separation and they were granted a divorce.

Fast forward two years and the woman is remarried and just had a baby with her new husband. She receives in the mail a bench warrant for her arrest and a notice vacating her divorce as invalid. Her “ex-spouse” had went to the state’s attorney’s office and requested that he check their files because their divorce wasn’t legal because Maryland required a 12 month separation not 11 months. The state’s attorney found out it was true and then the woman’s life became a two year nightmare of having to fight a felony bigamy charge, getting divorced, getting remarried and getting her life back.

We sat there dumbfounded.

I said “I don’t understand how the state can charge someone for something they did. The state is at fault because you can’t marry or divorce yourself so if documents aren’t valid then the state is at fault for that. How am I to be criminally charged with their poor hiring choices? That’s not my fault.” He responded “It’s not your fault and you did nothing wrong. But, Maryland law is firm.”

Thank God neither one of us remarried.

The magistrate then asks us do we still want to be divorced. Umm, yes. However, I said that I don’t want to pay for it. I paid the first time and it was a waste of money so everything should be free.

So, he has us go to the paralegal’s office down the hall and have them print out a complaint for absolute divorce and an answer to an absolute divorce. I then requested a complaint for custody and an answer to complaint for custody.

We completed the forms and I asked for sole custody in all paperwork. Both sole physical and sole legal.  I wasn’t going to stop his visitation, but I needed written confirmation on how we’re supposed to do this. We went back into the court room and the bailiff let him see my forms so he knew how to respond in answer. The bailiff gave the forms to the magistrate.

We asked questions on how do we proceed not having a signed custody agreement in place, he said as a lawyer I would advise you to keep things as they are until you go before a judge. No matter how you want to change it, the courts care about how the child is coping with things now.

We sighed.

He included a line in the decree to untie it from the divorce and we would get a separate custody agreement. He turned on the recording and then proceeded to divorce us.

We were divorced again. We left feeling somewhat defeated. This ordeal was working our nerves.

We then met with the scheduling coordinator and turned in our custody paperwork. The coordinator then scheduled all of the things we needed to do including the temporary hearing for 3 weeks. It was overwhelming to say the least.

We go to court again for a hearing on May 4th. My ex-husband (I pray this is in fact legitimate) and I will go to discuss a temporary custody agreement, attend parenting classes and mediation and then have a final custody hearing in August. It’s a hot mess.

We are trying to meet and work some things out on our own prior to our May 4th court date. The more that we try to do on our own and just have the courts put it in writing the better off. There are no winners in our battle for custody. I know that. Ultimately, Munch will be the loser, so knowing that allows me to try to meet with him and work some stuff out on our own.

At this point I realized and began to accept the silver lining in all this. What silver lining you might ask? The fact that he wanted a modification which got us back in court to realize that our first divorce wasn’t real and then actually get divorced again. This allowed us to not have to catch a felony case or sue the state for negligence.

You see? God was in it.

Want to keep in touch? You can find me on social media at the following links: Twitter @mskeeinmd, Facebook page A Thomas Point of View and my Instagram page https://www.instagram.com/mskeeinmd/.

Parenting: Boundaries

If you read my post yesterday-  Motivational Monday Moment – 3/6/2017, you’ll know that I mentioned how my dad had allowed his girlfriend to tell me what I can and can not do. This got me to thinking about boundaries. I was a child, maybe 14 at the time and having someone tell me what to do when I had never met this person or interacted with them totally put me in a bad head space. I resented her for many reasons: she wasn’t my mom, she wasn’t my mom, she wasn’t my mom and she didn’t know me. She had only met me once.

Now, I understand in hindsight that a lot of it may be pure adolescence, but I think the point I want to make is that parents have to respect boundaries with their children. Just like you have boundaries with adults, you definitely have them with your children. Let them feel out the new person. Don’t allow people to decide things with them that don’t know them.

I’m a big proponent of boundaries as an adult because they weren’t recognized when I was a child. For example: My dad’s mother (my paternal grandmother) wasn’t very nice to me. She didn’t engage in any grandmotherly things and she never made me feel loved. Heck, I don’t think she liked me at all. However, my mom’s mom (my maternal grandmother) would always tell me that I had to go and visit her whenever I was in town even though she was mean to me.

I hated that. My grandmother’s wisdom led her to believe that I always had to do right by others even if they were treating me wrong. “They have to answer to God for how they treat you” she would always tell me. As a child I had to subscribe to this logic. But, as an adult and a mother to my own son, I now realize that this is not healthy.

I explained this to her when I was home last month. I told her that I would never allow my son to spend time with someone who didn’t like him and made him feel like he’s unlovable, regardless of whether or not it’s a relative. I explained that as his mother, it is my right and responsibility to protect him from people that aren’t good for him or to him. I told her that it did more damage for me to be around my grandma feeling like she didn’t like me.

No boundary was created to protect me. I had to endure it because she was my blood relative. Was it fair? Nope.

Thankfully, I can choose to create boundaries. These boundaries don’t just apply to relatives, but they apply to everyone who comes in contact with my son. Even in my relationship. I love Mr. C. He’s great and I’m so happy, but I don’t allow Mr. C to discipline Munch. Why?

Two reasons. First, we’re not married. Second, he doesn’t spend alone time with him where he would have to discipline him.

Marriage Brings Benefits:

If Mr. C and I were married of course he would be allowed to discipline Munch. That is a benefit of marriage. We will never live together without being married, so there would be no need to discipline him. Does that give Munch a pass to disrespect him? Not at all. But, I need my man to understand that his boundary is that of boyfriend and not a contributory parent and therefore his role is limited. Important, but limited. If we get married that boundary will be expanded to include bonus dad and disciplinarian.

Alone Time Would Be Minimal:

Mr. C hasn’t spent alone time with Munch yet. I told ya’ll we’re taking it slow. But, probably this summer they will begin to hangout and do things together so he can get to know him outside of me. My expectation is that Munch will be on his best behavior. Should he not be on that best behavior, I would expect Mr. C to handle it. However, I will have the conversation that my mom had when we were away from her: you better be on your best behavior and not embarrass me. You do and you’re never going to see sunlight again. 

Yeah, it was extreme, but it worked. The point is this…create boundaries for your children when it comes to their relationships with adults. Whether they be your relative, your significant other or a friend, allow your children to know what is expected in any situation. Talk to them. If they don’t feel comfortable…don’t force it. Don’t force them to take part in things that make them feel uncomfortable because you want your significant other to feel empowered.

 

Want to keep in touch? You can find me on social media at the following links:  Twitter @mskeeinmd, Facebook page A Thomas Point of View and my Instagram page https://www.instagram.com/mskeeinmd/.

So Much

So much of my life is about trying to balance the things I have to do with the things that I want to do that it feels like I can’t  handle it when  something unexpected gets thrown in my lap. I just try to breathe. To take it all in and adjust.

As was the case this week when I received a Facebook messenger from my uncle asking me to call him. I called him. He told me that my dad was hospitalized in a hospital about an hour a way from where he lived. He said that he had shortness of breath and possibly another heart attack. I believe that would be #4.

“Okay” I replied. I was shocked. I was sitting here thinking how I couldn’t handle this right now? I have so much going on. I started thinking about all the things that I have going on. I made a list…

  • I just got my car out of the body shop and I have to schedule maintenance.
  • Munch has a book report and oral presentation we’re working on. I have to make sure that he’s prepared.
  • I’m emailing the principal back and forth on missing assignments for Munch who’s English teacher has just left after 3 months. I have to stay on top of them.
  • I have to work with the PTSA president to find out what’s going on with the coat drive that we want to do.
  • I have to book Munch’s birthday party. He wants a skating party. A Batman skating party.
  • I  have to hire a new employee. Write the job description again because the last one was too general. I have to source a new applicant pool since my last hire decided to accept another opportunity.
  • Munch has a fundraising program for the American Heart Association that he wants to do. I have to send emails to family and friends.
  • I have to edit my girlfriend’s book.
  • I have to write a book review for my friend’s sister.
  • I have to catch up on reading books.
  • I have to edit and submit my short story.
  • I have to figure out what I’m doing for Mr. C for Valentine’s Day.
  • I have to figure out vacation plans.
  • I have to pay for my conference in March.
  • I have to schedule date nights on me and Mr. C’s calendar.
  • I have to do dinner with former co-workers.
  • I have to figure out how to reduce my time out of the office and get my own health back on track. Doctor’s appointments, ugh!
  • Munch has requested that I schedule play dates with a couple of friends. I have to find some dates in my already packed schedule.
  • I have to figure out a day that we can go to the new African American museum since we didn’t go on election day.
  • I have to go to the store to pick up a new sketch pad for Munch, calendar for me and some groceries.
  • I have to…

Breathe.

I have to breathe.

I wasn’t expecting this. His family called asking about a living will that I supposedly had. What? I don’t have a living will. What are his wishes? He told me when I saw him for Labor Day that he was tired. Tired of living and was ready to die. Is he conscious. Can he make decisions on his own?

The hospital staff have been very nice with keeping me abreast of all that is occurring. The night nurse called me to tell me that she’s off the next day but wanted to let me know all the things that she was going to tell the social worker that my dad needed. I will help him. “Thank you” I said.

I have to breathe. I have to find time to carve out the things that I need to get done without feeling overwhelmed. I have to just do it. I decided that I can’t go to the conference because I can’t afford it. I need to go home and see my daddy. I have to get maintenance done to my car. I need to take it day by day with what I can do. I need to do only that which I can and not worry about the rest.

I’m exhausted. It seems overwhelming. I have a lot on my plate. I’m a single parent, but I’m not alone. I just have to keep reminding myself of this very fact.

I have to breathe and keep it moving. There is so much going on. There is so much I have to do. I just have to break it up.

So, I did. I started taking it in pieces. I’ve scheduled a play date for Munch in the next couple of weeks. I’ve booked his birthday party. I spoke to my ex-husband who agreed to switch the schedule so I could go home and visit my dad. I’ve booked my flight home to Tennessee. I am trying to schedule a weekend getaway with Mr. C and our kids for March and figuring out the rest as I go along.

Dating Parents – Part I

This is going to be a two part post because I have to tell ya’ll what’s going on and I don’t want it to drag out. Please bear with me because I will want some advice in the end. Here’s what happened…

Last month, Mr. C and I took our children to view the National Christmas tree and to dinner afterwards. His son is 18 and Munch is 8. Two different decades and nothing much in common. It was my first time meeting his son and getting to sort through the emotions that I amassed as to whether or not he would like me or how he would feel about me dating his dad.

I’ve never seriously dated a man with a child. I was always adamant about being the center of a man’s attention and children didn’t allow that to happen, so I avoided men with kids. Until…

Until I became single with a kid.

I realized that I didn’t want anymore children so I really wanted to date a man with kids so he wouldn’t ask me to have any. Pregnancy wasn’t that great and I’m over it. I’m too old to try and have another baby and I wanted to spend my life loving someone and the family that we built together through love and determination.

I also needed someone who could get the fact that I’m a  working mother. That I have things that I have to do at work, at Munch’s school and with my friends and then understand that I wanted one-on-one time with my son. My son is my priority. I needed someone who could appreciate that. I dated some men that couldn’t appreciate or understand when I had to cancel a date because my son was sick at his dad’s house.

Others that said that they understood, but wanted me to have more children. Umm, nope. I’m done. I’ve closed up shop and decided that no more children would occupy this womb.

Those men were the worst. They really believed they could convince me to abandon my beliefs and bear them heirs. Yeah, like that was going to happen.

And then there was Mr. C.

He came into my life not wanting more children. Loving my ambition and encouraging me in a way that I never thought possible. His love was real. It was healthy. I was truly happy and at peace.

So, it was only inevitable that I would fall in love with a great man that didn’t want anymore children. He was willing to love me and my son as though we were flesh of his flesh and would help me raise Munch when we got married. He didn’t mind starting over. He would have a child in college and one in elementary school. I loved that about him though.

In this space that we are creating and building I’m trying to merge our lives more. Not just as a couple, but as parents. Letting the kids get to know each other and spend time with each other. We’re not rushing an instant bonding session, but we wanted our children to know how we feel about each other and share our respective lives.

But…I didn’t expect that to have an impact on Munch.

Why?

Because Munch has met his dad’s girlfriend. He likes her. He spends time with her. He speaks of her often. I had never introduced Munch to anyone that I was dating. Ever. So, him having experience with his dad’s girlfriend should let him know that I was serious about someone right?

Munch has met Mr. C a few times. The first being this summer for all of about 5 minutes in an informal setting and then he off he went to play with his friends. Then a couple of times at the house. I wanted to slowly introduce Munch to the man that I had fallen in love with. I wanted him to know that here was a man that I thought worthy to introduce him too.

Seeing as where I had taken things slowly with Mr. C, I thought that Munch would see the importance of this man in my life. That he would be able to understand that this great man is a good guy and wants to get to know him. That he would feel that man’s love ooze all out and be able to process that mommy wanted a future with Mr. C.

However, that didn’t happen. Munch is 8 after all. I was wishing on a star and I thought he would be cool. But, he wasn’t and I just wasn’t prepared for that. It started when I picked him up and I told him that we had a big day and that we were hanging out with Mr. C and his son that evening and he sighed. What? What is the sigh about I asked. He responded, “Can’t we just spend some time alone me and you?”

I was hot. Really? I explained to him that he spends time with his dad and his girlfriend all the time and it’s never a problem. I told him that I limit the amount of time I spend with Mr. C when it’s my week with him because I want that alone time with him. I said, “You can’t act like it’s cool for you and your dad to spend every waking moment with his girlfriend (I’m probably exaggerating, but I was emotional) and when I want to spend a couple of hours with you and Mr. C it is a problem.” I had to catch myself. I was having a mommy meltdown.

 

5 Rules to This Co-Parenting Thing

This is a follow-up post to my 3 Truths About Co-Parenting. I, along with many others struggle when trying to find a balance with child-rearing and dealing with our exes so I wanted to share my 5 Rules for co-parenting. This is not an inclusive list and please understand that one size doesn’t fit all.

Co-parenting for lack of a better word is when two partners who had a child together are no longer together whether through break-up or divorce and they have to parent separately. Co-parenting assumes that both adults will parent jointly and thus create a harmonious situation for the child and/or children.

In all honesty, that rarely happens. The reality is that it takes two adults to move past the pain in their relationship. My best friend said to me “No matter how much the other person didn’t want to be married, you become the enemy because you ended it.” I thought that was crazy as hell, but listening to the things that my friend’s endure, I see there is truth in that.

The problem is that we, as adults, have to be willing to put aside our pain, anger and frustrations about our ex for the sake of our children. Again, this will take time. However, how long before you destroy each other and time won’t heal that wound and you continue to hate each other for your entire lifetime? It’s not healthy. It’s not healthy for the new partner who embarks on this situation.

The new girlfriend/boyfriend who may become the new wife/husband of your ex will be walking through a battlefield. They may not know, understand or care for the whole story. In reality, people only know what you tell them. But, you know that there are often 3 sides to every story…his, hers and the truth right? The truth is usually somewhere in the middle.

This acrimonious environment that adults find themselves in allows for you to breed contempt for each other and that hatred can and will boil over. Think of it like a boiling pot of your favorite sauce. You add too many ingredients (years of anger and memories from a failed relationship) into the pot and then heat it up on high. The heat is caused by the miscommunication or lack there of, lack of respect, lack of similar beliefs and values. What do you think is about to happen?

You’ll be surprised the number of things you thought were a given when you were married, but realized that you didn’t know the stranger who you are now forced to parent with. Things you took for granted…shared beliefs, values, morals, etc. You are often wondering what the hell happened? How could I have not seen that?

You have to stay strong and do what’s best for your child and/or children. Does that mean you lie down and be a whipping post? No. Does that mean that you have to do the things you did when you were married? No. But, it means that you need to step back and do at a minimum, these 5 things.

  1. Parent in the present. The past is gone. That relationship is over and dead. You aren’t reviving it or trying to get back together, so you should never say “You’ve always done… or You’ve always been this…” You can’t do it. You’re living in the past and you can’t parent in the present if you’re living in the past.
  2. Seek therapy. Parenting is hard as hell if you’re married. Add a divorce, anger, an affair, money issues, moving expenses, etc and you are bound to lose your cool with your ex. It happens. Normal as hell. But, you know what? Your anger over your ex leaving you or moving on will create problems when you try to co-parent. I believe in therapy for yourself and then learning how to co-parent with each other.
  3. No Child Left Behind. Don’t forget your parenting responsibilities in all your every day life. I get that you may now have to work or get two jobs to pay for child support, but you can’t neglect the important task of spending time with your children. They need you. You need them. Don’t neglect them if you start dating again. Don’t force your new partner down their throats either. Let them sort of lead the process.
  4. You have the right to say no. Don’t allow guilt to set you up for being a doormat to your ex’s whims or requests. You have the right to say no. If you can’t pick up your child from school for the 3rd time because you have plans…let them figure it out. You don’t have to provide them with information if you don’t want to. Now, I’m not talking about giving them the information and access to any on-line school accounts, but it is their responsibility to pay attention to the school calendar and not depend on you. You’re not married anymore.
  5. Boundaries are Beautiful. I realized that I didn’t have any boundaries when I shifted from married to separated and eventually divorced. The same things I did in marriage, I did in divorce. Copying him on emails to the teachers or following up with him about things I learned and that communication turned around and bit me in the butt. It backfired. I felt like that I was doing a lot and he was acting like I owed it to him to do it. I don’t have to do the things that I would have done as a wife. I have to set boundaries about what I will and won’t do and vice versa.

Parenting is hard as heck when you are married and more so when you are divorced. In the beginning you feel as though you don’t know the person you were once married too. It happens. It’s normal. It’s your new normal. You’ll struggle to find balance and let things evolve naturally. Some days it will work and other days it won’t. Does that mean that either parent is wrong? Nope. You just do the best you can and pray that your children will be okay.