Co-Parenting: Violence

I’ve heard so many sad stories on this journey to co-parenting with my ex. People who’ve suffered abuse and have to deal with mental health issues. I’m not judging. I’m just saying that my transition is not like everyone else’s.

I saw this video last week on Facebook and my heart broke. This woman is smashing up her ex’s car. The children were in the back seat:

Now, what is scary as heck about this situation and what has garnered a discussion on co-parenting is whether or not this woman’s behavior was acceptable. I said “Hell, no. She’s dead wrong. The children were in the car. She could have hurt them babies.” But, another woman said “You don’t know what she’s been through.” Umm, whatever.

Then another woman talked about violence in her relationship and how she literally flipped on her abuser who was her child’s father and did the same thing. Was she right? Nope. But, we don’t know the full story. I paused.

I’m not advocating violence on any level. With anyone. Especially with your children around. But, no man or woman is worth me losing my job over because I am mad at them or the situation I find myself in. I get it.

I grew up in a violent home. My dad was abusive. There was blood and the sounds of fists hitting flesh. I don’t wish this on anyone. Those images have stayed with me for years. I can’t ever forget and neither will these children.

It is important that we understand the cycle of abuse. If you are in an abusive situation, please get out. Immediately. Call the National Domestic Violence Hotline 1-800-799-SAFE (7233). Get help!

If you have children with your abuser, please get them out of that situation. Report all acts of violence immediately to your local law enforcement. You have to be an advocate for yourself.

Don’t lose your children because you are in jail. Don’t allow your partner or ex-partner put you in a situation where you can’t defend your children. If you won’t protect them, then who will?

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/.

Co-Parenting: I Never Thought

I never thought that it mattered to Munch that his dad and I weren’t together. He had turned 5 and we waited until he graduated from day care and had his birthday party. We didn’t want his 5th birthday to be scarred in any way. However, looking back on it…he probably was scarred in spite of our best intentions.

Munch’s life has always been a life where he’s experienced being an only child with two parents that love him tremendously. When we explained that we were divorcing and that he would live in two homes with two rooms, he said “But, you two are my parents.” We explained that we would always be his parents and that we love him more than life itself.

We probably should have put him in therapy. We probably should have gone to family counseling. We probably shouldn’t have done a lot of things. But, we did. None of which Munch had a choice in.

Life has a way of getting you to reflect on your choices when you’re divorced and try to co-parent. That moment came for me a few weeks ago. Munch was crying after a conversation with his dad. I asked him to come here and sit down and talk. He did. We talked. My heart broke.

My son felt like he was in the middle of his parent’s mess. Truthfully, he was. He sat with me and talked to me openly and honestly about what he was feeling. My little man child was expressing how he felt about everything. I just listened. I cried.

I asked him “Munch, what is it that you want?” We spend so much time telling Munch what he has to do that we probably don’t ask him how he feels about things. Forgetting that he’s the one that has to adapt to it. Do you know what my little boy said? He looked at me with tears falling down his face and said “I want you and Daddy to get back together.” 

This hit me like a ton of bricks. What? Why? I had so many questions. I couldn’t bombard this little boy. I asked him “Why?” He said “Because I’m the only kid in after care with divorced parents.” I explained that he’s probably not and some kids may have parents that never married. But, I had to go deeper.

I explained to him that I knew that he felt caught in the middle and I apologized for my part in it. I told him that his dad and I hadn’t been together in over four years and that we love him immensely. I explained that I know that he didn’t ask for any of this and he’s having to adjust to our choices.

We prayed. I kissed his tears. I held my son until he wanted to get up and go play.

His words stuck with me. In my mind and in my spirit. So much of what you do when you divorce and try to rebuild your life after the divorce affects your kids but do you ever stop to think how they’re coping? Probably not. There are a lot of things that Munch had no control over: his parents divorcing, his shared custody arrangement, his dad’s significant other, his dad getting engaged, his dad sharing spaces with someone else outside of him, me moving, his schools changing, me sharing my space with my mom, my dating Mr. C. and probably a whole heck of a lot more things. He’s had significant change.

We adults made the decision to move forward with our lives and he had no choice. We didn’t stop to think how our choices are affecting him not just in a once in a while conversation, but on a consistent basis. We didn’t stop to ask him what things he needs from us to make sure the transitions are working well for him. We just lived our lives believing that our choices were best for Munch.

Are they? I’m going to say in many ways yes. We are good at mapping out our lives and adulting, but we’re not good at co-parenting. We are good at telling him this is going to happen, but not at giving him a vote on our choices. We may not have a choice in what we do, but be cognizant of the fact that he’ll be the one to suffer the consequences.

Our married life is over. Whatever messes we created we have to remember that the most beautiful thing in all of this was Munch. He is our lifeline no matter how much fire I have to walk through I have to keep telling myself this. No greater joy than motherhood. Than what God has granted.

Next stop is to get Munch paired up with a therapist. Let him talk about what is affecting him. Let him sort through the mess we adults created with a professional. Get the tools and techniques on helping him adjust and be the best kid ever. We don’t have all the answers, but we can start by making the right choices to help Munch.

 

 

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/.

Five Years Later

This popped up on Facebook today:

0711

It was a picture of a luau. Five years ago my ex and I were celebrating our 10 year wedding anniversary in Hawaii. Munch was four years old.

We spent nine beautiful days in Hawaii. This was the first of two luaus that we would attend on a beautiful island. Hawaii was perfect. We needed that trip. It was designed to give us time to reflect and strengthen our marriage knowing that we made it this far.

But, it was a short trip down memory lane. Seven months after our Hawaii trip, I was asking for a divorce. I was exhausted. I couldn’t do it anymore. There were many reasons why, but ultimately I wanted each of us to find happiness because we were making each other miserable.

Five years later we’ve both found happiness. At least I believe we have. But, there are still things that aren’t working. Mainly our ability to co-parent.  I have many wishes or as my friends say expectations of how I want things to work. However, I’m an eternal optimist and I like the word “wish”. It brings sincere hope for something better. So, here are my three wishes five years later:

3 Wishes – 5 Years Later

  1. I wish that we would talk to each other about our son. I mean truly talk. Not forceful or accusatory conversation but a conversation designed to help lead our child down the right path. Really listening and respecting the other person’s point of view.
  2. I wish that we could co-parent Munch. You see many people tell you how you should co-parent, but don’t tell you the tools required to do so. The judge believes we can, others pray for it.  But, we’re not co-parenting. Until we can respect each other it will always be a wish. We begin to parallel parent. That kind of parenting hurts Munch.
  3. I wish that we could remember that Munch is watching us. Munch will never forget how we act towards each other and it will sit with him forever. He is watching and observing our behavior and he will craft his own perception of how things are and were during his younger years.

I’m not perfect. I’m an alpha female. I’ve always been that way. I won’t change. I don’t expect you to change. But, we’ve got to do better. I know that you want the best for Munch. I want the best for Munch, but the more that we continue to have painful conversations, lengthy emails or text messages that don’t have anything to do with Munch. The more time is wasted on bulls*it rather than focusing on Munch.

We have to proceed in these next few years as a unit committed to loving and raising our son. It’s five years later. Time has passed quickly and pretty soon Munch will be leaving our home and going to college where he will be responsible for creating his own destiny. What lessons would Munch have learned from us?

 

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/.

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/.