It happened at the dinner table, at the local Shari's, in fact. Sitting across from me, in a black sweater, hair pulled back into a neat pony tail… she there was one minute and the next… she was gone.
In her place, however, appeared my co-parenting equal, the woman to whom the Father of my children is now in a loving and established relationship with.,,, she doesn't have a name yet - but I'm sure I'll think of one.
No longer a girl…. no longer the girl who helped tear down my marriage…. instead, there sat across from me a woman ready and willing to take on the role of co-parenting our children.
I for one… couldn't be happier.
She wasn't snide.
She wasn't smirky.
She wasn't rudely polite, nodding along as though to *appear* to agree with everything I said while truly just biding her time to trash talk me on the drive home.
She wasn't blaise.
She was….. a little bit nervous. For some reason they clearly thought I was going to come in guns blazing, insults hurling….. but I……. did not.
I extended my hand and introduced myself. We ordered food and I got down to the business of reading my letter to her - which I had placed at the front of a three-ring binder that had a picture of the two kids on the front and it said FAMILY RULES.
My letter said THIS:
As a new part of our family, I want you to feel welcome, because you are.
I do not know what kind of permanent role you may, or may not play - and I do not mean to overwhelm or intimidate you. However, I would like you to have healthy and successful relationship with both of the children and I felt you might like to know where we started, what our parenting style is, suggested forms of discipline, etc. so that you can use that information to help you create your own role in our family.
Additionally, while I am their mother (loving and doting), you have your own life experiences to bring to this relationship and I hope you will feel free to do that. If you have other suggestions for how to deal with a certain situation or child, please feel free to call me, see me in person or share this information with me via email. I am open to whatever you would like to share with me. I will not feel threatened because you have a different approach or think we should handle something differently. While they are my children, I can only see them through my own eyes and I will not discount any observations you have about them.
If at any time you feel there is something wrong with the children - emotionally or health wise, please do not hesitate to talk to me directly. I do not want you to feel as though you do not have any …. "say" over them. If you are a part of their life, then I will treat you with the respect you deserve in that role which means respecting what you have to say in regards to them.
No child ever grew up and said…. "Wow - too many adults cared about me."
As such, I feel as though having positive relationships with *all* of the adults in their lives are critically important to not only how they grow up, but how they see the world, how they interact with the world and how they will one day have adult relationships of their own.
Our situation brings to the table a chance for the children to flourish and succeed in love, patience and understanding - and through watching adults have differences and find solutions and positivity …. OR - drown in emotional failure at the hands of adults who can't be grown-ups and get their shit together.
It is my intention that we NOT be the latter… under any circumstances.
So. Welcome to the family. Even before this, we were unconventional. The basic rules are:
The children come first, we come second. We use our words to encourage, not discourage and never to put down. We use our hands to love not hit. We are family by birth: friends by choice. We work out our differences with respect and kind words. We are willing to compromise. We take turns. We put others before ourselves, including each other.
As a part of our family…. I personally extend these rules to include you as well and promise to never talk bad about you to friends, family or the children. If I have an issue I will take it directly to you in a positive and respectful manner. Welcome to our family…….. :)
I read her my letter, then gave her the two co-parenting books I have already read. I told her I didn't expect her to read them, but they might be a good reference for her in the future in understanding why I do the things I do - and also, perhaps she might find answers of her own in them.
Then I went through each page of the binder - one about The Girl, listing likes and dislikes and how she likes to have sandwiches with peanut butter ONLY, with the crusts cut-off and then cut into fourths. How she likes dolls and dress up and tea-parties and that I will pack a bin of extra clothes and toys for her to keep at their place. No need to buy new stuff…. we have plenty.
There was a page about The Boy listing his likes and dislikes and how he likes his sandwiches to be peanut butter and jelly but cut into thirds because we're doing division and he likes to say "thirds" now.
There was a section on FAMILY RULES, which I will include below for those who want to know….. as well as two handouts on what Attachment Parenting is and how she can implement the values of AP parenting in her new role.
To her credit…. she had already read through Dr. Sear's Attachment Parenting website online.
BooF*ckingYah to her….. right?
I think that's kind of awesome of her.
I told her that both the children are excited to meet her and get to know her…. BECAUSE I have never trash talked her to the children - while they know *who* she is, they have no other framework, good or bad to place on her… it will be up to her create and maintain a relationship with them.
She was….. nice. She's funny, she's got a good sense of humor… she's also bold and unafraid and has strong opinions…. if you ask me: these are all good things and I told her so. My children are used to having me for a Mother - so another bold, unafraid woman in their life will be a good thing for sure.
She said she will put the children first…. and you know what - as a Mom, I really can't ask another person for more than that. And…. I was kind of f*cking thrilled to hear it.
I was straight with her that I did not know my marriage was "over" - nor did I know it was "in trouble" and that their affair both hurt me and caught me off guard. I told her that I was entitled to *have* called to a home-wrecking whore ... because that's what happened. However..... a year later, we have children to raise and we all have to be willing to put the past to bed and start afresh.
See.... that's kind of cool, too - don't you think?
I told her that she will "make mistakes"… we all do - especially as parents, but that she shouldn't be afraid to make them, that I won't come unglued and yell at her. If we have a problem, we'll talk about it, normally and calmly…..
She gave me a hug at the end and thanked me for being 'amicable'.
So. Yoga Girl is dead.
She is no more and she will not be written about anymore as Yoga Girl.
Respect has to start somewhere … and it starts here.
How to handle conflict:
Both of the children have been raised to be friends. We never encouraged The Boy to "love" his sister like parents typically do - instead, we allowed him to come to terms with and develop his own relationship with his sister - as a result, they are very close. In spite of how close they are…. they will argue with each other - usually over toys or playing the wii.
Usually, I would like you to handle whatever has come up by asking this question:
"CHILD A - if you do that, and you treat your brother/sister that way - are they going to grow up and be your friend and love you?"
(usually they will tell you no……)
"Right, so maybe you should find a different way to handle things because if your brother/sister grows up and isn't your friend, won't that be sad?"
They usually work it out after that on their own.
If they don't, please suggest one of the following and allow the children to choose their solution:
* take turns - one child has toy/turn for 5 minutes then change
* they both lose the toy/turn
* ask them how *they* think they can solve the situation.
Please address the issue or the problem - ie. someone isn't SHARING, TAKING A TURN, etc - instead of the child. What that means is - you put them in charge of owning their own behavior instead of putting them down for it…..
"Wow… CHILD B - if you do that, do you think that hurts your sister/brother's feelings? - Are you sure that's is something you want to be doing?"
When you pose the ISSUE/EMOTIONAL RESULT as what the problem is - in that we don't always want to share, but we don't get to be an asshole about it - and get them to understand that be mistreating each other they are causing damage to the other person, they will always make a different choice.
And yes… I believe that when one sibling is as an ass to the other - they are causing a life-long, deep-seeded mistrust that will never heal even when they older. No being an ass to each other is allowed. J
They are NEVER allowed to use unkind words with each other - name calling, or put downs of any kind should not be tolerated.
They should NEVER hit each other - (however, it can occasionally happen…. and the offender should be put in a time out).
TIME OUT: is a safe place such as a part of the couch, the kitchen table - never in a corner. It is a place to reconsider the child's behavior - it is not an exercise is shaming the child.
This is a HUGE one for me personally.
Almost everyone's childhood is littered with memories of feeling shame - you did something wrong and got unduly punished or you broke your great-grandmother lamp and everyone went insane. DISCIPLINE AND A SUTIABLE PUNISHMENT are fine… belittling, name-calling or shaming will NOT be tolerated.
First and foremost: if you have things in your home you care about - put them away. lol
Second: Please set rules with them - no food on the couch? carpet? Tell them not to use certain things you own? They are used to being able to use whatever they see, so if there are toys/items you DO NOT want them using, please let them know that every time they come over until you are sure they remember on their own.
Third: if/when something happens and something does get damaged or broken, please do not lose your shit at our kids and yell at them. I know that it *can* happen…. and I understand it - but it's those moments that will *forever* damage not only the child, but your relationship with them. Instead, feel free to say, "Wow, I asked you not to do/pay with XXXXX and now it's broken, that makes me very sad and I'm very disappointed." This won’t *usually* happen - but if it does, please remember that their very souls are as fragile as glass and words are always sharp enough to break them.
I'm sure it goes without saying, but also…. please be careful with the words you use *with* them.
"[The Girl] - why are you whining so much - it's very hard to listen to, what can I do to help you?"
is much better than…. "[The Girl] - why are you such a whiner?"
The second is clearly name-calling and we do not do that in this house.
We do not have any hard and fast rules about the use of television - they watch plenty of it and that is just fine. Usually they watch the Disney channel or Nickelodeon - and kids movies. I can always send them with a move if you guys want to watch one- just let me know. Generally speaking - things that are G rated are fine - but if you see something on TV that you think is "not appropriate" - please feel free to change the channel! lol
Aside from that just use your common sense of what they should and shouldn't watch.
Both of the children have been raised to respect adults and authority. When meeting someone new they are to call them Miss or Mr. I know that came seem a bit "old school" - but it's important to me that they continue to do this. If you would like to be XXXXXX - that's fine, but MMMMM should be Miss MMMMM, etc. It set's a clear boundary for them and it a sign of respect for their elders.
PLEASE & THANK YOU. Use of these words should be encouraged at all times.
At this point, we are still co-sleeping with the children. USE A PLASTIC SHEET or a shower curtain from the dollar store UNDER the sheet they are sleeping on. The children will sleep together and will likely want their father to sleep with them. I would be grateful if, for the interim, you did not sleep with them. I hope you can understand and won't take that offensively.
They currently have a bedtime - of around 8PM… beware that you are welcome to let them stay up later… however they get a "second wind" and if you miss the window to get them down - they *will* be up until midnight. lolol They are allowed to watch a movie or the Disney channel while they fall asleep.
Bedtime should NEVER EVER be a fight. The children have always fallen asleep in love and woken up in love - I believe that this has contributed immensely to their general happy demeanors, please continue this.
BOTH CHILDREN TRAVEL ONLY IN CAR SEATS AT ALL TIMES.
Sorry… but I'm kind of a car-seat freak. The Girl needs to ride in her 5 point harness (if it's in the Civic) and The Boy needs to ride in his full back booster. NO EXCEPTIONS, please and thank you.
The Boy should NEVER EVER ride in the front seat of any vehicle.
Given the chance… they will STILL both run out in the damn street. PLEASE watch them closely in parking lots, etc.
GOING TO LARGE PLACES: if you take them to a fair or the zoo or someplace with hundreds of people, please put YOUR NAME AND PHONE NUMBER on a piece of paper and it in their pockets, so that if you get separated, they will have your information to find you.
This includes anyone the children do not know. They might be YOUR friend, but I would greatly appreciate it if you never, ever left my children in the company of people that they do not know.