Come Get Your Kids

“Come get your kids” is a phrase that anybody who has spent any amount of time with me has heard. It’s my mantra concerning the Fan4 regarding visitation with their dad. Soon after he and I divorced, I adopted this expression, I live by it and I whole heartedly mean what I say. Come get them, please. 

I love my children with all of me. They receive more of my time, energy, effort and money than anything else in my life including me. But that’s nothing new. We, as mothers, tend to sacrifice everything for our children and we have a sense of ownership when it comes to them. We put ourselves in a position of dictatorship and determine we have absolute control regarding the children. After all “mother knows best” right? 

For some mothers “best” is never seeing their fathers. Oh they have a litany of reasons and excuses. When they begin sharing their list they sound very convincing. The father of their children is a terrible person and should never have access to the children. That’s right! Keep your children safe and sound from the monster who broke your heart, left you for another woman, doesn’t dress the correctly, never combs your daughter’s hair just right, wants to bring that woman around, lives with his mother, lives in a neighborhood you don’t approve of, doesn’t pay child support, refuses to get back with you, doesn’t consistently show up for visitation, has other children, is a terrible cook, has them sleeping on the floor, only has a one bedroom apartment, refuses to buy organic, gives them sugary sweets… You get my point. It doesn’t take much for the tzarina to pull the plug on visitation. 

If the guy actually has any knowledge of his rights and refuses to bow down to her then she adjusts her tactic and becomes combative. When he shows up she’s gone because she forgot he was coming over. She refuses to open the door. She complains about everything he does or doesn’t do. She tells him he can only have his visitation  with the children at her house for a limited amount of time. She teaches the children to fear and or distrust their father. She encourages them to disrespect him. Her intent is to sabotage the relationship between father and child. After all, she is constantly making sacrifices on the alter of motherhood and everyone must bow down to acknowledge her supremacy, control and fear. Yes, fear is one of the driving factors, a broken heart / rejection is  another. He was the reason their family is no longer in tact. It’s always his fault. 

I was talking to the mother of a male toddler not long ago when she went through her well rehearsed list of why her son would not be allowed to spend time with his father. One of the many reasons  she listed was he’s incompetent and doesn’t know how to be a father. So I asked her, why did you marry and create a baby with a man like him? I informed her, from my perspective, marrying him was a reflection of her character and decision making ability. 

Can I be honest? I mean really honest? I don’t believe that a woman has the ability to be mother and father. I refuse to say Happy Father’s Day to any woman. It doesn’t matter if she’s  widowed, divorced or never married she cannot be a father to her child(ren). There is a different dynamic and perspective that men bring to the relationship. Women don’t have the ability to duplicate a male’s thoughts or actions. I try to temper my offense when people wish me Happy Father’s Day. I’m not a man. On my very best day and his very worst day, my ex is still more of man than I’ll ever be. 

I’ve heard people say they didn’t have the same set of circumstances as I do with my ex. I work hard at this, very hard. I make sacrifices. I negotiate. I keep my opinions to myself at times. I ask him for his input. We make some decisions together. When it comes to extracurricular activities, we have a conversation about them because it requires both of us to commit to games, practices, camps, tryouts etc. 

Am I able to do life with the Fan4 without their father? Heck yes! Do I want to? No! I like having time to myself. I’m not sure I would have began a master’s program. Juggling four children is a lot of work. Knowing that they would go to their father’s house every 1st, 3rd and 5th weekend from Thursday until Monday gave me the time I needed to study and complete projects. Having them gone gives me time with friends. I can’t tell you how many things I do when they’re gone. I would have missed out on a lot of events I attend out of state because I would not have been able to fly all of us and I refuse to drive more than 9 hours with them. See how I made visitation about me? Come get your kids!! Free childcare!! Yes, sign me up. Do they always want to go? No. Do I care? No. He’s providing their basic necessities in the form of food, clothing and shelter. Do I cringe when I see them with uncombed hair, in dress clothes that are wrinkled, wearing clothes that are too little and with ashy knees and elbows? Yes! On my gosh yes. But I get over it each time. 

The Fan4 come back home today after spending two weeks with their dad. I have come to appreciate and even look forward to summer visitation. They are gone for a total of 30 days. I know some of you just choked on the air you’re breathing. I’ve loved every minute of the time they were gone. I haven’t cooked more than four meals, my grocery bill was nonexistent and I didn’t have to wonder about them. I know they are safe with their father. 

When you change your mindset you change your actions. When you change your actions you change your outcome. A change in your outcome is a change in your child’s present and future. 

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Five Years Ago

Five years ago this month I moved out of the house I selected and we purchased in 2001. I remember being pregnant with my Honeygirl and she was born in 2002. She will be 13 this year. The divorce, that drug on for two years, was final in March but I was given 60 days to move out. Yes, we lived together for most of that time. 

The search

I have always been very budget conscience. I knew how much I could afford to pay in rent and I was determined not to pay more. Finding a place, in a decent neighborhood, zoned for good schools, that was relatively close to my job (less than a 30 minute commute) and near a good daycare was definitely a challenge. It doesn’t sound difficult but believe me it was. I wanted three bedrooms but had seriously considered a two bedroom apartment. 

That’s when I met this guy. He was tall, dark, handsome, single, he worked out, ate healthy, he was driven, determined and best of all he was a real estate agent. If you’re going to spend hours at a time looking at houses with someone it doesn’t hurt if they’re attractive. He told me I had too many children to even think about living in a two bedroom apartment and took on the challenge of finding a place for us. We had a very limited amount of time so we looked almost every night. I was running out of time. It was May. Then one day we were driving around and I saw some townhouses I had been interested in but could not afford. One of them was for lease. We walked in to look around but another agent and client were there and they were on the phone with the leasing agent making plans. My agent looked at me, as we walked out and said, “maybe there’s another one.” I told him, “no, this one is mine.” You see, when we pulled up I took note of the name of the leasing agent’s name that was on the sign in the yard, Mary Ann Turner. That name may not mean anything to you but to me it meant the townhouse was mine. My family and her family had been friends for years. I had dinned at her table. I had attended celebrations at her house. Her niece had been my best friend during high school. I got Mary Ann’s personal phone number from my mother and I called her. After explaining my situation and how quickly I needed to move she put everything in warp speed. I moved out before that agreed upon date. 

The move

I did what most of us do when it’s time to move. I rented a truck and recruited some people to help. When it came time to move the recruits were avoiding my phone call. I put out an SOS to some friends of mine on a moms group that I participate in online. These moms and I had seen each other through lots of moments in time. Besides, if you need something handled who do you call? A mom of course. After a couple of phone conversations and a few hours later my new moving crew was on the scene. My eyes still water up when I think back on that day. There were several families that showed up later that day to help me move. It was a beautiful thing. My good friend from high school came with her mom who had an oxygen tank. She moved things like pillows and supervised the little children when she was resting on the sofa. (We miss you!) By the end of the day I was moved, beds setup, kitchen unpacked and settled in to our new home. 4moms rock!!

Summer visitation

Five year ago my children were ten, seven, four and three. I had been a stay at home mom until two years before when I started working a part-time job on the second shift. February of 2010 I began working my current job. All of that was to say, I had never been away from my children for a significant amount of time. I remember spending one weekend with Yvonne in Missouri. But that’s it. The way summer visitation works for us is the ex has the option of splitting up his visitation into two time periods that equal 30 days or he can have 30 days in July. He selected 30 days in July. Oh. My. Gosh. Thirty days without my babies. Thirty days without their momma. So many tears were shed during those 30 days. He would not allow me to talk to them or see them during that time frame. I had to get creative. I went to their church. My sister in law went with me as my backup and support. I had never seen my babies look so lost and dejected. When they saw me they were timid. The younger two cried as they hugged me. The pastor’s wife told me they missed me and were struggling. I broke down. This was the hardest time of my life. Another time I cut up a watermelon and showed up at his house while he was gone. His girlfriend let the kids come outside while she watched me through the window of the house I had picked out. During that month, I was allowed to have the kids for a weekend. I selected Little Dude’s fifth birthday weekend. I invited some friends over and we partied in the pool. A few days later they came home and we sat on the sofa and cried together. They were tears of relief. Tears of sadness. Tears of joy. Tears upon tears upon tears. My babies were home. 

Today

That was the first and last summer of him taking them for 30 days. School is about to end and summer visitation is about to begin. We no longer cry. Their summers are filled with volunteering summer camps and vacation bible school. I can’t say they look forward to the extended visits but they no longer dread them. This has been a tough year for me. I have to admit I’m looking forward to the silence and the reduction in my grocery bill. We’ve come a long way. 

I Am Not a Single Mother

I feel better already. Just typing that and saying that makes me feel great. I typed those words long ago and a couple of ladies were immediately offended. They were single moms. I can’t join their club. I don’t live the same life. I don’t have the same struggles. I would be a member of a group to whom I’m not paying dues. 

I grew up in a single parent household. My mother worked a mid shift and we ran amuck. She would get home around midnight after working long hours. When she arrived home we were snug in our beds, self tucked. Oh but the adventures we or rather they, my two older brothers, sought and enjoyed. My adventures were mild in comparison. 

There were no breaks for my mom. No weekend visitations. It was us all the time. We were always there but she wasn’t. Her days off? Sunday and Monday. There were no dinners around the table talking about our day. My alarm clock woke me up and my books put me to sleep. 

I’m not a single mom. To say so would negate the weeks, days and hours my children spend with their father. They see him weekly. He picks them up for youth, coaches their teams, attends concerts, recitals, school parties, field trips and even joined the PTA. They have extended visitation. From Thursday to Monday I’m child free on his weekends. It’s a great time of refreshing for me. 

We are coparenting. We live in different houses, cities and counties. We don’t always agree but who does? We approach life differently but who doesn’t. What we do agree on is raising our children to the best of our abilities. We’ve also agreed on mediation instead of court should we come to an impass. It happens. 

I’m not a single parent. I don’t fit in that category. My struggle is not the same. To say otherwise is a disservice to real single moms and dads who are doing life with their kids without the assistance of another parent. 

If I may be perfectly honest with you, the biggest difference from being a stay at home mom and now is I get every other weekends to myself whereas before I only had three hour breaks about once a month.