How I Became a Better Father After Splitting with My Co-Parent

Several years ago when Ella was a baby, we were at my mom’s house. Ella was in my arms. I noticed she needed a diaper change. So I called to my to ex. Then handed Ella over to her.

“She needs a diaper change,” I said.

As I recall, that may have been the norm. I cringe when I reflect back on it. It feels like such a “bad form” move. Why didn’t I just change the diaper?

Because for years, I was consumed with making money and making amends with a sore spot that tainted the tread of my soul. The result? I not only failed at doing so, but I also wasn’t present to the beauty right in front of me. Diaper changing included.

So what changed? We broke up.

Don’t get me wrong. It may not have been as one-sided as I am depicting, but this is for sure: the break up forced me to take stock of who I was and what the fundamentals of successful parenting should look like (to me). I didn’t let the opportunity pass.

Here are just a few things that changed me for the better as a parent:

– I morphed into a multi-tasker taking on chores previously done by my ex.

– Once away from the stress of a failed relationship, by degrees, I became more relaxed, more reflective, more present, and as a result, enjoyed being fully immersed with my life raising children.
– I developed my own parenting style.

– With 50% scheduled parenting time, I no longer took anything for granted, and thus, developed a more single-minded focus with the kids (as well as my off-parenting time, which has also proven super healthy).

– I became vastly closer and more connected to my children. Like so many nuclear families, mom is the center of everything and dad is a supporting player. I became the center of everything when they were with me.

– I got focused on (very) slowly repairing damaged relationships from an old version of myself. This improved my self-esteem and the surrounding support every parent needs when raising children.

Right now, it doesn’t necessarily get easier to leave my children at mom’s doorstep, sharing holidays or having to work everything around a parenting schedule, but I’m proud and grateful for the process. I always say about parenting: the first step is a journey and going all the way is a promise. I live by that.

Last night after a day of playing, visiting, crying, laughing, cooking, cleaning, running around town, and then cuddling them into bed, I came back later after they were sleeping, and looked with wonder at the angels who have transformed me.

Tribute to Pobby (my Grandpa)

This, long after he grew tired of being young and full of running.

This, long after sweeping away the ashes from tables he set and torched.

This, long after he broke from desire when it went back on what he believed.

This, long after he silenced his screaming. Then learned to breathe.

He remarried, sketched his wife nude: swinging hair and hips, hand covering

her breast. Looking toward the Big Lake one early August morning in the 1970s

when the sun rose high in the sky, and his love for her was a landscape.

Just for today

“Not all those who wander are lost”

I am exactly where I want to be, for better or for worse. I belong right here, right now. 

Just for today, anyway.

I don’t know where I’ll end up. I am exploring. I have no goals.

I am a wanderer. When our paths cross, I am loving. I have no expectations.

Just for today. That wasn’t the case yesterday. Maybe not tomorrow, either.

I work hard, but nothing is for keeps. I will work harder yet. I promise not to hold on.

At least not today.

I have attachments. My kids. I love my kids.

I see them half the time. Sometimes more. When I see their mother to exchange our kids, the simplicity mixed with depth that we now share meets my emotional needs beyond the years that have passed between us.   

Just for today, anyway.

Just for today: life has delivered me to the foot of my mountain of dreams. I’ve awaken to each tree instead of the entire forest.  

Everything is less overwhelming.  Just for today, anyway.

Sometimes I get off the Internet. Because connection occurs when I disconnect.

I post my reflections on Facebook about the experiences I have when I am “disconnected”

Today – phone calls, text messages and emails are a suggestion not an obligation.

Real books are beautiful. I went to the library to read them. Today I didn’t read random articles on the Internet. There is no “information” that I am missing.

Just for today, I will do ONE thing.  I will not talk about 100 of the other other things. “Doing” is information. “Doing” is experience.

Again, just for today. No guarantees about tomorrow.

Today, I don’t carry desire, possession or control. I have no longings. Fear is gone. Today no anxiety, no stress, no hassles.

No miscommunication.

Today I’m not asking ‘Why?’

Today, I won’t make room for him or her if I don’t choose to do so. No obligations to anyone or anything. I don’t have space for his projecting. I’m sorry if it’s been a bad day, or a bad life. It’s not that I don’t care, it’s that today I choose not to try to understand. Even my own shit.

How? By not asking “why?”

Not today, anyway.

I am not seeking to accomplish anything today. Yesterday maybe that wasn’t the case.

But today… “accomplishment” is society holding me down.

Who is to judge? Maybe I’ve accomplished a lot. Or nothing at all. Either way, today – by my standards – I can afford to give it all away.

Here are the things I know. Just for today, anyway:

1. A story is better than any material gift

2. Joy is a choice from the inside not an emotion that can be given.

3. If I make the wrong choice then be hard on myself, then be hard on myself for being hard on myself, I lose. If I simply don’t judge myself or make others wrong, I win. I like winning!

4. I’m attractive and rich when I am charitable with my love, wonder, kindness, curiosity, friendship and connection. This is the real currency exchange.

5. This is what I know today. Tomorrow the deck is liable to flip, and I’ll change my mind.

Today I have no goals. For so long I have had goals that do not serve me. ie. “Once I achieve ____ (x) I will be _____ (y).”

Today nothing outside me will make me happy. I don’t have room for anything outside of me.

Today = no goals. Instead, I need my hand to hold. If I do so, I will achieve all the goals I never made for myself.

Don’t take advice from me today, and if you read this, thank you. May our next step be lighter than our last.

Just for today, anyway

Artistic Stability 

I’m currently reading Writing Down the Bones by Natalie Goldberg

When you begin to write right out of your own mind you might have to be willing to write junk for five years, because we have accumulated it over many more than that and have been gladly avoiding it in ourselves. We have to look at our own inertia, insecurities, self-hate, fear that, in truth, we have nothing valuable to say. It is true that when we begin anything new, resistances fly in our face. Now you have the opportunity to not run or be tossed away, but to look at them black and white on paper and see what their silly voices say. When your writing blooms out of the back of this garbage and compost, it is very stable. You’re not running from anything. You can have a sense of artistic security. If you are not afraid of the voices inside you, you will not fear the critics outside of you. Besides those voices are merely guardians and demons protecting the real treasure, the first thoughts of the mind.

— Natalie Goldberg

from Writing Down the Bones

Let’s Catch a Ball Game

Let’s catch a ball game this summer, something local in our town. I love the idea of talking real talk with you in-between my narrative about the baseball being played on field. The people watching is fun too. I think you’d get a kick out of the vendors hustling beer. I want us to sing Take Me Out To The Ball Game together in the seventh inning. I would order a brat with kraut and peppers. What would you order? I’d have this poem my grandpa wrote about baseball in my back pocket. After he passed I rewrote it. Maybe I would read it to you, stopping to explain every line. I love baseball and I loved my grandpa. You’d see me smile with my eyes. They might even glisten in the rereading. Those eyes that would be so open to you and I look up to smile at you staring back at me deep. Then we’d fall in love.

Playing with Lucan

I was feeling disgusted because of the stir President Trump created. He tweeted that there would be a ban on transgender citizens in the United States armed forces. I needed a workout to blow off steam.

Ella was with Granny. She got a Hatchimal and called to tell Lucan. So Lucan was seeking something special too. We decided to go to our “Home Gym.” He liked my idea to begin working out with me.

Thursday, July 27, 2017

We played ball. He’s learning to catch with two hands and fire back a throw at my chest.

Lucan learned how to lunge walk. He picked up the 20 pound medicine ball, set it down, picked it up, etc. He also worked on jump rope, which he almost has figured put.

Back at home, he rode his bike. His favorite thing to do right now is ride his bike. When I observe, I see that he enjoys the freedom to ride long distances down the street. He likes the wind on his face.

Thursday, July 27, 2017

He also likes to race. On this day, his neighbor friend was out. They raced. It was close. Lucan won by a tire length.

Thursday, July 27, 2017

I sent these pictures to Kaitlin. We both agreed how darn handsome he is and how sweet his heart is. I enjoyed our time together on this day.

That night when I tucked him in, he talked about our love for one another. He likes one on one Dad time. It was a good example of his growing ability to be reflective.

Love You More

At bed time tonight I say, I love you.

She says, I love you more.

I say, I love you most.

She says, I love you more than most.

I say, I love you more than most of all.

She says, I love you more than most of all happily ever after.

I say, I love you more than most of all happily ever after since before you were born.

She says, I love you more than most of all happily ever after since before you were born and into our next generation.

I thought she got me because up til this point she either forgot our sequence or she started with the “I love you.”

So I sigh like I lost. There’s a pause. Her eyes widen to anticipate she got me.

Then I say, I love you more than most of all, happily ever after, since before you were born and into our next generation until the last Daddy Daughter heart force.

She’s impressed. I win again. She hugs me sweetly, says confidently, That’s a lot of love, Dad!

We kiss and rub noses. I get up from her bed, Love you Ella.

Love you too, Dad.

8 Exercises for Dealing with Life’s Emotions

For me, fitness is medicine. Especially for dealing with feelings and emotions.

Here are workouts from my life experience that have helped me deal in a healthy way.

If you’re feeling…

1). Heart Broken… go distance running.

Find a pace and “run Forrest run!” Hit cruise control on your pace once you reach 65 or 70% of your max heart rate. This repairs the heart by pumping so much blood into it.

2). Insecure or Unsure of Yourself… do sprints along with core exercises.

With the sprints, it’s all about the posture and keeping Olympic gold medal form. The sprint posture is a metaphor for independence. The core exercises will help keep your shit together.

3). Re-connection…swimming.

Swimming forces you to be in your body, and find buoyancy and equilibrium. Feeling disconnected with your significant other? Swim together.

4). Reinvention…yoga

Yoga will force you to stretch, strengthen and breathe. It will quench your anxiousness, allow you to find your calm, and if you practice consistent, in 30 to 90 days you will be unstuck, which paves the way for reinvention.

5). Falling in-love…lift weights

Keep everything pumped, inflate the muscles with blood. It’s also testosterone and oxytocin producing. Yum!

6). Angry, Frustrated, Rage…high-intensity interval training combined with meditation.

The short bouts of high intensity will neuter the anger. The meditation will, over time, help curb the triggers which send you into the red zone of rage.

7). Tough Decision to Make… Batting cages or Frisbee or “around the world” basketball

Keep your hands and body moving together where you have to hit the ball, make the shot, or make a throw/catch. While you do so, keep visualizing best case scenarios.

8). Creativity Block…trampoline or jump rope

Basically you’re bouncing to loosen all your stuff, which will prime the pumps to get your creativity moving.

If you have an emotion not listed, grab my contact info on the side bar and let me know. I’ll match you with a corresponding exercise.