Member Name: LearningAsIGo
Tell us about how you became a single dad.
My ex and I decided to end the relationship when my children were 1 and 2 1/2 years old. We tried counseling for several months prior to the divorce, but all it helped us do was decide to separate. We actually agreed to stay together an extra month so we could celebrate my youngest daughter's first birthday.
Tell us about your family.
I have full custody of my oldest daughter (soon to be 16), and I have a younger daughter (14 1/2) that is over at least 50% of the time. Ever since I was divorced, it has always been just me and my daughters.
Share a story about a memory involving your children.
Too many to count. Birthdays were always pretty special. I have done more stuff than you can imagine in order to celebrate my kids' birthdays.
What traditions have you created in your family that you could share with us?
Every year (since the divorce), we have had two major traditions. They didn't start out that way, but over time - they became annual family traditions. The first: We go to the local Christmas tree farm and cut down a tree. This is either done on Thanksgiving evening or the day after. The second: Baking cookies for Santa (and subsequent dough fight) on Christmas eve. Even with my kids being as old as they are, we still bake cookies for Santa. My youngest daughter has actually spent the past three years with me, so that we can do our traditions on the appropriate days.
What has been the biggest challenge you have faced (or are facing) as a single father?
Raising teenage daughters. Particularly my oldest. She is a victim of a sexual assault, and she has major depression, bi-polar, manic/depressive related thoughts and behaviors. Couple that with typical teenage rebellion and the fact that she is an attractive girl..........well, you can imagine my struggles.
What encouraging advice do you have for other single fathers or soon-to-be single fathers?
Your love and support will take second place to nothing else in your child(ren)'s life. While mothers are well known for the supportive behaviors, dads are invaluable for "setting the standard". Think about the last time you did something your father was really proud of and how it made you feel.
How do you juggle everything on your plate and NOT go crazy?
Hobbies. I have a few hobbies that I devote my "extra" time too. Because I have a terribly addictive personality, I have had to find things that are positive for me rather than abuse drugs or alcohol. These days, I enjoy my weekly card game. I like to do digital coloring (of fantasy artwork and comics mainly), and I enjoy cooking. I don't do just the typical feed the family cooking. I actually enjoy the more creative, professional side of cooking. Currently, I do not do any of my hobbies on a professional level - but it may be something I can pursue one day.
What coping strategies do you have in place?
Honestly, I started becoming desensitized to things after repeated experiences with them. If something upsetting occurred, I'd react like most people. Over time, I realized that my main issue was over control. Because I desired to control what was happening, I would freak out when I couldn't. Almost everything that has happened to me has been beyond my control. Therefore in order to feed my desire to control something, I had to find something I could control. That ended up being how I react to situations. No matter how other people act, or the situations I am subjected to - I can always be in control of me. That's the only thing I have control over. It's not easy mind you, but it is indeed the only thing I can control.
What else would you like to share?
I have had to learn a valuable lesson recently. Your children are going to be their own people. No matter what you do, don't do, thought about doing, etc - they are still going to be who they are. You can provide the best example you can, but to blame yourself for them not turning out how you'd hoped is pointless. Do your best as a parent, things will be alright in the end.