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by James J. Gross

One thing I learned in cub scouts and boy scouts was always leave the woodpile a little higher.  Sometimes we camped out at campsites that had a woodpile.  If you used some of the wood for your fire, you were supposed to replace it and add a little more than you took for the next camper.  By extrapolation, it also meant leave your campsite cleaner than you found it.

I thought of this as I was picking up my teenage sons’ clothes off the floor of their rooms, turning off the lights they left on, and putting their dishes in the dishwasher.  No matter which one of them I ask, it is always the other one that did it.  My comeback to them is going to be – leave the woodpile a little higher.

As I start work this morning, my thoughts turn to the clients I’m helping as they struggle through their divorces.  It occurs to me that each of us, as we pass through life, whether helping others through our work or raising kids, can leave the woodpile a little higher.

 

Laura Doerflinger, MS, a licensed mental health counselor, has a good idea for co-parenting by email.  She suggests each parent pick a day to publish a Kids Mail email.  For example if you drop the children off Sunday night, publish Kid News Monday morning.  What to include?

  1. School:  Grades, homework, school incidents, forms that need to be filled out, conferences,  etc.
  2. Health:  Colds, doctor appointments, dentist, counseling, moods, etc.
  3. Financial:  Payments due or parenting plan division of costs for activities, medical expenses, etc.
  4. Schedule:  Changes to the current schedule, changes in your child’s plans, holiday times, etc.
  5. Vacations:  Clarification of times and plans – phone numbers, etc.
  6. Upcoming Events:  Social, school, extracurricular or sport activities.

Doerflinger suggests avoiding control issues by not giving instructions and relating only the facts.  Limit the news to co-parenting issues.  This is not a place to discuss your relationship.  Respond to the items that need responses and be sure to thank the other parent for the effort.

TLC said on Tuesday that “Jon & Kate Plus 8″ will be renamed “Kate Plus 8″ due to recent changes in family dynamics.

On Thursday, octodad, Jon Gosselin told Larry King,”The reason I don’t think it’s healthy for them is that we’re going through a divorce right now, and I don’t think it should be televised and I think my kids should be taken off the show.”

“They’re 5 and 8 now; let them experience a normal childhood,” he said.

Gosselin’s lawyer predicts  no judge would ever “subject the children to the show if the father believes it’s detrimental.”

It sounds like a legal maneuver to me.  I think Gosselin and his lawyer will have to explain to a judge why it was ok for the children to be televised for the last four years and now it is not.  And the show is the income source for the family.

Having to pay for my kid’s braces, I particularly enjoyed Peter Erhlich’s blog at SingleDadLife.com called, Kids Deserve Straight Teeth and Success at School.

“No matter where you and your ex are at this moment, there are non-negotiable child-related issues that you must immediately come to terms with, regardless of your relationship, politics or court agreement,” Erhlich says.

Chief among these, after love, are straight teeth and success at school.  To me, this is a metaphor for saying that it doesn’t matter what your differences with your spouse are.  It doesn’t matter what the order or agreement says.  If they need braces, you have to do what it takes to get them braces.  When your kids need you to be their dad, you have to do it.  Because you’re the dad.

Here’s a question that I have always wondered about.  Which box do you check, single or divorced?  These forms should have a box like Facebook that says, “It’s complicated.”

Somebody proposed a one year rule to Judith Martin, who is Miss Manners.  She had this to say about it:

“DEAR MISS MANNERS: On a job application or any application, when does one check the divorce box versus the single one? I say you’re divorced for one year and check the divorced box, then you are to check the single box. One can’t be divorced forever. Some people with kids prefer to use the divorced box, but one should use the single box if they are single.

Gentle Reader: The rule you propose is better than the common practice, Miss Manners admits — the one by which a formerly married lady is called a divorcee forever, while the former husband immediately reverts to being a bachelor.

Still, you don’t get to make up the rules. Well, socially, you do. But even Miss Manners does not get to mess with legal terms. If you tire of being single and are asked your status on a marriage license application, she is afraid that you have to come clean.”