On Divorce, and All the Trimmings

I am what is known as the product of divorce. As melodramatic as that sounds, it just means I grew up with my parents in two separate homes. I wasn’t the victim of endless screaming matches and custody battles, although I believe there were both. I’m not scarred from being caught in the middle or being unduly spoiled or missing out on quality time, although I believe all those things have been true at one time or another. The truth is that the divorce and its trappings were over before I was old enough to remember that any of it was happening at all.

As a kid in primary school, we had a bit of a club. The divorced parents club. And it wasnt sparsely attended, lets put it that way. It never occured to me that it was something to be sad about, to lament in any way. Just as some people had rich parents, or some people had strict ones, some people had divorced ones. When I got to high school, and started visiting other friends houses, I suddenly realised for the first time that having a family structure was something worth having, something to be proud of,  and yet something I didn’t and couldn’t have.

Compared to others, I was lucky. My folks could bear to be in the same room together, could have a decent conversation which didn’t only include the times I was being dropped off or picked up, and much to the surprise of my fellow club members in primary school, could take me out for the day together, and we’d all have a really nice time. I nearly got my membership card revoked. In fact, while I never remember actively wishing they were together, it took me until age 14 to work out why they were even apart.

At that age, I started wondering for the first time why certain things were different for me, and tracing them back to the relationship between my parents, a thought I’d never even entertained before. In many ways, I felt like I had two different lives when I was with each of them. They even called me different names, something which I hadn’t and haven’t seen in any other ‘product of divorce’ then or since. My mum had her secrets I wasnt allowed to share with my dad, and although far more serious than the usual “dont tell your father how much these shoes cost” of a regular household, no one ever taught me to feel uncomfortable about hiding the truth, and so I started to keep my own secrets and lies. The arguing and ignoring was by no means constant, [as I said, they usually got on well] but when it came, it was harsh and brutal, putting me in a frightening place I didn’t want to be, perhaps all the harder for the unexpected and sporadic nature of their fighting.

I got on with life in 1 and a half houses, finding my own family and friends to escape to, reminding myself that one day I would have my own home to build the way I wanted to. That I had a choice to treat marriage and family with the sacred language and actions that I saw others doing seemingly effortlessly, everywhere I turned but home. But it took me until my year abroad after high school to accept and open up about these issues which I didn’t even really know were affecting me.

Since then, and after I lost my father in 2006, I no longer ever feel like the product of divorce. It got devastatingly overtaken by my new title, That girl who lost her dad at 19. Not coincidentally, the timing also fits with when I started dating my husband, and began building that home I always dreamed of.

Nowadays, I try and take whatever bad feeling is left about my parental situation and channel it into being a better wife and mother at home. And I just hope that R is as surprised as I wasn’t, the first time he comes across a friend who doesn’t have both loving parents at home with them, as they deserve.

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Brick-Gate

I normally shy away from gossipy news stories, but the Samantha Brick palaver has actually got me quite drawn in today. For those of you who’ve been hiding under a rock, (or scrubbing your surfaces) for the past 24 hours, Samantha Brick, a usually moderately interesting journalist and presenter, has gone viral. She wrote a piece for the Daily Mail yesterday which bemoaned the terrible fate of being so unbearably attractive that all women hate her and all men lust after her.

Oh dear. It’s a shame the column wasnt wide enough for her to fit in a sentence or two about the abysmal reality of having a large villa in France, being happily married or being frequently published in national newspapers and magazines. Then we could feel really sorry for her.

There’s been an interesting (if uneven) split in terms of responses. Most people seem to agree that she is a first class idiot for writing the article in the first place, and pretty arrogant to think that even if the words were true, anyone cares about the sentiment behind it. However, there are quite a few voices piping up on the internet and beyond, who are applauding Samantha Brick for her confidence and self esteem. Isnt this what all women desire to feel? they argue, Don’t we all want to think we’re the most beautiful woman in the world?

Personally, after some help from google images, I think she is pretty deluded, which of course doesnt matter in her own home with the privacy of her own bathroom mirror, but can certainly explain the backlash she has recieved by making her opinions so obscenely public.She describes how she frequently recives free gifts and drinks all over the world, and says “Whenever I’ve asked what I’ve done to deserve such treatment, the donors of these gifts have always said the same thing: my pleasing appearance and pretty smile made their day“. Come on, surely you didnt expect people not to call you arrogant?

But more importantly than her larger than life head, is the way she describes the relationships between females. Below are a few quotes from the article.

Women hate me for no other reason than my lovely looks

Over the years I’ve been dropped by countless friends who felt threatened if I was merely in the presence of their other halves

Unfortunately women find nothing more annoying than someone else being the most attractive girl in a room.

I Find that older women are the most hostile to beautiful women — perhaps because they feel their own bloom fading.

Once i finished laughing at the absurdity of these sentences, I realised how sad this is. This is a woman who obviously feels she has few if any female relationships, and has attributed it all to appearance and her perception of jealousy. Now I can only speak for myself, but if I think objectively about the female friends in my life, I can count many who I would say are more attractive than me. In absolutely no way does that relate to how close I feel to them, and to be honest, it isnt really something I think about too much. Most of us in this world are not supermodels or movie stars. Most of us, Samantha Brick included, are entirely average looking. Some days we make a little more effort, find a flattering outfit or the right shade of lipstick, and we might look a little better than we did. After a night on the town or a busy week, we become slightly more camera shy.
Samantha has basically put such emphasis on our appearance, put everything in her life down to the way she looks, and thereby absolved herself entirely of any responsibility to make her friendships work. She couldnt do anything about it, they were jealous of her. That friend has dropped her, it must be because the husband was attracted to her. Come on. Couldnt it possible be about your personality? Mightn’t you have done something that hurt their feelings? Could you both just not have made the effort, and so the friendship dwindled?

In my opinion, this kind of woman bashing, supposing that all females out there are afraid their husband is going to run off with the first blonde woman who walks through the door, or that no woman can bear to see anyone looking prettier than them walking down the street, is at best naive, and at worst, as sexist and shallow as her personal gripe is in the first place.

I think what has caused the hilarious and absurd backlash towards her, is that everyone knows the great thing about life and relationships is that attraction is subjective. There appears to be someone for everyone. We find it hard to believe that everywhere she goes, men find her beauty impossible to resist, because I’ve heard people say they could take or leave Jennifer Lopez. So to read Samantha’s cry of “Now I’m 41 and probably one of very few women entering her fifth decade welcoming the decline of my looks. I can’t wait for the wrinkles and the grey hair that will help me blend into the background” is a little hard to take. I’m sorry to tell you this, but no one knows who you are love. Except for those out there on Twitter suggesting the B in your surname is replaced with a P.

At least she’s learned her lesson though and is keeping her mouth shut from here on. In her response to the public outburst today, she just thought she would let us know, “While I was tearfully dealing with the emails and calls outside the supermarket, a young man approached me, offered to park my car and even get me a coffee.”

I love you, now leave me alone.

I have been inspired today by West End Singleton, who writes about being clear about your intentions when getting into a relationship with someone.

It got me thinking, how many of life’s stresses ad upsets could have been entirely avoided, simply by being more honest and open with our communication?

We’re all guilty of it. We tell our spouses “Nothing’s wrong” when thats far from the truth, we answer “I’m fine” even when we’re not close to it. We put a moody face on, and hope someone guesses they’ve upset us without us having to spell it out. And then we get angry or disappointed when people cant read our oh so clever signals and magically apologize or change.

But why would they? If I dont tell a friend that I need some alone time, why wouldnt they keep texting and phoning? If I dont mention to my spouse that he’s upset me, how on earth can he know how to avoid the same mistake the next time? For the most part, no one is trying to upset anyone else. But we are not each other. We think and feel differently to anyone else on the planet, and thats what makes relationships so great.

I don’t need a friend who changes when I change and who nods when I nod; my shadow does that much better.” Plutarch. I love this quote, and I think that we all want our relationships to to challenge us and differ from us in countless ways. Accepting that the people in our lives are not inside our heads, and might need to hear our thoughts once in a while, is not a failiure of the friendship or of you as an individual. On the contrary, its proof that you are close enough to talk honestly together, without being afraid of hurt feelings or miscommunication.

I know a couple who recently split up, after nearly 2 decades of marriage. They are currently giving it another go, despite much dissatisfaction between them. The guy has said that he has had issues with the relationship for over a decade, but hasnt wanted to ‘make a fuss.’ It’s almost laughable. He nearly lost the whole marriage because he didnt mention the niggles and problems ten or fifteen years previously. Of course the wife couldnt change her behaviour, (because why would she think to try to?) and probably felt that she coulnt mention anything negative to her {seemingly satisfied) hubby, and suddenly the carpet gets too full of ‘little things’ being brushed underneath it, and they’re having the kids on alternate weekends.

It’s shocking. It’s shocking how easily not talking becomes shouting.

There are always going to be no-go areas with the people in our lives, topics that are not discussed because they’re fruitless or where two people differ too greatly. But for the most part, with the right language, telling someone how you feel can never be a mistake, even and sometimes especially, where it’s difficult or doesnt have your ideal outcome.

Children tell us exactly what they want, when they want it. In no uncertain terms, kids hold nothing back. And at some point we are taught how to censor the words we use and the people we use them to, for social etiquette or self-preservation. But when are we taught to start hiding, especially from those that we love?

Restaurant Etiquette: The “No-no’s”

Kids in restaurants. I witnessed a spirited debate on this topic recently, and as always, would love to get my two cents in. (By the by, do Americans say two pennies in?)

It is a sometimes unfortunate fact of life, that once you have children, you are never alone. They follow you to the bathroom, they share your breakfast, and can generally be found clinging to your legs as you attempt to continue with life as you vaguely remember it. So it makes sense, that unless you are surrendering completely to the whims of the tiny humans, they will sometimes need to be in an eating establishment with you. However, if you are there, chances are that the eatery in question is open. Which means that other people are there also. And therein lies the problem.

Because you know how adorable it is when your LO makes that high pitched squealing noise that he just learned this week, and you’re busy storing the exact words she is gabbling to a stranger at the next table so you can recount the episode to your other half that evening, and you’re definitely super proud of your kid for getting almost a whole spoonful of that macaroni cheese into their mouth and swallowed.. But everyone else? Here’s a secret. They want you to go home.

Unless the restaurant in question is one of those where your seat comes with crayons to draw on the tablecloth, and there is a mini play area in the corner, it is not child friendly enough. Even if it is cheap, or not particularly fancy, that does not equal “Oh, my kids can run free in here.”

Some people are blessed with the kind of children who will sit at a table, or be placated with food for long periods of time. This means that you can often squeeze a quick lunch with a friend into your day. Congratulations. You are in the minority. For those of us who dont, restaurants are simply not an option most of the time. When with our kids, we prefer to meet our friends at the library, or walking around a shopping mall, or at one of our own houses.

I’m going to give all the parents I see in restaurants with their kids the benefit of the doubt, and say that you must all be blessed with those former types of children. (You’re not.) But I know, that even the best behaved of children have off days, or days when they have ants in their pants. As a parent, this should not be a surprise to you. Theyre kids. Why would they want to sit and listen to you gossip and catch up with a friend? Why would they want to people watch from a highchair when there are so many new things to intefere with, only metres away?

In my opinion, as you obviously cannot pick and choose when your kid decides to throw a tantrum, you only have two choices when all hell breaks loose. You can either quickly pay, apologise to your friend and leave the restaurant, or you can excuse yourself with your kid for a few minutes, and take them on a walk outside the door, or for a run around in the mall play area, or whatever is nearby, and then try again in a while. Although it may seem obvious, here are just a few of the things you CANT do. (All of which I have seen so many times in public that it seems to have become the norm.)

  • Let them ‘cry it out.’
    Babies in restaurants are notoriously difficult. You thought they would sleep, you thought the bottle would tire them out, you thought they would fall asleep on the walk there.. Disaster, they are still awake, and don’t want to be lying in a pram while you stuff ravioli in your mouth as fast as you can. People around you are paying for the environment as well as the food. Unfortunately, whether it means your food gets cold or not, you should be rocking the pram keeping your baby quiet, or outside the shop, apologies once again to the friend, soothing them properly. Crying it out techniques are for home, where only your own ears are being assailed.
  • Let them ‘run off some steam’
    How how how can you sit there talking to your lunch date while your toddlers are running in between other peoples tables and chairs? I don’t care if it is a Michelin starred eatery or a Pizza Express, this is not appropriate restauraunt behaviour. If they need to move about, it is your responsibility to be with them at all times, and not ‘watching from across the room’ with them, but actually physically standing holding their hand or looking after them. After all, I’m pretty sure you would be the first to complain if there was an accident.
  • Let them ‘go chat to strangers’
    I’m sure your daughter is gorgeous, and very intelligent for her age. But if I’d come out to talk to a toddler, and hear her sing me twinkle twinkle little star, I would be scouting out the local playground, not ordering steak and chips. Obviously it is cute for a minute or two when a child smiles or waves or repeats something funny, but again, your kid = your responsibility, you should be removing her from my table ASAP. Apart from anything else, weirdo’s and child snatchers have to eat sometime too.
  • Let them come out to dinner
    If it is 9pm at night, of COURSE they are being little terrors. They are exhausted! Time and time again I see children who sometimes arent even old enough to know whats flying, sitting around a crowded and noisy restaurant table with their famillies, late into the evening, when they obviously should be asleep. Special occasion or otherwise, there are always babysitters available, and your child should be in bed right now.

There are many other problems which are certain to arise when taking kids out to eat, and we cant pre-empt them all. Even the most organised mum, who has brought extra snacks, crayons, entertainment, a sleepy kid, an extra bottle, or all of the above, can be caught out. That lack of freedom to just socialise when you want, just comes with the territory of motherhood. When looking across the room at a flustered parent, trying desperately to soothe an angry and bored toddler, I don’t blame her, it’s really hard!

Who I do blame however, is the parent who doesnt realise it is simply time to go. The one who is willfully ignoring her running or shouting progeny, or spouting one-liners such as “Oh, he’s just a kid, what do you expect?”

You’re right. He is just a kid. But contrary to your behaviour, you’re actually an adult.

I’d love to hear opinions on this one! Agree/Disagree? Any other inappropriate restaurant behaviour I’ve missed?

Do you remember?

Waking up each morning, with purpose in your smile,
Feeling that hand picked for you, was every twist and trial.
Knowing that you’d taken time, out of your own routine-
To grow and change and learn it all, while you were still a teen.

To move with friends out of our youth, and into being grown,
To contemplate and sometimes change, which seeds had then been sown.
Standing in the sunlight, just talking, me and Him,
I’d never been so open, simply letting prayer in.

Hours of our days went by, we’d argue, talk, debate,
Discuss the meanings of our lives, the love, despair and hate.
That feeling when it came together, we knew our world was true,
I miss those bursts of energy, do you miss them too?

The passion and the zeal to learn, the way we had to grow,
It sometimes seems a distant me, a life from long ago.
Now, going through the motions, I long to be inspired
But life gets in the way somehow, and I just end up tired.

In some ways I have so much more than ‘six years ago me’ had,
A home, marriage, my baby boy, so much to make me glad.
But still sometimes I glance behind, and hope I’ve not forgot,
The girl I knew back then who felt, so strongly, at Orot.