Schools need to get an education

One thing has become apparent to me about schools since separating from the kids mother all those years ago – the Australian education system does not know how to deal with divorce.
Kids religious sensibilities, cultural beliefs, learning disorders and any other 'difference' are usually extremely well catered for. Conversely, divorce is like an alien concept to the schools and they just aren't prepared for it.

This gaping hole is made worse considering divorce rates have been so high for such a long time. Divorce is not a new concept and in a lot of ways for many kids, is the new 'norm'. Why are schools still so backwards at helping divorced families?

When you think about bullying programs, cultural sensitivity assemblies and religious celebration instruction / participation and all that jazz, it's amazing how much effort schools put into meeting kids emotional needs – except in the biggest most important area of their whole lives – their home life.

Kids going through or subsequently living with, a divorce, often have different needs to be met. Especially when you have parents that can't co-parent to an adequate level and there is conflict. I am lucky in that my kids mother and I have developed a fairly decent relationship and our co-parenting is mostly on track. Still, we would both rather do parent teacher interviews alone, that kind of thing. You don't get two reports, there isn't adequate delivery of notes and important teacher communications to both parents. We have the technology to make this so easy, but so many schools aren't there.

There is no denying it, divorce is difficult, and hopefully most parents are trying hard to make it easier on the kids, but no matter what – it will always be tough on the kids. They love their parents and want them together, and want life as it should be in their eyes. Schools need to be ready for this, and make it easier for the kids to cope with the new life they have.

By taking the stress out of school interactions for both parents, and ensuring the kids don't have to deal with a parents emotions if they feel out of the loop, uninformed, or lacking in the tools they need to help the kids at school, the happier the kids will be and the easier they will adjust to their new life. After all, they spend so much time at school they have to feel settled when they are there.

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No moss on this stone

There are two ways I look at the big picture in life. One is: stability equals success. The other is: if you see a way to improve things, take it. Given those two positions are polar opposites, I feel like a hypocrite when I choose one over the other! Most people I know who have had a life filled with stability are doing quite well for themselves. These are the people who have changed jobs relatively few times, rarely have moved house, and generally live the ‘typical’ life where they are able to build up assets, have holidays, have a family and generally live a well off life. On the contrast, I’ve spent my life bouncing around between jobs and houses, had kids before I was financially stable and generally did everything ass backwards! I’m not quite a “grass is always greener” person. More so, I just seem to spot avenues where I believe I can improve our situation, spend time weighing it up, and take action. Sometimes it works, other times it has no effect or an effect I didn’t foresee. This makes me think more about not changing things, keeping things stable even if it could be better. That makes the decision making even harder because technically, there isn’t much of a basis to not take a path before me, beyond fear of messing up or making life more difficult.

What is the latest change? Well since you waited patiently – we’re moving house again. It’s only been a year, but in that year, we’ve found a few things which really bother us about the current place (such as the entire upstairs floor needing the floor boards ripped a new one because you can’t even check on the kids sleeping without making creaks like a tree falling in the forest). We also have had new duplexes built across the road (very narrow road) which now has us having difficulty even reversing out of our driveway as there are so many cars blocking the vicinity. Small things, but when you add them all up, and see what else is around, you know there is somewhere better suited to our needs. We’ve definitely found that in this new place. It ticks so many boxes we need ticked, solves some problems in terms of getting the kids more space, more ‘noise separation’ in the house, and a much quieter street (no through road) so the little ones can spend more time safely playing and riding in the street.

End result, money being spent which we don’t really want to spend, and weeks of upcoming effort packing, cleaning, moving etc. I can’t say I hate it. Maybe I’m sadistic but I enjoy moving. Cleaning out stuff we’ve hoarded, finding things you forgot you had that you actually want, finding better ways to lay out the house etc. Call me Mr. Excitement, but this is good stuff to me.

Maybe we’re wrong and putting more stress and financial pressure may hurt, but I’m more leaning to the school of thought “Happy home means a happy family”, and when we inspected this place, there was happiness all around from us and the kids, sparkles in my fiancé’s eye, and it had that awesome feeling of ‘home’. So while you can expect some bitching coming up, I’m overall looking forward to this new chapter and feeling hopeful we made the right decision.

The change monster is coming to get me

This step parenting malarkey is tough work sometimes.
Our youngest just turned 6. (My fiancés daughter). She’s still quite young, still fairly fresh to divorced life (and having both her parents engaged to other people), so naturally it’s still a confusing time for her. Our 8 year old still wishes sometimes that life could go back to how it was and I was still with his mum. This is all natural.
Unfortunately my fiancé has a bad relationship with her ex-husband. He is not a person who can see the wrongs he has done in his marriage, and try to make life easy for everyone now. He’s also not the type of person who can put all his own shit aside and co-parent, for his daughter’s sake. He’s very much a 3 year old boy who wants what he wants, when he wants, how he wants it. When he arcs up, it’s like watching a toddler have a tantrum, but using swear words. Yes this may seem one sided, but in all honesty, I can say my fiancé has come leaps and bounds since we got together in regards to how she communicates with him. She has really embraced the concepts of co-parenting and providing the illusion to our daughter that everything is fine between them, but he keeps kicking down the walls week after week.
The latest debacle was him chucking a monster wobbly on her birthday, because face time wasn’t working and he demanded to see her in facetime, rather than just talk to her. Not for a moment did he entertain the concept of the phone networks having issues, or one of the phones involved needing a reboot. To him, it was her mother not wanting to let her facetime. So there she is, on her birthday, aware of her daddy going ballistic and swearing at mummy for something mummy had no control over.
For little miss, the emotions she feels manifests as her feeling very adverse to change. This all comes out as fear over new things, whether it’s an activity, food, mum leaving the room to go to the toilet, someone not being able to make it somewhere when they were expected, and all those types of things. On top of that, she feels guilt over relationships with other people, and liking things people do, food they make etc. So for example, she (with no prompting) often refers to me as dad, but then she will talk about how much she loves just mum and dad (as in – biological dad). Another example, we can be eating a bowl of soup and she will talk about how her dad or her Nan make the best particular soup of that type ever. She has this sense of loyalty that if she doesn’t make it out that mum and dad and their families are the best in the universe at everything, that life will come apart. I feel so sorry for her – she shouldn’t have to have such emotional tug of war at her age. Naturally I just try to support her and tell her I’m glad she enjoys it so much etc., and just pull her up if she’s actually saying it in a rude or offensive way.
I know there is nothing I can do here, it is the step-parents lot in life. I know simply by being consistent, and having her know I love her and I’m not trying to replace anyone, that eventually it should be smooth sailing (as smooth as it can be with kids anyway!).

Monday madness (well it started Sunday really)

Here we are again, the evilest day of the week. Monday. It’s our week with all the kids at once (which is wonderful) but as you will know by now reading this blog, it’s another week of hyper organisation, running around and getting shit done. The weekend went really well. My fiancé and I smashed through a relative spring clean, got some good work out of the way. We also managed to replace some aged and broken furniture with some awesome ikea purchases (don’t judge us, we love ikea!) and got through the assemblies in record time, without excessive swearing or damage – personal OR property!. I even made draws align perfectly (you can bow down to me now – shikaka). The in laws are on an overseas holiday right now, and we even managed to get around to their place and take care of a few things, get all of the shopping for the ravenous hordes done, and I even got some uni work done. 

Oh, yes, I started studying a university unit online a week ago. It’s just one unit, and I don’t know if I’ll go on to do anymore, but I’m hoping this will give me the drive I need to take my writing more seriously. I’m studying “Creative and Professional Writing”. In typical fashion it’s not something that will directly help me with my career, but those who know me understand my work is hardly a career but more something I have to do to maintain a living for the kids. Maybe this course will help me get it together enough to make a career change one day. You never know unless you try.

 

We even managed to get out Saturday night and see Wonder Woman. Yes, I can find a couple of faults with the movie but I can still say “It’s freakin awesome”. Really well done, and major credit to Gal Galdot for her acting. I’m really hoping this invigorates fans or even general superhero interest people to see Justice League when it comes out. I love Marvel, but I’m really hoping Justice League wipes the floor with Avengers hehe.

 

Anyway, after all of this, 7:30pm hits on Sunday and we hear yelling and carry on outside. It was our youngest boy having a fit at this mother because she was dropping them off to us, and he forgot his school bag. I go outside because she starts yelling my neighbourhood down, and try to help, but he is in melt down and doesn’t get it that I will go and pick up his school bag from his mums place – no big deal. In the end I simply had to shut him up, and order him inside. At this point, the older two tell me about what a crap head he’s been all week, and my lovely little crazy happy boy is transformed into the Hulk. Then to top it all off, we find out he hasn’t been doing his homework. Both sets of parents not checking up enough, totally accept blame here, but it did ‘seem’ like he had been doing it, we didn’t have reason to doubt. So for the next hour, we had to calm everything down, unravel the mess of melt down and slacking off, set some punishments, and organise his homework including making him catch up on his missed homework from previous weeks to teach him a lesson. This is *not* how you want to start a fresh week with the kids!

 

This is always the way, I tell ya. My fiancé often wants me to back off the housework a bit, spend more time relaxing, but no matter what it is in life, it just back logs and becomes a problem which then requires MORE pain and effort to fix. That’s why I can’t stop, I don’t want to deal with the fall out. I would rather have less of a weekend but not spend my weeks annoyed or snowed under with the house while I’m having to spend my days at work too. In the last few weeks, I’ve obviously slacked off on the kids by not keeping a closer eye on their work, which has landed in a big ole stinky heap with this debacle, and now we have to put in more effort to straighten him up and keep him on a positive path. As much as I want to listen to my fiancé and back off a bit, it’s obvious that when I do, it just makes it harder for future me.

 

So, busy week ahead – kids, study, lots of cooking for ravenous hordes, work, and then a long weekend. Really looking forward to next Monday. My fiancé was pointing out to me again what we all know – it’s not really a weekend. We didn’t relax, we didn’t spend the weekend doing things like going out places, for drives, for fun etc. It was 95% work. That’s life with 4 kids and 2 divorced households and dealing with all the crap above. I think with the long weekend we should be able to snag that Monday for ourselves. The kids will be back with their other parents, and technically, there shouldn’t be anything we *have* to do. Especially if we can get most of it done before the kids go on Sunday night. Hopefully we can actually have a day where things won’t go to shit if I let go of the reigns.

 

To nag or not to nag, that is the question

As a parent of four, I find it very hard to keep track of what is going on day to day with each of the kids. Their schooling requirements around activity days, tests, assignments, excursions etc. are all very different as they are all in different stages of their school life. As such, the older two have a bit more trust placed in them to manage their work, and call out anything that is coming up. For example, I will ask if they have any assessments coming up in the next couple of weeks, and I hope to hear the truth. Many times we will be talking about their day and they will just say they have something coming up, without prompting. Then there are times like this week.. 

Our eldest daughter was with her mother, and it turned out she had a history assignment due. She was off school sick the day it was talked about in class, but they have this all in their diaries, and as we all know, teachers must remind us about this stuff in class 100 times before its due. She got to the night before it was due, and told her mother she hadn’t done it, which is like handing someone who hates you a loaded gun and telling him you killed their parents and ate their dog – bad idea!

 

Her mother’s reaction was to leave her to face the consequences of not handing it in. This is where we differ in approaches, which can make co-parenting so much more difficult. It also puts me in the position of being bad cop (as usual). Once I heard about this, I contacted my daughter and made it clear she was to spend her morning, recess and lunch working on the assignment so she could hand something in at the end of the day. I fully acknowledge there may not be a right or wrong with either approach, but for me, I think sending her the message this is never acceptable, and she can’t get out of it no matter what, is a better message than her receiving a fail from the teacher without further consequence. She is only year 7, and one missed assignment isn’t going to create a fuss or affect her school life, however, I think it can set a dangerous precedent of it being ok to miss deadlines.

 

I know I need to try harder again now to track their various work, and step up the nagging and checking. It’s always difficult, because we are trying to teach them trust, honesty, and to manage themselves, but it’s also our job as parents to keep them on the right path (in my opinionated opinion).