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This is Life, Based on a True Story  

Dirty, little secret

Every once in a while, I get kid-envy.

I’m not the only parent who does, but I may be one of few parents who will admit to it — publicly.

So what exactly is kid-envy, you ask?

It’s that feeling you get when you think your own kids aren’t measuring up to other people’s kids. This can be related to school, jobs, sports, sibling rivalry and even material possessions.

I never tell my kids I have these thoughts. It’s my own dirty, little secret. But I will admit to comparing them to my peers’ kids. I know it's not right, but I also know I'm not alone.

I’m not proud of these moments. I love both my children dearly. I tell myself that because I love them so much, it causes me to worry for and about them.

But if I’m telling myself this, maybe I need to look within myself and decide if this worry is really for them or is it more about me?

I think so many of us, as parents, attach our kids’ success to how we raised them. Which in our minds, is a direct reflection of who we are.

Here’s the thing though, our kids have their own minds. And up until a certain point, we can sway them in a preferred direction, but they eventually end up using their own free will to do what they want.

Sometimes it’s a reflection on us as parents, other times, not so much.

My latest bout of kid-envy came when I heard some friends talking about how their children know what they plan to do after they graduate school.

This topic has been brought up numerous times in my house in recent months; my daughter graduates next year, and my son is only a couple of years behind her. In my head, that’s not a lot of time to decide what you want to do with your life.

And that’s exactly where I’m going wrong. Why am I so worried about what they want to do with the rest of their lives? They’re only 16 and 14.

When I was that age, my biggest worry was making sure my slouch socks matched my rolled-up T-shirt sleeves.

Yet, as parents we have these expectations that our kids should know what they want to do for the majority of their lives.

That realization forced me to re-evaluate what’s more important to me in raising my children. My evaluation led me to make a pact with myself.

I’m making a pact to focus on their immediate happiness and fulfillment. To make sure they’re armed with the knowledge and materials they’ll need to make important, life-altering decisions when the time comes.

Quite honestly, when I think about it, I really don’t want either of them to rush into more education right out of school.

I want them to experience life first.

  • To travel.
  • To work.
  • To see what the world is really like outside the protection of mandatory schooling.

Once you decide to go to school for what you hope will be a lifelong career, you’re committed. Then, as if that’s not enough, it’s often followed by marriage and mortgages and babies and picket fences.

I think their best decisions will come from experiencing life as a young adult. As we all know, it ain’t easy, but it’s very formative to your life as an “established” adult.

So what other things have I had kid-envy over? Well, to be honest, it’s all typical stuff — grades and homework and the overall motivation factor to get off their phones – all of which could be improved in my household.

On occasion, I wish one of them had a desire to be the class president or something (do they even still have that?) but that may be more me wanting to live vicariously through them.

Ironically, not long after I had the bout of kid-envy over the whole college thing, my daughter announced she now has a definitive plan for what she wants to do after graduation.

She is so sure in her decision that she even spoke with her school counsellor about changing some courses and electives in Grade 12 to be more in line with her chosen career path.

My son decided a while ago what he wants to do. But just recently, he decided where he wants to go to school to do it.

I’m extremely proud of them for giving the time and thought needed to make these types of decisions.

And for me. it was lesson well learned.  I can kid-envy all I want. But the only person it stresses out is me. And that’s just pointless.

The kids are fine. Their dad and I have equipped them with what they need to move forward independently and confidently.

And who knows, maybe someone else has kid-envy over my kids. I hope not. But if so, all I can say is don’t.

Put the energy of that kid-envy into ensuring they’re happy now. It’s worth far more in the end.

Thanks for reading.



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Regrets, we've had a few

Regret. We all have it, but why?

A friend is going through a great deal of regret right now. It was during our conversation it became apparent how much regret can drive our existence.

You might say, “What’s the point of regret? You can’t change the past.”

You’re right, except that regret also gives us a chance to review where we went wrong.

There’s that life lesson I’m always talking about.

My friend is separated from her husband. The split was so bad, she’s not actually sure if her ex-husband filed for divorce, or not, because there’s virtually no communication between them.

In short, she’s regretting that she separated from her husband. Since then, she’s experienced the loss of relationships with her kids; although they are working on rebuilding it.

Now, for the record, this is not an opening for anyone to criticize or judge her for past decisions.

Trust me, she’s hard enough on herself and has taken full accountability for her part in her marital breakdown.

But as with anything, there are two sides to every story and hers was far from idyllic.

She’s lost many material possessions—everything from dishes to vehicles—not to mention her home.

She’s loved and lost in other relationships since her marriage ended, and is still trying to figure out how to navigate the whole dating after divorce thing (let it be known, there’s no rule book; you just sorta wing it and hope for the best).

Her business is struggling and if you ask me, is completely mirroring her life. Everything about her is struggling. Hence the regret she’s now feeling.

Despite the fact her marriage was damaged beyond repair, she regrets leaving it because of her situation. She would rather be in an equally bad, if not worse, situation, but at least she’d be in it with someone else (her ex).

This confounds me, to be honest.

Don’t get me wrong, I have regrets. But I’ve had to learn regret gets me nowhere but up “Resentment Creek” (which is not far from the other creek we’re all familiar with).

Another member of my inner circle says regret should be used as a learning tool. I like this spin on it.

Her theory is that regretting something you did (or didn’t do) won’t change the fact that you did or didn’t do it.

For that reason, she chooses to take something that others may consider a regret and turn it into an “oops – won’t be doing that again” moment, and then just move on.

In her words, “There’s no point on dwelling in the past or the future for that matter. It’s all about now - the present.”

Now, with that said, it’s hard to train yourself to not regret and just take it as a lesson. My own regrets, er, lessons, have definitely shaped me into who I am right now.

There are the “fluffy” lessons like, “Don’t wear anything trendy for school pictures,” for one day, you’ll blame your mom for letting you walk out of the house looking like that.

Then there’s the more serious regrets turned lessons for me – like making sure what I took in college is actually something I could see myself doing for the next 40 years (it wasn’t and I’m not).

But those lessons have given me the foresight to encourage my own kids, nieces and any other person who wants to listen to my blabber, to learn from my errors of the past.

And maybe that’s what it’s all about, turning your regrets into lessons for yourself—and into knowledge and guidance for others. Such is life.

As for my friend, she is growing and learning.

It’s not something she wants to go through, and it’s certainly not the path she envisioned for herself. But it’s her current lot in life and regrets or not, it’s hers to make the best of.

What’s done can’t be undone, and what’s to come can’t be predicted. But this too shall pass and she’ll one day look back on this time and be thankful for the lesson.

Even if right at this moment, it’s a regret.



Dating after divorce

Your palms are sweaty; so are your armpits. 

You look nervously into your phone camera for the umpteenth time to check your hair – no grey. Teeth check - nothing disgusting showing. You feel a familiar flutter of nervousness mixed with anticipation.

A quick check of your phone shows you’re right on time. Your date must be trying to find parking still. At least that’s what you hope. No one likes being stood up.

Suddenly, you look up. And there he is. Walking unsurely toward you. A hesitant half-smile on his face. You mentally run down the list you memorized. Tall, dark hair, will be wearing jeans, flip flops and a white T-shirt. Yup – this is definitely your date.

You stand up to greet him. Somewhat awkwardly. You don’t want everyone in the pub to know this is your first meet and greet so you hug him like an old friend and say how nice it is to see him.

Welcome to the world of dating after divorce. It’s no different from when you date as a teen, yet it feels like there’s more at stake this time.

With an unprecedented higher divorce rate, there are more single people flooding the dating pools than ever before.

Every single one of these people – whether male or female – all come with one thing in common: they’ve literally “been there and done that.”

Now, they come with their own lists of expectations and non-negotiables.

No one wants a repeat of their failed marriage.

When I say “they,” I also mean me. I’m one of those people who is dating since divorce. So I can tell you this from a very personal point of view - and one that has been well researched by me.

What exactly makes dating after divorce that much more challenging?

We now have non-negotiables … and in many cases children. Unlike when you’re a teenager or young adult, there are now little, impressionable people involved in your dating life whether you like it  or not.

The big question is when and if you introduce your dates to your children. So much is at stake in this scenario. I am incredibly aware that my kids, especially my daughter, have me somewhat on a pedestal.

I not only need to model what I want them to expect, but also what I want them to be.

I also don’t want my kids to think people are disposable, so for that reason, I have never introduced them to someone until I felt there was some progression in that relationship.

In some instances, that totally came back to burn me, when not long after the introductions were made, the relationship tanked.

But those are lessons you learn from and hopefully don’t repeat. So how do you know when it’s time to introduce kids to someone you’re dating?

I don’t think there’s a hard time line. So many factors can sway that decision, including:

  • how old your kids are
  • how well you know the other person
  • how long you’ve known them
  • what sense you have of them as a person – good or bad, partier or homebody, family person or not.

I will say, however, this is such an awkward introduction. I mean, for the most part everyone is on their best, yet totally unrealistic behaviour. It’s the one time your kids know they can get away with virtually anything.

They know you won’t show your true, “you’re in so much trouble” colours to your new romantic interest, so they do and say things they’d never normally get away with.

Right?

Please say I’m not the only one who’s pasted a sweet, twitchy smile on my face as my kids act like banshees around my new beau.

Then, there’s the previously mentioned non-negotiables. Dating after divorce is kind of like buying your second or third house.

The first time around, you may have been willing to compromise on a few things – like single or double garage or finished basement. But now - no way.

I want the triple garage, double-sink ensuite and built-in wine bar … with a wine butler who’s at least 5’11 with an athletic build … but I digress.

Back to the non-negotiables. Typically they’re biggies. Like the other person has:

  • to be employed
  • able to support themselves
  • Get along with their ex
  • Pay child support if applicable.
  • Have their own home.

Thoughts on faith, possible re-marriage and retirement goals also tend to play a part this time around. So do your kids’ opinions and the dog’s.

You know what they say … if the dog doesn’t like someone, it’s a red flag.

And exactly how do you meet someone after divorce?

  • Do you go for a co-worker (nope)
  • rely on friends (sketchy at best)
  • hit the clubs (is that ever a good way to meet someone?)

Then there’s online dating – it was my chosen vehicle to newfound love. There’s lots of sites to choose from, although you quickly learn that most of the same people are on all the sites. So really, one sign-up will do.

I tried doing the meeting someone at a coffee shop trick. I hung out many hours in the produce section of the grocery store. Joined a couple of extra-curricular clubs. All for naught. Anyone I ever met that panned out came from the Internet.

I know. I didn’t see that coming either.

But for all the bad press online dating gleans, it can also be good. And sometimes awkward if you come across someone else you know, but would never date. But again, I digress …

Meeting online is safe-ish. You don’t exchange numbers until you feel comfortable. And when you have enough info on someone, it’s pretty easy to check them out on other online venues like Facebook.

The major problem with online dating is how many people are content to just email and text the whole relationship. I mean it’s OK in the beginning to use those modes as a tool to establish boundaries and interest, but to continue that for weeks is frustrating and time-consuming.

It also uses up all the data on your phone plan too fast with the constant notifications and the lack of will power to not check them the second they come in.

I have to say that as an older-ish, but cool-ish adult, I’m totally shocked at how many other older-ish adults are wanting to just have a text/email relationship with the occasional meeting.

To be honest, it makes me wonder how many others they’re talking to or even seeing. To me, that’s a deal breaker. If you don’t or can’t hang out in person and establish real human, face-to-face contact, then it’s a no-go.

And no, Facetime doesn’t count as face-to-face.

Overall though, online dating appears to be the way to go until the next trend emerges. I think it’s because anyone can do it. Plus, everyone looks amazing, leads even more amazing lives, has the most amazing goals and values and perfectly compliments your own amazing life.

After four years of divorce, many first dates and a few short-term-that-I-thought-were-gonna-last relationships, I can confidently say I’m in a stable, loving relationship.

We met online and then later discovered we knew each other 20 years ago. We even share mutual Facebook friends … I know - I was in awe too.

I guess in summary what I want to say is this. Dating is a challenge at any age. From my experience, it definitely feels harder after divorce because life as you know it has evolved.

It’s not a bad thing – just a new normal to get used to. 

You’ve changed. Likely and let's hope for the better. It’s OK to not settle for one who doesn’t check all your boxes. If the triple garage and double-sink ensuite aren’t there, it’s OK to pass. Because now, you’re more mature, more confident, more empowered. 

There’s someone out there for everyone. And you too shall find yours.

Thanks for reading.



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First heartbreak

My daughter recently experienced her first real heartbreak. But not of the love-affair kind.

She also learned one of the hardest lessons in life — a lesson most adults fear.

Losing her job.

She was a sales associate at a store that closed. To say she loved her job would be like saying there’s a lot of water going over Niagara Falls.

She didn’t just love her job. She portrayed it. She proudly bought all her clothing from that store and wore it with the pride of an Olympian with a gold medal.

She was that store’s biggest ambassador. She’d Instagram and Facebook their promotions, Snapchat her shifts and hand out store flyers to her fellow students when there was a big sale.

She truly treated that workplace as though it were her very own. She often asked me to drop her off early for her shift, before the store would open so she could clean and organize the store.

She always wanted the store to have its best foot forward for the customers it would greet that day.

At the age of 16 and a little over a year of employment, my daughter became the youngest keyholder of the store. Among other things, she was tasked with opening and closing the store, cashing out and training new employees.

Her manager noticed her dedication to her job and the company and rewarded her well for it. My daughter proved her worth by pulling in the second highest sales of 2016 — all on a part-time basis; working only weekends.

When the news came the store was closing forever, she cried like she’d lost her best friend. And to a degree, she did.

She had such a passion for the store and its offerings. She loved going to work. And now she truly feels lost — and still has yet to land another job; although not for lack of trying (this is Kelowna after all).

As her parent, it was heartbreaking to watch her go through the emotions of losing a job through no fault of her own. There was nothing I could do except hug her through it. What made it more difficult was knowing how young she is.

To experience job loss is a fear I have at times, just like many other adults. It’s our only means to paying our mortgages and everything in between. Thankfully, she doesn’t have that to worry about yet, but it has certainly made her saving up to buy her first car a bit of a challenge.

To me, some life lessons — like losing a job — aren’t supposed to happen until you’re an adult.

Other life lessons — like failing a course in school — are meant for the younger ages because it’s those types of failures that teach you how to solve problems you’re going to eventually face in the real world.

In fact, that is a life lesson my daughter is about to learn, possibly the hard way. She didn’t hand in five assignments this past semester and as a result, failed one of her core subjects. That means she doesn’t get credits for this course now.

Ultimately, this could affect her graduating on time. Does it concern me? Of course. But no amount of me nagging made her do those assignments and now she has to deal with those consequences. It might mean doubling up next semester to make up those credits.

I can’t do her work for her. And at her age, she shouldn’t need me to hover around to make sure she’s doing her school work.

I’ve checked out of this one with her. I’m leaving it up to my daughter to figure out her next step. She knows what she needs to do and the expectations and hopes her dad and I have of her graduating and taking post-secondary education.

I know I drastically swung from one side to the other in emotions through this column. Starting out with feelings of sympathy for my child over a job loss and then swinging over to a colder approach over her failing a subject at school.

But that’s also a part of life lessons — with the emphasis on life. At my age, I think I’ve experienced most of the toughness life can hand out — illness, death and financial and emotional strife.

I can see how the pendulum now swings for me to be able to teach and lead my own children through some of the adversities they too will face. It’s my own experiences that I’ll teach them from.

And for me, the lessons will continue as well. For I have to know when to stand back and let them figure things out themselves and when to step up and guide them through it.

Thanks for reading.



More This is Life, Based on a True Story articles

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About the Author

Tanya Gunderson has been writing for the heck of it for many years. Her inspiration comes from her kids, their friends and the craziness of life. She takes great pleasure in exposing life for what it really is and has an open-book approach to her writing.

Her formal education and background include a blink-and-you miss-it stint in the radio and television industry, but it gave her an opportunity to write professionally on a few different occasions.

Email: [email protected]

 

 



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The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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