Popularity Contests

A constant struggle that many divorced parents face is the perceived popularity contest. There is a good chance that if you’re a single dad with custody, mom has some serious issues. In much of the U.S. for a father to get custody, mom needs to be missing more than half her brain or have some sort of serious drug problem. Of course there are lots of other reason a father can have custody, but this is an issue I see frequently that single dads have to deal with — as the more stable parent, you have to deal with a mom who is destructively liberal.

For example, there is homework time, there are rules, there are consequences for bad choices. These things are not variable, and most single fathers I know are excellent at providing the structure and discipline kids need.

Then, they go to mom’s. All hell breaks loose. No homework is done. Sleep schedule is disrupted. Then they come back and you have to clean up the mess. If you say anything, anything at all, you are being “controlling.” Even if your kid is about to be held back a grade because they aren’t doing homework at mom’s, you’re just being some kind of horrible jerk. Mom’s house is “fun.” Mom lets the kids do whatever they want. Then they come back to your place and there are all these stupid rules. You’re a jerk and mom is cool.

Here’s the deal: different people have different levels of “having it together.” Is she being destructive to your child and ruining their life? Short term, probably. But truthfully in most cases if she had her act together, the kids wouldn’t be living with you.

The bottom line is that you’re not the person to say anything at all about it. You’re just not the guy. She already probably doesn’t like you. She almost certainly resents the fact that that you have the kids. On some level she’s either aware that she’s screwing up and is unable to fix it OR she’s oblivious to the fact that she’s screwing up and has no idea “why you’re so mad at her.”

As a single dad with custody you do the grunt work. You help them with their homework, take them to the doctor, and make sure they are generally doing well. Mom wants them on holidays and special times. She wants her time with them to be one big party.

Short term your kids are going to think you’re a jerk and mom is cool. They won’t appreciate what you are doing for them for decades. Once again, it’s a marathon, not a sprint.

Here are some guidelines that may or may not help, because honestly, there is nothing good about this sort of situation:

  • Sometimes mom has issues with keeping a job, or in one case I know, fighting cancer. Whatever that other thing is, her attention is wrapped up in that. I know a guy who’s ex was diagnosed cancer recently after “being tired all the time” for a few years. She’s going to get chemo and it will be a rough road. In a case like this there isn’t much you can do or say. Sometimes you’re just stuck in a bad situation. As long as the kids can survive their time with mom and are old enough to take care of themselves when she can’t, you kinda have to let them go. I know one dad who sends several pounds of health snacks, because some weekends that’s all the kids get. In the case of the mom with cancer, there’s a good chance she will recover, but if she doesn’t, at least dad made sure the kids had time with mom, which will be irreplaceable when they are older. Yeah, the kids didn’t get to their homework and mom ordered pizza both nights. They also stayed up super late because mom got tired and went to bed at 8pm. As I said, I know of several situations like this. It’s unfortunately common. Remember, one of your jobs as custodial parent is to ensure the kids have a relationship with their mom.
  • Sometimes mom needs help with the kids. Grandma and grandpa or stable friends can be a great help on rough weekends. Kids younger than 11 can be responsible with a cell phone, and in case where there are issues, having one is not a luxury. Being able to call “Aunt Sally” when mom doesn’t have it together is a wonderful thing.
  • In many cases mom has them ever other weekend and one weeknight. Any destructive activities should be curtailed during that time so that she can focus on her kids. Drunken parties and worse are certainly cause for concern. There is no reason for anyone to engage in these activities around the kids. This can’t be allowed to happen much, and there is a line, which once crossed, must involve the authorities.
  • Talk with your attorney before you violate a Court order. If you don’t have an attorney, talk with Child Protective Services before you violate a Court order and make sure you are doing so under their direction. You are really damned if you do and damned if you don’t. And a situation like this will redefine that phrase for you. Remember, if you violate a Court order, there is an excellent chance you will be facing an angry jerk of a judge just for trying to protect your kids.
  • It’s very easy to get into a “he said, she said.” Child Protective Services is often staffed by the incompetent. However, if you have custody, there is an excellent chance that mom is already on their radar. There is also an excellent chance that no matter who you talk to, the police, CPS and perhaps even the judge, the abuse you are observing doesn’t rise, in their eyes, to a level where anything needs to be done about it. There are lots of dads in this position. The more you howl and scream, the worse you look. Keep a journal. File your complaints. Have emergency and contingency plans. Remember, most Courts are stacked in favor of mom and if you begin infringing on their time with mom, you are likely to lose custody, which will make an already bad situation much worse. There is a special corner in the hottest part of hell for parents who abuse or neglect their kids.
  • One of the options you will be presented with is supervised visitation for mom. This is not a fun road to travel. It is often best to find a visitation supervisor you can both agree on, like the parents of your ex. However, the Court orders regarding this sort of visitation must be adhered to, and the grandparents must be on board with this program. The next level below this, when supervised visitation by family and friends fails, is a supervised visitation center. This is super awkward in a lot of cases. Don’t make it any worse by saying anything about it. It’s already rough on your kids.
  • Sometimes things are bad enough that your kids don’t want to go over to mom’s. They will tell you so and will tell you why. You’ve already done all you can do legally. The Courts now expect you to follow their orders. Unless the kids are in immediate threat of physical harm, you have to drop them off and make them go. Different states have ages at which enforcement of visitation by the custodial parent is no longer required. For this you need to consult an attorney.
  • On the other end of the spectrum, the kids can very easily come back from mom’s having eaten nothing but candy all weekend. They may have played video games for 19 hours straight. You don’t let them do these things. They have school work to do for Monday and it’s now 6pm on Sunday night. They are tired from lack of sleep. They are on a sugar high. They want to KEEP playing video games. They are out of control. They don’t like you, or anyone else at that moment. Well now doesn’t this just suck? You can do exactly zero about this under the law. Mom won’t listen because this is her “parenting style.” She’s going to let the universe raise her children. There is a very good chance that exploding on your kids won’t help as much as you think it will. Calmly informing them that THEIR obligation to finish their homework has nothing at all to do with you or mom. And think about this: MAYBE the fact that you’re micromanaging them on their work (which may be good with really little kids) is keeping them from being responsible students. After all, life itself is full of barriers and distractions. The only way we achieve success is by overcoming these using self-discipline. Get the kids used to managing their own school work at your place. Get them used to getting work done, and keeping track of their assignments themselves, with nudges from you only as needed. Them reward them heavily for being self-starters. This will bleed over to mom’s house and into their real lives as adults.
  • Having a meeting with both parents and teachers at school can be a great help. You know when the kids are with you and when their work is done. If they are “always tired’ Thursday morning after being at mom’s on Wednesday night and not getting to bed until 2am, then maybe the teachers can say something about it. Remember, anyone but you. Absolutely anyone.
  • Unless your kids are sociopaths, they are going to welcome a certain amount of discipline and rules. The difference between mom’s house and dad’s house can be a very abrupt and upsetting change, so keep that in mind. Also remember that it is your job as a parent to ensure your kids have SELF discipline. As my father once said, “Good character is behaving well when no one is watching.” That is where you want your kids to be. They need to grow up. You need to be able to trust them and they need to be able to trust themselves.
  • Mom’s place may be more fun. It may be hell on earth that is just barely together enough to support life. Either way, it’s her place, not yours. Your kids are going to spend the bulk of their time out of your immediate control. The sooner they learn to deal with the world around them, the better off they will be. Yes, it sucks. Nothing sucks worse. But it is what it is.

Barbie and He-Man

For decades feminists have attacked Barbie for her sexualization and unrealistic body expectations. I did not raise girls. I raised boys. He-Man and many of his little plastic buddies do the same thing to boys. The percentage of boys with the genetics to become half the size of He-Man is very low.

As boys approach puberty, they become acutely aware of their own physical shortcomings. The Houseguest and the Spawn were both great looking kids. They were athletic. They ate a reasonably healthy diet. At about the age of 11 or 12, they began to become more concerned with their appearance.

We live in a beach town in Florida. A solid eleven months out of the year it is beach weather. Kids wear short sleeve shirts most of December. There is no “beach” season. We have three days of winter and must turn on the A/C so we can enjoy our fireplace in January…but I digress.

Boys have body image issues, but unfortunately, boys don’t whine about how “fat” they are. Many of them keep it to themselves. Girls are called “fat” and boys are called both “fat” and “scrawny.” There are things kids of both genders need to understand about their body image. Young impressionable children don’t understand why they aren’t as “perfect” as the celebrities they see on TV.

Here is some information that may help:

  1. Photoshop — I hate to admit it, but I’ve used Photoshop a great deal. I have it on my computer right now, latest version. I can retouch anyone and anything. I’ve done it in the past with my own pictures. I didn’t do it on this blog, first time ever. My kids grew up watching me retouch a picture for 30 minutes before posting it. In fact, the Houseguest would frequently comment that the pictures “don’t look like us.” My reply was that the picture of celebrities don’t look like the celebrities. In fact, a famous quote from the supermodel Cindy Crawford is, “I wish I looked like Cindy Crawford.” Every image boys and girls see in print is heavily photoshopped. Very heavily. There are videos available on YouTube of how extensive this practice is. Watch them with your tweens. You will be shocked as well.
  2. There are three body types, and you get what you get.  The three main body types in humans are: endomorph, mesomorph and ectomorph. Let’s start with ectomorph (which means ghost shaped). These are the rail-thin people who can eat what they please and never gain weight. This was me as a child. It’s great when you’re a female ectomorph. You can be a supermodel. When you’re a male ectomorph, not so much. A male ectomorph can shoot steroids, eat ten meals a day and work out. The result will be joint damage and bad side effects from steroids. The good news is that most ectomorphs don’t get obese easily as they age, but that’s about the only good news.
    Next we’ll discuss mesomorphs. This is more or less the “perfect” body type for a guy. Not gigantic, but builds muscle easily. The kind of guy who can have huge arms AND eight-pack abs. This is what I wanted to be as a kid, but never was. It is what both the Houseguest and the Spawn are. Lucky guys. Not much downside to this body type, though as they age, they will gain weight more easily. Girls who are mesomorphs tend to be a bit “thicker” or “athletic.” This look is becoming more popular as time goes by. And last we have the endomorph. These are the huge football player types and their female counterparts. Large bones, thick middle section and cannot slim down for any reason. Fun fact: endomorphs were actually what the Spartan warriors prized as a body type, not the mesomorphs so popular in film today. There are a number of advantages to being an endomorph in certain spots — football is an example. These guys can also lift weights and will increase their bench press dramatically. They can theoretically slim down and develop abs temporarily, though the diet needed to do this is pure torture.
  3. Different body types will lend themselves to different types of sports. Ectomorphs do well at running, soccer and basketball. Avoid football and lifting heavy weights. An ectomorph kid is going to end up with a lean, lanky body. Mesomorphs can choose from a nearly unlimited variety of sports, though many have difficulty with distance running and endurance, these being more easily accomplished by ectomorphs. Though mesomorphs can participate in football, they are often injured by the larger endomorphs that seem to dominate the game. Wrestling is a sport in which mesomorphs excel. Endomorphs do very well with football. The physical activity is good for them. Low impact activities may be necessary as they age.
  4. A healthy diet will minimize the difficulties encountered by each body type. It is vital to understand that diet is said to be 80% of health. When I was a Scout leader I saw horrific things placed into Cub Scout lunches, things no human should consume on a regular basis. Odds are sugar is the main ingredient in most of your kid’s food unless you are watching it like a hawk. Diet is a series of articles by itself, but be aware of what they consume.
  5. Water. Kids need to drink water, and lots of it. Not juice. NOT soda. Water. Lots of water. Water without anything else in it. They will become accustomed to drinking something “with no taste” over a period of months, and they will be healthier in the long run.

Whatever body type your kids have, they won’t be happy with it. They will find something wrong. No one I have ever met is entirely happy with their body. A good diet, great parents and lots of exercise will give them the best body they can have.

The Ex

For me the toughest part of the divorce was the Ex. Most of the things I did were mistakes on hindsight. It seems many divorced fathers feel, for many reasons, cut off from their children. There are a number of reasons for this. Society simply expects the kids to stay with mom, but in many cases that doesn’t work.

There are a number of factors making single father with custody the fastest growing demographic in the United States:

  • Currently, twenty states are considering bills that would default to shared parenting in divorce.
  • Many studies show that shared parenting benefits kids.
  • Fathers are pushing back at gender-biased courts and demanding rights as parents
  • Fathers are now more likely than ever before to demand and receive custody.

It seems there is no human angrier than a mother who has been denied primary custody after a custody dispute. Custody of a child is not a mother or father’s automatic right.

Here are some things to think about as a divorced father of children:

  • Eventually your child will be an adult. If you ever once say anything bad about their other parent they are unlikely to forget or forgive.
  • The same is true for the mom. Her attempts to poison your children against you will fail, and if you are a good parent you MUST take the high road. I have seen kids as young as 11 refuse to have anything to do with a toxic parent who speaks badly about the other no matter how justified.
  • Once a parent starts talking badly about the other parent it’s tough to fix. Don’t do it.
  • You think your kids are dumb? Even young kids are going to notice if your ex is a psychotic whore who sleeps with 10 men a week. No need to mention it.
  • Your kids love their mom. She may be a Satanic combination of crazy, stupid and evil, but your kids love her. Shut up about it.
  • You are going to have to deal with your ex until she dies. You’re nowhere near done with her. Email is a wonderful thing. Write the email and wait a few days before you send it. Remove the bad stuff. Edit, rewrite. Ignore the nasty response.
  • Many mothers (though not all by far) resent the time you spend with your kids, especially if your kids live with you.
  • Your kids will have their time with their mother. You will not approve of many of the things that go on over there. As long as the kids come back alive, unharmed and have not been endangered your only option is to keep your mouth shut. That is your only option. There is no other option. Child Protective Services is too often of little help except in extreme circumstances.
  • This is a marathon, not a sprint. A very, very long, very painful marathon. A marathon through the bowels of Hell itself. Pace yourself. Keep moving forward. No matter how bad it gets short term you must remember that the short term never matters in the long run. I know it’s easy to say, but it’s also very, very true. If the Ex is unstable, your kids will need you to be that much more stable.

Normal will redefine itself many times between your divorce and when your kids move out of the house. Your kids need a loving, stable parent. Focus on that and forget the rest of the noise. There are plenty of positive things you can do for your kids.

Bubble Wrap

My son and the Houseguest are both in their very late teens. They drive. They are larger than I am. They are in college. I have been through their childhood and out the other side. That’s one of the reasons I’m writing this, with a rear-view mirror on parenting. One issue that drove me up a wall was the over-protective helicopter parent who essentially wanted to bubble wrap their kids “to keep them safe.” They interfere in every interpersonal conflict and difficulty the kid has. They restrict them unbelievably.

My son and the Houseguest were and are two very different people. They get along great and care very much about each other, but their personalities are near opposites.

Life can be dangerous, but life is infinitely more dangerous for those who are unprepared. Both my son and the Houseguest did jiu-jitsu for years. Excellent sport, great for self discipline as well as self-defense. Both of them were assaulted at various points during their childhood, and both of them effectively defended themselves. We’ve already established that I spied on them at a level that would put the NSA to shame, but in all things there is a balance.

I don’t want anything really serious to happen to them, but I don’t want to give them the feeling I’m spying on them every second of the day. Here are some guidelines I found helpful:

  • I always saw them after school, which was a huge pain, but well worth it. I mean see them in person, face to face. A parent can tell when a kid is having a good day or not. I’d ask them how school was or some other open ended question. Nine times out of ten, if something was up, they would tell me. They still do.
  • The main thing I had to do was keep them willing to talk with me and be really real about what was going on. This is a tough thing to do. I didn’t do a very good job at times restraining myself from giving unsolicited advice. This almost never worked out well when I got intense and “parenty” about it. What tended to work better was for me to say very casually, “Well, I see what you are doing there. If you do that, and you certainly can, I don’t think it will work out very well for you and this is why, but let me know if you need any help.”
  • Quoting sources other than myself worked very well. Back when sexting started to be a thing, kids were getting arrested left and right. They are now teenage registered sex offenders for life because they sent their bestest girl a picture of their teenage winkie dink. Over a period of a few weeks, I showed the boys news story after news story about this, and how these kids were screwed for life. This sort of thing made them begin to think about the consequences of their actions in the adult world.
  • While I had copious amounts of data on their goings-on I RARELY mentioned the findings of my excavations. VERY RARELY. One of the most important lessons I learned as a parent was to let the minor shit slide. Just let it be. In your own head you can say to yourself, “Did you REALLY just text that to someone? Really? What is WRONG with you?”  There were more than a few occasions where I almost intervened but then had enough faith in my kids to let them turn the situation around themselves. In the vast majority of these instances, they not only made me proud, they grew up in the process.
  • Keep in mind that your job as a parent is to make an adult. An adult is not someone who can’t function on their own. It is not someone who is incapable of resolving interpersonal conflicts without mom, dad or the police. An adult learns from their mistakes. An adult takes bad situations and deals with them. If you as a parent are CONSTANTLY micromanaging your child, how will they ever learn?
  • Having said all of the above, there were issues that came up. Big issues. One thing I never did was ask a question I didn’t already know the answer to. One of the first rules for the boys was that they were never to lie to me. In the very vast majority of instances, they did not, and this improved greatly over time. I remember an instance where I found out that the Houseguest went to a party without my permission. After some information gathering I sat him down and asked him if he went to the party. He admitted he did. I asked him if there was parental supervision at this party. He stated there was not. I asked him a number of other questions about the party which I already knew the answers to (by this time I was really good at the whole detective thing — really, really good). He scored a perfect 100% on all the questions. I told him not to ever do that again, because it was a matter of time before I found out. Later that same month, he wanted to go to another party with “his dog (very bestest buddy ever — a complete jackass and drug user). I said no. I told him that kid was a lightening rod for trouble. The night that I “cockblocked” and “ruined the life” of my dear Houseguest, his friend, the jackass, was arrested with enough charges to send him to prison until he was 30. But for the employment of a VERY good attorney, that is where he would be to this day. The Houseguest now sees him for what he is and realizes he would have been in jail with this idiot; the jackass is still being a jackass all these years later. Valuable lesson learned, no harm, no foul.
  • Because I only got into their business about 30% of the time that I thought I should, and because it was usually for a major issue, over a PERIOD OF YEARS, the kids started to realize that on the few occasions I did say something, it was usually for a good reason. My son started calling me the Illuminati after awhile and they would both, quite grudgingly, listen to me. They formed their own judgement and solve problems in their own way. There are many things on which we disagree, and that’s fine. They have grown into their own men, which is exactly what I wanted. But remember, it took YEARS, many, many years.
  • As much of a struggle as it can be, the BULK of your dialogue with your child should not be correcting them. It must not be giving them a never-ending stream of instruction. It should be conversation. They should be doing most of the talking. You should be shutting your damn mouth, listening, and finding something you can say about them that lets them know you believe in them, that you think they are great. At the end of a long work day at your job, when you are nearly dead, this is a huge struggle, but remember, that job you did all day is your SECOND job. Your real job, for a little while begins at the end of your work day. It is the most important job you will ever do, so treat it that way and do it to the very best of your ability.

Fantasy Land

Parenting a tween or teen is, in many cases, a lot like disarming a time bomb.

Too much force, and boom! Too little forward progress too slowly…same thing.

Imagine someone crazy enough to pretend there is no bomb.

Too many parents I’ve met live in a special place. Out here with the rest of us, their kids are potheads who have lost their virginity long ago. In their warm, cozy fantasy world, their kids are the Cleaver boys: lovable, mischievous, but give ’em a half hour and they’ll be fine.

A little angel in our neighborhood skipped school one day. He’s going downhill fast. The single mom showed up, going door to door looking for him. This is when she “found out” her son was smoking pot. Apparently his staggering around the neighborhood stoned or going to dinner high night after night weren’t enough of a clue for this woman. Maybe we should nail a flashing neon sign to his ass that says “STONER” for his mom to get the message.

The most amazing portion of this mini-drama was momma wondering why no one told her that her son was smoking pot just like his older brother. What are the odds of that happening?

I’m wondering how these conversations go. I’m about to have one.

For various reasons, I’m going to have to let a lady who “doesn’t want her daughter dating or hugging boys because she’s too young” know that her daughter has done things sexually that I have yet to do, in places I would never do them for safety, legal and hygiene reasons. The girl may already be pregnant.

Teachers have the same problem. On the one hand they can’t really tell the parent they think the kid is a demonically-possessed psychotic little jerk. That’s just destructive (even if it’s true). At the same time, the parent needs to know that while their child may have many fine qualities, improvement is necessary to help the child develop properly.

So there is definitely a balance in all of this. I would personally feel horrible standing idly by while another teen mom gives birth to a child she can’t really care for.

Too many people are willing to watch the disaster happen. For minor things, maybe minding your own business or mentioning something once is all that can be done. But how would YOU feel if your child got pregnant when you thought they were a virgin? How would you feel if your child was being bullied and everyone knew it but you? How shocked you be to find your supposedly squeaky-clean child was ARRESTED for drug use? Kids can end up dead or in big trouble fast these days. How would you feel if you didn’t at least try to do something?

Here are some things to think about if you are thinking of bringing a parent back from Fantasyland:

1. There is usually a very ugly back story. Kids are USUALLY (though not always) screwed up for a good reason, or a BUNCH of good reasons. Keep this in mind before you say anything. Choose your words carefully.

2. There is very often a good reason the parents aren’t aware of what is going on. They may be so stressed out about trying to keep their job and house that they have nearly forgotten they have children. It’s easy to do.

3. If you say too little, the parent may continue to ignore the problem.

4. If you are too harsh, you’re going to sound like a jerk and the parent is going to think you’re just a jerk, ignoring all you have said.

5. While you are letting them know there is a problem, make sure you offer constructive solutions.

6. Offer help if they want it. And mean it. Be prepared to help for awhile if necessary.

7. Your offer of help may be rejected, so you may have to walk away.

8. If you suspect a child is being abused or neglected, you may be able to report it, and if it’s serious enough, that might be a good idea.

Kids online

When my son and the Houseguest were tweens, they did not yet possess cell phones. One of the principal methods of social contact 11 year-olds had with each other at the time was myspace. My kids wanted myspace, Yahoo chat, AOL instant messenger and all kinds of other ways to interact with others, young and old, online.

When I was a kid, “video games” constituted Space Invaders on a 16-color “video game” system by Atari. Facebooking someone meant throwing a book at their face.

Though they both had freedom to roam on their bikes if they were together. They had taken full advantage of this freedom, traveling up to fifteen miles from home.

After several weeks of pestering me I allowed them to have whatever sort of account they desired – with conditions:

1) I set up the accounts and made the passwords.

2) I would not give them the passwords to their accounts anytime soon.

3) If they wanted to log into an account, they had to ask me, and this was based on their good behavior.

4) I had the right as a parent to look over their accounts. When they are 18, they can have all the “privacy” they want, and at that point, they are also responsible for their own actions.

5) We went over the rules for online safety. Several times, over several years.

Within the first few weeks of myspace the Houseguest (the older one) had removed all the security measures I’d put in place. This was years ago, when adults could search myspace for children. The Houseguest also put up a shirtless picture of his 12 year-old self, perhaps to attract little tween girls, or maybe he just wasn’t thinking.

It was less than a week before he received an inappropriate friend request from an adult. Here is what I learned to do:

a) Ignore your child’s protests and demands for “privacy.” You are their parent, not their friend. Stop trying to win a popularity contest. Some children will try to take advantage of their non-custodial parent. Children who are allowed to get away with this sort of behavior don’t turn out well.

b) Look at what’s happening in the account. Read the messages and the posts. Unless it is some sort of vital issue DO NOT discuss these investigations with your kids. By vital, I mean danger of life and death. I have been able to maintain a level of trust with my kids because when I do find out something perhaps I shouldn’t know, I don’t run to them and talk about it. I try to give them a chance to resolve their issues for themselves, and from what I have seen with their interactions with others, my faith in them over time has been entirely justified. Keep in mind that your goal as a parent is to have an independent, productive child who knows the difference between right and wrong. This is something they will have to learn for themselves in many cases.

c) Realize that 93% of kids go online, and most are unsupervised by parents. Most parents have “no clue” what’s happening online according to a survey of children by Pew. Sixteen percent of children receive inappropriate contact from adults while online, which means odds are your child or one of his close friends has had this happen.

d) When an adult makes inappropriate contact occurs, there are things you can do: Contact Facebook admin with a complaint, as well as local law enforcement. Remember, if they are doing it to your child, they are doing it to others.

e) If your child is missing, the clues to their whereabouts are very often available online.

I quietly supervised the online activities of my son and the Houseguest for two years, at which point, I gave them the passwords, but let them know they were not allowed to change them. I still have the passwords to their accounts but choose not to use them except in an emergency.

I educated myself on the many places kids go online. Here are a few with information about them:

Facebook – Unless you’ve been in a coma, you are aware of Facebook. Kids who learn how to use Facebook settings can make posts only viewable by certain groups. If you add your child as a friend on Facebook, they can make you an “acquaintance,” preventing you from seeing all that is going on.

YouTube – The most benign of all video sites (there are many others). Kids can learn almost anything from the instructional videos available. Pornographic content is prohibited, but is allowed on many other video sites.

Twitter – Known as “tweets,” the brief messages on twitter allow kids to let the world know what is happening in their lives, and find out what is happening in the lives of others they know, as well as celebs. This forum is uncensored and contains humanity-in-the-raw abbreviated to a few short sentences at a time.

Online Gaming – XBox and PlayStation as well as computer games allow kids to play with others, often adults. They can, in many games, participate in online chat with teammates and opponents. It is an unfortunate and common practice for adults to use extreme profanity and insults with children as young as 8.

Snapchat –  The “next generation” in apps on smartphones is SnapChat, which is an app that allows people to send pictures of themselves to others. These pictures erase in a few seconds. If the recipient saves the picture, Snapchat lets the sender know.

Online Risks

Children face a number of risks online. Here are some of the main risks:

1) Bullying – Horribly enough, bullying is one of the milder risks children face online. Unfortunately it has led to a number of suicides. Bullying must not be tolerated and none of the social media sites will permit it if you make sure to complain.

2) Inappropriate Contact With Adults – This inappropriate contact can range from online bullying to sexual proposition. The rule of NEVER meeting up with someone they don’t know in real life should be strictly enforced. Adults with bad intentions often pose as other children. Kids often thing they know best and are more “online savvy” than mom or dad. Parents have more life experience, which is why we are in charge.

3) Identity theft – This can range from theft of your information to the theft of your children’s name, date of birth and social security number.

4) Phishing – Trustworthy sources, or places that LOOK like trustworthy sources will steal login information and everything else they can. Once a principal e-mail address is breached, bank accounts and virtually anything else can be compromised.

Time For Yourself

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Households headed by single fathers are the fastest growing demographic group in the United States, and now according to Pew (the people who interpreted the Census Bureau data), nearly one fourth of single parent households are headed by men. In 2011, there were 2.6 million households headed by a single father. Pew surmises that the changes in both law and policy have made this phenomena what it is.

Single fathers very often lack the support structure or social acceptance of single moms. Mothers are “expected” to take care of the kids. Often that doesn’t work out. Single fathers are usually under much more financial pressure than their female counterparts. The percentage of single fathers who receive any form of financial support from mom is also laughably low. I know a large number of single fathers, but don’t know any that receive financial support. In a lot of cases, you’re own your own with a kid. While much is made of “deadbeat dads,” the latest Census Bureau information shows that only about 30% of non-custodial mothers are ever ordered to pay support.

It took a few years for my son’s doctor to get used to the idea that I was going to be the one bringing him to his appointments. I quit two jobs because my bosses couldn’t understand why I had to take time off work to care for my child. I am now self-employed, and until my son turns 18, that’s about the only option for me.

The problem that single dads have is the lack of a guidebook. When I started out many years ago with my son, I  had to figure things out for myself. I have no family in the area, and did not have the resources to take much needed breaks. I didn’t use babysitters – didn’t trust them. This was a mistake. Whatever the reasons, you have to find time for yourself occasionally. Find constructive hobbies you enjoy. Spend time with friends. Eat healthy food. Get rest. Work out. Really – go to a gym and lift stuff. You need to stay in shape no matter what. Most gyms have child care areas. Make the time. Do it.

As a friend of mine said recently, “If you don’t take care of yourself, you’re not going to be able to take care of anyone else.”

When you’re feeling tired, sore and miserable, remember that it may be because you have a crap diet, don’t exercise and all you do is work and take care of a kid. Keeping taking care of the kid, but change the rest. You’ll feel better and so will your kids.