ChopperPapa is not the average “daddy blog” about potty training, naps, minivans, or the best app for toddlers. Once referred to as “Confucius on a Chopper,” Kyle Bradford brings a shrewd and candid approach to weighty issues such as relationship communication, coping after an extramarital affair, co-parenting, relationships and kids, dealing with ex-spouses, and other tidbits he affectionately refers to as “intellectual road kill.”
Through his own mistakes, Kyle is intimately familiar with the struggles single parents endure, whether it’s answering our children’s questions about divorce, spending holidays alone, or finding love again.
Kyle reworked the classic 5 stages of grief into 7 stages of single parenthood in a series of posts called “Seven Battles Every Single Parent Must Win.” Those posts are excerpted below, and you can click through to each post for the full weight of his experience. Here’s Kyle:
The recovery road of divorce is different for everyone. And while each path may well be different, there are certain stops we all make along the journey. Many refer to these stops as stages, others label them seasons, and I prefer to call them battles. I dislike the concept of season as it implies we are helpless to do anything about the situation, much like the weather, and instead we must fold our hands and wait for the storm to pass. ‘Battle’ provides a level of hope that, while likely to be difficult, there is opportunity to vanquish the enemy.
With my divorce eight years in the rearview mirror, I have narrowed these battles into what I believe are the seven that every single, and specially divorced, parent must fight – and win.
These battles are, entitlement, anger, guilt, revenge, loneliness, fear, and regret.
I’ve learned they can be waged on several fronts against multiple foes at the same time then be followed by periods of peace and tranquility – only to flare back up again. Some battles may seem more like skirmishes while others feel like D-Day on the beaches of Normandy. Many battles rage on for years while others erupt in aggressive fighting then quickly dissipate. Defeating one can, and often does, serve only to make way for another.
At its most fundamental a feeling of entitlement leads us to make only those choices that serve our own best interests no matter the cost to others. A divorced parent will abandon their children because of another relationship; mothers will leverage their kids to maintain control post divorce while fathers will use money to the same ends, and in each case acting so because they feel entitled.
Yet the most significant concern with entitlement lays in this; we begin to see others not for who they are but only for what they can do for and give to us. Viewing life through this worldview, when motives are based upon our own self-interests, inherently leads to shallow choices that ultimately foster deep regrets.
It’s been my experience that the battle against anger is one of the more difficult of the seven to overcome. The world is replete with men and women who have been unable, or unwilling, to take the necessary and painful steps that might lead towards healing. Instead they’ve affixed their pride so firmly to that anger it’s now supplanted itself as their entire identity. Remove the rage and they don’t know who they are any longer. And by consequence they unknowingly allow that wrath to affect every area of their life most important of which is the relationship with their children. I witnessed as parents use their kids like mortar shells to wage war against the perceived enemy in hopes of quenching their scorching fury.
I can say with near certainty that guilt is the strongest and most fierce of the seven. Of all them it’s the easiest for single parents to spiral into and the most difficult for them to pull out of. The reasons why are all too common. Being divorced means being a failure; regardless of who was actually at fault each failed at the marriage, enough said. Divorce gives rise to paralyzing self-doubt. Every wrong, difficulty, and bad omen now becomes viewed as cosmic penance because the marriage ended.
Co-parenting is a mutual affair. And like the Law of Motion every action in it can have an equal and opposite reaction. So you want to play keep-a-way with him and the kids? Be prepared to have money issues when it comes to child support. Decide on a game of hide-n-go seek with the child support? Don’t expect her to drop what she’s doing next time you need help with the kids, if she lets you see them at all. Choose parental alienation as a parenting strategy and be prepared for your children to turn on you in due time.
“As a newly divorced parent choosing to spend the holiday alone is one of the unhealthiest decisions you can make. Without support and companionship to keep your attention and provide a shoulder to cry on the silence that remains gives you the necessary room to contemplate, brood, and eventually wallow in your loneliness. If you’re like I was and there isn’t family close, choose to spend time with friends or even take a holiday getaway. For several years I would take a dive trip the week immediately after Christmas for that very reason. My goal was to take the focus away from what’s missing and put it towards something to anticipate.
I actually found this fear motivating – to made me want to be a better dad. I chose to use it to mount a change in the kind of parent I hoped to become. Because I was mindful of the inherent risks faced by children of divorce, over time, this awareness influenced the direction I would parent my children. It lead me to become more alert to their behavior and sensitive to their feelings yet not be held hostage by either. It forced me to be far more transparent and expressive with both of them, talk to them about any number of issues that I would otherwise be uncomfortable with or that might embarrass me. It freed me to admit mistakes and apologize when I had wronged them; to this day that fear continues to hold me accountable to them for my behavior because of the reverberations it can have on them.
Regret requires heartfelt sorrow, even despair, for something lost. There also must be a realization at how this loss didn’t have to be, an understanding that things could have been different. And lastly, to feel true regret we must accept some level of personal responsibility for why things turned out how they did. Without each of these any regret we think we experience is merely shallow sentiment that’s neither healthy nor useful.