Got Kids? Stay Married … It’s That Simple

One expert’s controversial take on marriage, divorce and staying together for the sake of the kids.

People often say that you shouldn’t stay married for the sake of the kids. After all, the logic goes, if parents are miserable, it will only hurt the kids.

It’s better for kids, they say, to have two happy parents who lead separate lives than to be exposed to sadness, emotional distance, and conflict in their family. Makes sense, right? Wrong. Now, after seeing the havoc that divorce wreaks on the lives of families, I am an unabashed marriage-saver. And since I became dedicated to helping people resuscitate flat-lined marriages and keep their families together, I have learned a great deal about the process and the benefits of working things out.

First, I learned that implicit in the question, “Should you get divorced if you have kids?” is the assumption that if the couple stays together, they will inevitably remain miserable in the marriage. This is insanity. Over the past decade, we have learned a tremendous amount about what constitutes a successful marriage. We actually have a very concrete understanding of what spouses need to do and stop doing to make marriages work.

Falling in love is easy.

Staying in love is another thing altogether. It requires skills — relationship skills. We learn about relationships as we grow up and unfortunately, most of us didn’t have great role models. 

Even if we did have great role models, we might choose a partner who wasn’t so fortunate. If we don’t have adequate relationship skills — knowing how to co-parent, communicate, resolve conflict, compromise, build on relationship strengths — our relationships fail.

The good news is that today, there are marriage education classes couples can take to improve their Relationship IQs. Couples can transform an unhappy or ho-hum marriage into a great one.

Additionally, although choosing a quality therapist takes some investigation and effort, couples can go to therapists who are skilled at helping them resolve their differences, not just talk about their feelings or the problems.

In short, although it’s understandable why someone who is unhappy in marriage might envision the future to be nothing more than a miserable extension of the past, it ain’t necessarily so.

Marriages can heal, change and improve with the proper help. In fact, studies show that, even without professional help, couples who wait out the storm report that they are extremely happy five years later!

When it comes to marriage, patience isn’t only a virtue, it’s a necessity.

Parents who want a divorce often say that, although it won’t be easy, children are resilient and they will be better off in the long run, but here’s what the research says about this: Divorce takes an enormous toll on children.

Change is very difficult. Dissolving a family has enormous repercussions. Children often are shuffled from home to home. Family finances suffer due to the need to maintain separate households. Parents are often preoccupied with their own emotional well-being.

Frequently, there are moves to new school districts, requiring major emotional adjustments. And then there are second marriages and the unique challenges of step-families. Plus, second and subsequent marriages are less likely to succeed than first marriages, requiring more changes to children’s lifestyles. Studies also suggest that even when the adults are happier in their new lives, there doesn’t seem to be a trickle-down effect on the children. Children, it seems, get the short end of the stick.

So, should you get divorced if you have kids? Here’s one more thing to consider: There is never just a single reason people remain together; there are many, many reasons couples decide to stick it out. Marriage is a package deal.

People choose to remain married because they want companionship, sex, financial security, family ties, extended family, someone with whom to share responsibilities, a person to grow old, a preference to share life as opposed to going it alone, and so on.  If one of the reasons people choose to remain together is for the sake of the kids, I say, “Bravo.” That’s great.

The bottom line is this: We only have one go-around, and we all deserve happiness. No one should plan on simply acquiescing to a life of misery.

Having said that, given the miraculous changes I’ve seen in couples’ relationships, even in the 11th hour, I feel like a psychotic optimist. You don’t have to just stay together for the sake of the kids; get happy for the sake of the kids! It will be a gift for a lifetime.

 

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The Trellis – Part 2

Philadelphia, PA – Mid 70s

There was this guy named Rudy Falf who lived with his brother across the street. They were probably both in their early 40s back then. They were both weird guys. They kept to themselves and I have no idea how they supported themselves. I’m assuming their parents maybe left them the house across the street where they resided.

Now, when I say “weird guys” I don’t mean creepy, pedo-type guys. They were both really sweet people. But a little touched in the head. Rudy’s brother was really quiet and sort of furtive. We didn’t see much of him. But Rudy was always out. He had a cast in his one eye which made him look even weirder. Like, ‘one eye is looking at you, and the other one is running down to the shop to get a pack of smokes.’ But they were both sweet and harmless men. Rudy was really friendly to us kids, and would always give us comic books. I remember he would sit in his car and just run the motor and read his comic books. I didn’t know why, but I heard he did that to charge up the battery because I rarely saw him ever drive that car.

I remember one of our neighbors told her two daughters that they couldn’t go to the Falf house for trick or treat on Halloween because she figured the brothers would diddle her daughters. But that would never happen because they were two really nice people. Just a little touched in the head. It’s that kind of ignorant behavior that creates prejudice in people. Just because somebody is different or weird, doesn’t make them evil pedophiles. I wasn’t raised that way and never agreed with her behavior.

But we liked him because he was nice and always gave my friend RJ and I comic books when he was finished reading them. I probably still have a few left in my collection. Free comics are always welcome!

Oh, one last thing. Rudy had this crazy stutter. Certain words would just hang there and he’d just keep saying the prefix of a word over and over really fast until the rest of it came out of his mouth. It was odd, but as kids, we just saw it as the way he spoke. And could this guy talk. He could ramble on forever about the most simple of subjects.

Everybody in the neighborhood loved my mother. I mean, everybody. It was like she had a fan club. Back then all of the dads worked and the wives all stayed home and took care of the house and kids. The ladies would stop over and chat with her. My mom was such a good listener and very cordial, so people just gravitated to her. I think there were days where our neighbor, Mrs. Hanley would come over with a cup of coffee and her cigarettes and talk my mom’s ear off. But my mom was always nice and would host anyone who wanted to swing by out of boredom.

Of course, my mother would be at the market and always run into somebody in the neighborhood and they’d chat. But one of the people who was the most annoying was Rudy Falf. Not because he was nuts, but because he would walk her home from the market and literally chatter nonstop. Stuttering his way through some nonsensical tale. My mother would smile and listen respectfully.

But one day she runs into him in the market and she hears him going on and on about a theft at his house. He’s literally talking non-stop to anyone who will listen about this crime that’s been committed against him.

Of course, this gets the attention of my mother in the checkout line. I mean, you couldn’t escape this guy if he started waffling on about something. He just wouldn’t stop going on and on about the subject. But my mom, knowing she’s been cornered and will probably have to listen to him all the way home, smiles and listens to him.

“What happened, Rudy?”

Rudy responds in his usual stutter, more manic than ever because he’s upset about the crime that’s committed against him.

“Somebody stole my ligga, ligga, ligga, ligga ligga, ligga, ligga, ladder!”

“Oh really? That’s awful. I’m so sorry to hear that.”

“Yea, it was lying right on the side of my house and somebody came along and stole it!”

“What did it look like?”

“It’s wooden and about this long! I’m going to call the police!”

The stark realization of what’s happened hits my mom like a freight train.

Rudy’s stolen ladder is resting against the wall of the garage in the garden of our yard.

She tells him how sorry she is for his misfortune and will keep an eye out for it. She never tells him!

Of course, my mother being the sweet woman she is, and an upstanding member of the community, is mortified. She immediately comes home and tells me the story she just heard.

I tell her I had no idea where Michael had gotten the ladder from and thought he had picked it out of someone’s trash. For once, I was telling the truth. My mom surprisingly believes me and tells me to figure out a way to get that ladder back to Rudy.

I concur with Michael. He tells me that he did indeed nick the ladder from the side of Rudy’s house but thought it was in the trash. The truth of what he does or doesn’t believe is a moot point at this juncture. We need to get that ladder back to Rudy’s house as soon as possible before we get in deep trouble.

So that night, Mike and I quietly crept over to Rudy’s house under that cloak of darkness. We gently placed the ladder back where Michael had found it. Then we did what all boys do when faced with adversity. We ran away!

So, in closing, no harm was done, and Rudy’s ladder miraculously reappeared safely back on his property. When I think about this whole incident now, I think it wasn’t so much about us climbing on my mom’s flower trellis. We just wanted a way to get up on the roof. My mother knew that if the trellis broke and we fell, we risked falling through a bunch of sticker bushes and possibly crashing down on one of the many large stones that surrounded her garden.

Parents don’t stop their kids from doing risky stuff to control them, but to try to keep them from killing themselves.

Or… one of us boys could have fallen off the roof and hit the concrete driveway below doing some serious damage to ourselves. Can you imagine falling 20 feet and landing headfirst onto cement as a kid? If you survived the injury you might end up talking like Rudy for the rest of your life.

And nobody wants that.

But, I got a good story out of it, so it was all worth it!

 

 

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Friday Night Dinner

Philadelphia, PA – Early 1970s

When I was a kid, several people in the neighborhoods had what they called cookouts. You could smell it in the air when it was happening. I always loved that smell, but my family never did it, nor did we ever attend a cookout. Now it’s called grilling or barbecuing.

I always knew when my friend Michael’s family had a barbecue because it was all over his shirt after dinner.

I always loved that smell of a cookout, but would never even try anything like that until my early twenties. Just that aroma of burgers and chicken sizzling over the fire, slathered in barbecue sauce, smelled amazing. But It just wasn’t something we did as a family back then.

We rarely ever went out to a restaurant as a family when we were kids. I remember my mother telling me that when we were really little if they took us to a restaurant and somebody started fussing, it was over. My parents were very proud and respectable people. They never wanted their kids to be the ones disrupting other people’s dining experience, so we simply stayed home for dinner. Plus, I was a fussy eater, and going out to a restaurant even back then was expensive for a family of six, so it was too much.

But as we got a little older, sometimes on a Friday night my dad would come home from work and we’d all pile in the car and he’d take the family to a place called Burger Chef up on Cottman Avenue.

We loved it. The food was good and it was a fun night out as a family. My mom hated cooking so I’m sure it was nice for her to have a night off. Can you imagine hating to do something, and you had to do it every night for six people for over 25 years? She always told me she’d rather do all of the dishes than have to cook. But my mom was a good soldier and did what was needed for her husband and kids back then.

Years later, some of my fondest memories of my mom was when I was a teenager. She’d wash, and I’d dry the dishes for her. It was a time after dinner for us to bond, chat, and listen to the radio together. I’d tell her who all of the artists were and why they were so good. My mom always loved music, so we always had that in common. Sometimes we’d even sing along together.

Anyway, here’s a link about this remarkable predecessor to Macdonald’s.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Burger_Chef

I would get a kid’s sized hamburger and we’d all share the french fries. We never had fries like that at home, so I loved them!

We’d all be on our best behavior for obvious reasons. We were all taught early on how important good manners were and how to behave in public. My sisters and I were so well-behaved in public that my mother once told me that people would come up to her and tell her how lovely her children were. What those strangers didn’t know, was the unbridled wrath we would be shown if we ever acted rude or disrespectable in public. We were raised correctly. Sadly, much of that is lacking today. Good manners don’t cost a thing and everyone should practice them every day. If you’re raised properly as a child it will carry you forth through your whole life. But you’ll always have to navigate your way through all of the animals on this planet. But I digress…

We were good kids on our best behavior happily munching our burgers and sipping our delicious milkshakes. You really can’t find a good milkshake anymore in any fast food restaurant. You actually have to go to an old diner where they make it with real milk and ice cream. When you can find a good milkshake it’s a thing of beauty.

We eventually switched from Burger King to MacDonald’s but it was all the same to me. I was just happy to be out munching on delicious fast food!

Look how cheap everything was back then!

Vintage Fast Food Menus That Look Way Better Than Today's

We were just chilling at the table and chatting with our folks, just being our little unit among the other diners. But my sisters and I had bigger hopes for the evening beyond delicious fire-grilled burgers and golden buttery fries. There was something else. Something unspoken between us kids. We quietly prayed that after dinner something else might possibly happen. And if it did… it would be a glorious event.

Because up the road was a magical place.

Even as my father pulled the vehicle out of the parking lot of the restaurant, we would all look out the windows knowing if we were headed home, or if we were headed in a different direction. We would know, and the anticipation would begin to build.

As long as dinner came off without a hitch, we’d be rewarded with a little trip to a second location. A place beyond a child’s imagination. A place rivaled only by what we imagined that the warehouse behind Santa’s workshop at the North Pole looked like.

We would make our pilgrimage to this oasis of sheer joy.

Yes… Kiddie City!

Remembering LIONEL Playworld & Kiddie City stores on Twitter: "EXCLUSIVE: Remembering LIONEL Kiddie City in Rochester New York! 🥰 FOLLOW us on Twitter JOIN us on FACEBOOK @ Remembering Lionel Playworld &

Here’s a couple of actual shots of the place in the 70s.

Kiddie City. Castor Avenue--we got t go here and pick out one reasonably-priced toy each birthday. | Favorite city, Toy store, Childhood memories

Kiddie City | bluesmavin | Flickr

There was a 5 & 10 in our neighborhood. There may have been little toy shops on Rising Sun Avenue near our house in Lawndale. There was even another toy store nearby, called Baby Town. But this place…. this was a gigantic store. A destination. A brilliant building filled with every toy a child could possibly ever want in life. I mean… everything!

Walking into that store and seeing aisle after aisle of every toy you could possibly ever imagine was an amazing occurrence. I think I would never have that level of excitement until Christmas morning. This place was so exciting to kids, but Christmas was pure euphoria.

We’d all wander around the store looking at all of the toys. Our parents were always close by and making mental notes for our Christmas lists. Unlike most families, my parents never got caught up in Black Friday or any of the hustle and bustle of the Christmas shopping crush that most people experience each holiday season. Unbeknownst to us, my folks shopped for toys for us All Year Round.

Do you know anyone who did that? I don’t. They bought for us all year round. They would hide them all in the basement in the back of closets and under tarps in boxes under the pool table. Probably in their own bedroom closets or even at my father’s office. No one was the wiser and my parents were like elves doing Santa’s work on a monthly basis. Which not only was easier on their finances and budget but resulted in the collection of an absolute bounty of toys for us kids.

My father had kind of a crap childhood, and his father, although a great earner at an insurance company, showed little interest in his two sons. He’d rather be at the bar tossing back a few with his buddies.

He’d simply toss a few bucks to his wife and tell her to pick up some toy trains and some other stuff. My father in turn did not repeat his father’s lack of performance. My dad went the other way. He loved Christmas and every aspect of the holiday. He went crazy at Christmas and I’ll cover that in a future post. But let’s just say, I’m surprised my father didn’t have a direct line to the North Pole to the big man himself. (I’m kidding… My dad WAS Santa Claus!)

We’d look at all of the goodies and drool over all the stuff we wanted to get. And… if… IF… we were good, we might even walk away from the night with a little something. Maybe a little doll or a car, but better yet… possibly a book.

We didn’t get many toys throughout the year. I don’t know what other kids got, but in my neighborhood, I’d know if a kid got anything new. But at Christmas, that’s when you got all of the things you wanted the entire year.

So, I’ve always associated fast food with good times with my family. It was a rare occurrence, but when it happened it was magic!

 

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Men Share Why They Would Never Date a Single Mom

Moms need love too

Despite some fathers’ wishes, dating is a part of coming of age. Moving from a blissful romance between a girl and her imagination into the harsh reality of the actual dating world is… tough. It would be great to be able to say that it gets better as you get older, but the truth is: As girls grow into women, dating only gets harder. The more you’ve dated, the more baggage you bring with you into the next relationship.

While some come out of relationships with passport stamps, pets, or a few bad memories, others come out of relationships with children. Trying to get into a new relationship as a single parent is more complex than not. Your dates are dating you and your kid, not just you.

For a variety of reasons, these guys refuse to date single women. Here’s why…

Loving Then Leaving

I don’t date single moms because the ones I’ve dated have all left me to go try and work things out with their baby daddy. (Anonymous)

Out All Night

I won’t date a single mom. I need a girlfriend who can hang out whenever and not worry about finding a babysitter (Anonymous)

Well, that’s strange

I’m a single dad, but I won’t date a single mom because of the awkwardness of being around their kid (Anonymous)

Respect

I will never date a single mom so long as I can help it. I refuse to look after someone else’s kid that won’t respect me. (Anonymous)

Heartbroken

I’ll never date a single mom again! 2 years seeing her little guy almost every day, loving him like my own, and now I lost my place in his life, I’m heartbroken (Anonymous)

A teenager, you say?

I could never date a single mom unless her kid is a teenager (Anonymous)

Emotional Baggage

I refuse to date single moms because the ones I’ve dated just all have way too much emotional baggage. I can barely take my own, let alone someone else’s. (Anonymous)

No Dads Here

I feel bad because I won’t date single moms. It’s not that I don’t like kids or think they’re a stigma, I’m just not ready to be in a dad-type role and don’t want to waste anyone’s time. (Anonymous)

Yours comes first

I’m a single dad. But I don’t date single moms. I know it’s hypocritical. But I get tired of them imposing their parenting views on me and my little girl. (Anonymous)

The Risk Factor

Why I won’t date single moms: who wants to love a child like their own only to have them taken away from you forever if you break up? I don’t trust anyone enough to risk that. (Anonymous)

No kudos for you

I don’t date single moms. Kudos to the guys who are man enough to take over where another man left off, but I’m not down with all that. I’m not raising someone else’s kid. (Anonymous)

A Man With Standards

I honestly don’t mind dating single moms. I slightly prefer it. I just refuse to date them if they don’t put their kids first. (Anonymous)

How do you feel about dating a single mom? Let us know in the comments and SHARE this article!

 

Thank you for reading my blog. Please read, like, comment, and most of all follow Phicklephilly. I publish every day.

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Mister Grocer’s

Philadelphia, PA – 1970

One chilly night I was in the VW minibus with my dad and my older sister. He decided to stop at a local convenience store on the way home on Rising Sun Avenue.

The shop was called Mister Grocers and it was an early convenience store. These types of stores would giveaway to later giants like 7-Eleven and Wawa. (Back then Wawa was a dairy farm. Incidentally, Wawa is the native American word for goose.)

I don’t remember why we stopped there but maybe he needed to pick up some cold cuts. My sister and I wandered around the store while he did what he had to do.

I came upon a rotating display rack full of little toys. The ones that caught my eye were these toy cars on little cards. I was checking them all out and they were really cute little cars. So for some reason unknown to me to this day, I stuck one in the pocket of my red baseball jacket.

It was the first time I had ever stolen anything. I don’t even know why I did it. I had plenty of little cars at home. It was almost as if this other power took over and compelled me to shoplift. It was definitely a compulsion. I think this may be a common thing in children that they eventually grow out of.

I remember sitting in the car on the way home and saying how I felt cold so I kept my hands stuffed in the pockets of my jacket. There was no reason for me to say that but I obviously wasn’t a good thief.

We made it home and I went up to my room to get ready for bed. I closed my bedroom door and took out the little car. I ripped open the package and looked at the toy. It was yellow, and not a color car I would have ever wanted, so maybe it was just the thrill of nicking it from the store. I have no idea. I placed the little car in a box among some other stuff in my room that sat on my radiator.

Gama Toys - Wikipedia

I went into the bathroom and got cleaned up for bed, and then headed back to my room. My mother was standing there holding the car and the ripped open package. Did I simply throw the package into the wicker wastebasket in my room? That’s very sloppy. I don’t remember. My room was full of all sorts of toys. How did my mom find this one thing that I just clipped tonight? ESP? I’ve never been able to solve this mystery.

The next thing I know, I’m sitting on the toilet seat and both of my parents are grilling me about where I got this little car. I lied and told them my friend Dave Archut gave it to me. Was this some kind of go-to lie I would use going forward? Probably not if it didn’t work.

It didn’t.

After a few minutes of intense interrogation, I cracked and told them that the package was already ripped in the store and I just took the little car from Mister Grocers.

It would have been awesome had it ended there with a stern scolding. But no… that would not be the order of the day. My mother and father left the room for a moment while I sat there having an anxiety attack on the toilet in my pajamas like a prisoner in the Gulag.

My mother returns with my jacket and slippers. It’s bedtime. We’re going in the wrong direction, mom. But apparently, we were going in the right direction. My father marched me downstairs and took me back out to the minibus and put me in it. I’m shivering as he proceeded to drive us back to Mister Grocers.

I’m terrified and nearly go into paralysis as we pull into the parking lot and there are two police cars parked there.

philadelphia police vehicles from 1969 | Police cars, Old police cars, Philadelphia

I see that, and I’m practically filling my pants in fear. My father tells me to go in with him and what I need to say to the clerk. We get out of the van and head into the store. I can’t believe the cops are on the case of the stolen car already! This is a serious offense. I’m in deep trouble. Grand theft auto? Juvenile Hall? Hard time?

My dad places the car in the ripped-open package in my hands. We walk up to the counter to the clerk behind the counter.

“Go ahead, son.”

“Sir, I took this. It doesn’t belong to me, and I’m sorry.”

Then my father tells me to go stand over there. Of course, I complied because there was no alternative but to obey. I was caught. Nabbed. No longer on the lam. My days of thievery were officially over.

He spoke with the man for a few minutes, and then we left. I don’t remember the conversation in the car on the way home, but I felt really bad but relieved I didn’t have to go with the police.

We never really spoke of it again, but it was a lesson well learned. My days of shoplifting and thinking I could get away with it had begun and ended on the same day.

Philadelphia, PA – 1978

I was 16 years old and shooting pool in my basement with a few of my buddies one evening. I’m sure my buddy Michael Mitchell was there, but I can’t remember who else. Maybe my friend from school Hugh Deissinger. (Yea, we had a pool table) I remember by then, my dad was working at a bank at the shore now and only came home on the weekends. Life was good, and it was a typical Friday night. My dad was cool with us listening to our records on his stereo, and the sounds of Aerosmith, Boston, Kansas, Foreigner, The Cars, ELO, and Peter Frampton filled the air.

My pop had an old wooden desk in the corner where he used to write out the bills and do his thing. That desk and its contents were completely off-limits to us kids because it was all dad/work stuff inside. We had no business touching anything in that desk. I remember going over to it to look for a pen or pencil to write something down that we were talking about.

I pulled open one of the drawers and there was the little toy car from my childhood crimewave days. I pulled it out and held it in my hands for the first time since the night I stole it. Did I have a moment of nostalgic wonder? No, I felt only revulsion for the object because of what it represented.

I told my friends the whole story that I just told you, and they all laughed. I felt better about the whole thing. My dad had paid for it that night back in 1970 to make things right. He righted my wrong with Mister Grocers but never let me have the stolen toy as part of my punishment. I get that, and it was the right thing to do. I didn’t deserve the spoils of my wicked handiwork.

He later told me that when we pulled up to the convenience store that night to return the stolen property, the police cars were there by pure chance. Just a couple of Philly’s finest grabbing a donut and a cup of coffee on the night shift. But he never said anything about it to me to further drive home his point. You steal stuff, the cops can come and haul you off to jail.

Well played, dad. Well played.

But what became of the little toy car?

That night that I accidentally found it and told the guys about it, was to be its final appearance. I took it from its package and placed it on the pool table. We then proceeded to blast billiard balls into it until it was smashed to bits.

I never said anything else about it and my dad never asked. I’m sure by then he’d forgotten about the little car in the drawer, but I’m sure not the incident.

Don’t take things that don’t belong to you!

 

Thank you for reading my blog. Please read, like, comment, and most of all follow Phicklephilly. I publish every day.

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