It’s Clothing Time

As I mention in the “My Alternate Weekend” post, for now I’m required to bring the children to my parents when I have them for the Jewish weekly holiday. When we go to my parents, we usually stay in my youngest brother’s room. Because he’s twelve and because at one point his room was the storage location for unneeded clothing, his room is a mess.
(When we go over, I spend at least 30 minutes cleaning it up, but it really requires a complete overhaul and about 4-6 hours of focused cleaning.)
My son has a tendency to remove his clothing at odd intervals. Since, all the children are frantic and seemingly in perpetual motion, it can be difficult to keep track of where he took off what and, therefore, where it is.
Early on I feared that there could be negative consequences to returning the children in dirty clothes and to losing the clothes they arrived in. To prevent either of those possibilities, I implemented a complete wardrobe change the moment they walked into my parent’s home. They would arrive in the clothes their mother dressed them in. Immediately, upon entering my parent’s home, they would be stripped and re-dressed in clothing I got for them. I would store all the outfits they arrived with in a shopping bag. Anything dirty, I would wash.
When it was time for them to return to their mother, I’d remove their weekend clothing and reacquaint their bodies with the clothing with which they arrived. This, at least, was the theory. In actuality, something always got lost.
It got even more complicated when they started bringing clothes from their mother to wear over the weekly holiday. The amount of clothing to keep track of not only doubled, but the interval of them being “exposed” to loss increased exponentially.
Each weekend that I’d have them I’d worry about losing clothing. When I’d return them, something would always be missing. My soon to be ex-wife would complain about the missing item. I’d call my siblings, ask them to search for the item and put it aside for me. Most of the time, the item was found and returned. Sometimes, the item could not be retrieved.

I would spend so much time worrying about the clothing situation that it affected my ability to enjoy the time with my children.
The last time I had the children, I was successful at returning every article of clothing. However, I hadn’t even gotten home when she called to complain that top to a medicine crusher was missing.

This weekend, she requested that I mind them an extra 2.5 hours, because she wouldn’t be home until later. I agreed. About 3 hours before I was supposed to return them to their mother, I saw that my son’s pants were missing. I asked my siblings to do a quick search through my parent’s home, but it yielded no results.

When I returned the children, she was understandably upset. I tried to explain the situation, but she insisted that when she has him at her place, he’s a total angel. She threatened to write up a list of items that have gone missing and press for me to pay restitution for each of them.

I walked away without responding. I understand her frustration with clothing being lost. I share it. I know if i had them at my apartment, no clothing would go missing. However, even without excuses, shouldn’t I get some credit for taking care of them for longer than initially planned? Oh well, people generally don’t change.

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3 Responses to “It’s Clothing Time”

  1. s(b.) Says:

    Hey. Was raised MO (w/my dad) on Wed. nights, every other weekend and during the month of July (“traditional” w/my mom). I went to shul (local shtiebl) with pants on under my skirt on shabbos plenty of times because I forgot to pack tights (or my mom forgot, or my dad didn’t have any for me). It happens.

    Is the stipulation that you spend shabbos at your parents’ house written into your divorce agreement? (no need to answer if too personal or you don’t feel like it; just curious.) I remember getting hand-me-downs from a female (older) cousin, and those clothes were clothes that stayed at my dad’s.

    I don’t know if it’s possible, but it might simplify things/result in less stress for both you and their mom if you have (say) three shabbos outfits per child that are dedicated as for abba’s/tatty’s/daddy’s house, and let them be your responsibility. Yeah, it’s more clothes to iron, but if something gets lost, it won’t be her problem, she can’t ask you for money for cover them if they get lost and it’s less for her to pack (if they’re too young to pack their own bags).

    Something I recently realized is that I will keep better track of my socks if I throw them in a mesh zippered bag. It’s still in the theory phase, but I think it will work. Children’s socks and undergarments are small and tend to be eaten by washing machines like that, so that may be an effective way to help track them between wearings.

    If there are many kids at your parents’ house of the same age/size as your children, marking his clothes (on a part that is not seen when the garment is on) with a fabric marker with his initial may help identify his trail of clothes better. You may want to run that idea by their mom, first (if she tends to get upset about little things).

    The reward (credit) for taking care of your kids longer than initially planned (or any other time) will come from them when they’re older and they remember that their father spent time with them. My dad was single until I was 13. He is 60something, now, and he says he spent more time with me when I was little than he got to with my (half-)sibling that he and my (very wonderful) stepmother had. Mostly because as married-to-each-other parents, he worked more and didn’t have that custody agreement-promoted consistent time with him/her that he and I shared. And the time we shared was one of the greatest positives of my childhood. You can buy a nice house or fancy clothes with money from working a lot, but money can’t buy time spent well with one’s children.

    My parents didn’t live near each other (sometimes as far as 1.5 hours apart by car), so we usually did it every other holiday (rather than share them), for the whole holiday, and if it was something my father was doing more to celebrate (like Purim, Tu B’Shvat, etc.), my mom was fine with me spending it with him (she was sick a lot, back then). Chagim like Pesach were definitely every other year. Chanukah was shared (yay, plenty of days — very nice when you have more than one family!).

    My beliefs and observance are definitely not always in line with MOJ, but I still go help him build the sukkah every year. It’s fun, and something that we do. If you’re not into having a sukkah for you, if their mom isn’t remarried and she is amenable, it may be nice to build a sukkah for your kids at their mom’s house.

    My parents didn’t stay friends, but they worked very well together as co-parents in my best interests. My stepmother is a wonderful woman and on rare occasions when interaction is called for, she and my mom get along. Perhaps some people are just meant to make children together, but not to be married to each other. Who knows? My parents did and continue to do their best. I couldn’t ask for more.

    My father was recently honored for his professional accomplishments. A ads saying mazal tov is great tzedakah, but he’ll be the first to tell you the best things he has done with his life is spend time with his children. He would drive two hours on Wednesday nights to spend two hours with me and drive 1.5 hours home, like clockwork (and I would do the same for anyone in his house, in a heartbeat, if that were asked of me). If I tried to give him an award for doing so (and I have), he’d say that’s being a parent, which is in and of itself a reward.

    As far as their mom goes, I don’t know her, but I know that you need to get your cookies (so to speak) from what you do and how you do it, not from wanting anyone else to notice or appreciate your efforts (nice when they do, but having expectations of that can be a recipe for disappointment).

    I realize I’ve written a short novel. I didn’t see an email address for you. Feel free not to leave this posted on your blog. Please don’t think anything I wrote is me telling you what to do or how to do it; I don’t mean it that way, even if it comes out reading like it does.

    be well! may your cookies be many and your children be the best cookies of all.

  2. alarbean Says:

    Thank you for your thoughtful and insightful comment.

    The divorce agreement contains all kinds of language specifying religious observance when I interact with the children. As a result, starting in March, I will be “allowed” to have them at my own place. Prior to the agreement, she refused to allow me to have the children at my place over a religious holiday. While I was confident that if she followed through on such a threat, she would be defeated in court, I didn’t think that route was in the best interest of the children.

    I have clothing for the children to wear. Both at my parent’s place and at mine. Their are still two issues. One, they arrive wearing clothing and they have to return wearing the same clothing. Two, my oldest daughter likes to bring her “own” shabbos clothing. If it makes her feel more comfortable, I can’t complain.
    They usually travel very light. So, I guess, for the most part, we are in compliance with your suggestions.

    The mesh zippered bag is a good idea. I currently use shopping or cloth bags. A zippered bag would probably help.

    My feeling about parental time is to be available for them. Not for me, for them. I think it’s healthier for children to spend time with both of their parents.

    I don’t expect a pat on the pat for spending “extra” time with my children.

    Your dad sounds like a great guy.

    I don’t expect a reward or credit from anyone for spending time or “extra” time with the children.

    Our agreement is very specific about where the children spend each holiday. I don’t really care to spend holidays with the children (over a random Wednesday), but, since it gives the children access to their father, I support it. (Actually, a random Wednesday would be easier for my constitution, because under the agreement I’m required to pretend to be religious in front of them. (The Judicial System stinks!)

    I didn’t expect her to recognize I did something helpful. I didn’t get that in seven years of living together, I don’t really expect it now.

    I agree about that expectations, in general, are a recipe for disaster.

    You are right in pointing out that I need to add a contact page. 🙂
    Thanks for writing!

  3. alarbean Says:

    Thanks for the zippered bag suggestion!
    It worked this weekend.

    (Sadly, she sent my oldest with shabbos clothing that i was unaware of. When I dropped them off, proud that for once we lost nothing, she asked about the shabbos clothing. BOOM! Another strike-out for me!)

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