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Co-parenting with an addict means I am basically raising my son alone

As his former spouse, I know that deep down in there somewhere is a man who wants to do well in the world. Someone who wants to be reconnected to his son, who yearns to prove to the world that he's capable. But as a mom, I put up giant barriers and protectors.

my co-parent is an addict

Sitting in court my heart pounds. It feels as though there's blood ringing in my ears and it is getting harder to breathe the longer I wait.

Waiting is the worst part.

It used to be waiting for my ex to come home drunk, praying the angels were watching over him and everyone on the road around him. It used to be waiting for an answer in court as we sorted through the another OUI (operating under the influence) charge and arrest for driving without a license. Waiting for recovery, waiting for a shift, waiting for our official divorce, waiting for child support, waiting for the ball to drop.

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Always, always waiting.

Today, I am waiting for a final judgment that never comes because my son's father doesn't show. I am told (again) it isn't fair that he isn't in court due to his incarceration. So I'm stuck waiting...

The title of this article implies that my son's father is a co-parent, but that isn't entirely true. He's supposed to be, but honestly, my son hasn't seen his father in almost a year. And he's only 3 years old.

The day-to-day life of potty training, doctor's appointments, playing, safety, education and love falls on me. I love my life with my little man and I wouldn't change a thing. To be able to raise him on my own (with help from everyone in our village), is the most satisfying thing in the world. I have moments when I make mistakes and many more moments when I know I'm on the exact right path.

Just last week he told me his stuffed puppy Biscuit said the word 'stupid-head' (thanks to Lilo & Stitch—oops!). At that moment, I had a number of choices. I decided to tell him the puppy needed a time-out. He placed Biscuit in the time out chair and proceeded to do EVERYTHING I do.

He told him that 'stupid head' was a naughty word and we only use kind words in our home. He told him he needed to say sorry and began to walk away. As he did, he said "Did you say you were sorry? It's okay, I love you so much." He let Biscuit out of time out and went about his morning.

I thought to myself: "I did that." That exact moment of modeling firm, yet loving behavior was an example of the work I've been doing for years.

It's one of the moments I'll hold onto when he's having a meltdown or in a rare moment when he asks if his daddy is going to come home and play with him.

Co-parenting with an addict is one of the most gut-wrenching things you can do. As his former spouse, I know that deep down in there somewhere is a man who wants to do well in the world. Someone who wants to be reconnected to his son, who yearns to prove to the world that he's capable. But as a mom, I put up giant barriers and protectors. I beg the court system to keep us as safe as they're legally able to, and I wait.

I am always waiting.

Many divorced couples use the term single parent and wear it bravely. While it may be true that they are single and a parent, they are often accompanied by a co-parent who is healthy enough to participate in their child's life. I use single and solo-mother interchangeably. Solo, to me, truly embraces where I am on this journey. I do a lot alone—the Biscuit time-out moments, the holiday planning, the threenager attitude navigation.

I always hope in the future my son will see his dad make it into recovery. Deep down I want them to eventually have a connection. Today I can't envision that future, but as with any aspect of having an addict in your life, the vision may change tomorrow or next week or five years from now.

Tonight, I'll go home to snuggle with my kiddo in our bedroom. I'll subconsciously wait for a ball to drop and hold my heart together as best I'm able to when the tears stream down my cheeks.

My supposed co-parent misses these moments. It's heartbreaking and yet also affords me the opportunity to never miss a single one.

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    Looking back now, last winter feels like a lifetime ago. At the time, my husband and I were eagerly planning our summer vacation just as we've done in years past. You know how the next part goes: COVID-19 came into the picture and changed our plans not only for vacationing, but for so much else in life.

    In the time since then, we've gained a truly valuable new perspective on what matters—and realized we don't have to look so far to make beautiful memories with our kids. By exploring getaways within driving distance of our home, we've developed a new appreciation for the ability to "pack up the car and go."

    Of course, that isn't to say that travel is the carefree adventure it once was. With COVID-19 still a very big part of the equation, we've become much more diligent about planning trips that allow for social distancing and exceed cleanliness standards. That's why we've exclusively turned to Vrbo, which helps us find nearby accommodations that meet our new criteria. Better yet?

    Thanks to the money we've saved by skipping air travel and our remote-friendly work schedules, we're able to continue with the trips throughout the fall.

    Here are a few more reasons we believe it's a great time for drivable getaways.

    Flexible schedules allow us to mix work + play.

    After months of lockdown, my family was definitely itching for a change of scenery as the summer began. By looking at drivable destinations with a fresh set of eyes—and some helpful accommodation-finding filters on Vrbo—we were able to find private houses that meet our needs. (Like comfortably fitting our family of five without anyone having to sleep on a pull-out couch!)

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    We’re embracing off-season deals.

    With Labor Day no longer marking the end of our vacationing season, we're able to take advantage of nearby getaways that mark down their rates during the off season. For us in the Mountain West, that means visiting ski-town destinations when the leaves are falling rather than the snow. By saving money on that front, we're able to splurge a bit with our accommodations—so you can bet I search for houses that include a private hot tub for soaking in while enjoying the mountain views!

    Vacationing is a way to give back.

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    Tips parents need to know about poor air quality and caring for kids with asthma

    There are steps parents can take to keep their children as healthy as possible.

    When wildfires struck the West Coast in September 2020, there was a lot for parents to worry about. For parents of children with asthma, though, the danger could be even greater. "There are more than 400 toxins that are present in wildfire smoke. That can activate the immune system in ways that aren't helpful by both causing an inflammatory response and distracting the immune system from fighting infection," says Amy Oro, MD, a pediatrician at Stanford Children's Health. "When smoke enters into the lungs, it causes irritation and muscle spasms of the smooth muscle that is around the small breathing tubes in the lungs. This can lead to difficulty with breathing and wheezing. It's really difficult on the lungs."

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    Minimize smoke exposure.

    Especially when the air quality index reaches dangerous levels, it's best to stay indoors as much as possible. You can find out your area's AQI at AirNow.gov. An under 50 rating is the safest, but between 100-150 is considered unhealthy for sensitive groups, such as children with asthma. "If you're being told to stay indoors, listen. If you can, keep the windows and doors closed," Oro says.

    Do your best to filter the air.

    According to Oro, a HEPA filter is your best bet to effectively clean pollutants from the air. Many homes are equipped with a built-in HEPA filter in their air conditioning systems, but you can also get a canister filter. Oro says her family (her husband and children all suffer from asthma) also made use of a hack from the New York Times and built their own filter by duct taping a HEPA furnace filter to the front of a box fan. "It was pretty disgusting what we accumulated in the first 20 hours in our fan," she says.

    Avoid letting your child play outside or overly exert themselves in open air.

    "Unfortunately, cloth masks don't do very much [to protect you from the smoke pollution]," Oro says. "You really need an N95 mask, and most of those have been allocated toward essential workers." To keep at-risk children safer, Oro recommends avoiding brisk exercise outdoors. Instead, set up an indoor obstacle course or challenge your family to jumping jacks periodically to keep everyone moving safely.

    Know the difference between smoke exposure and COVID-19.

    "COVID-19 can have a lot of the same symptoms—dry cough, sore throat, shortness of breath and chest pain could overlap. But what COVID and other viruses generally cause are fever, chills, vomiting, diarrhea and body aches. Those would tell you it's not just smoke exposure," Oro says. When a child has been exposed to smoke, they often complain of a "scrape" in their throat, burning eyes, cough, shortness of breath, chest pain or wheezing. If the child has asthma, parents should watch for a flare of symptoms, such as coughing, wheezing or a tight sensation in their chest.

    Unfortunately, not much is known about long-term exposure to wildfire smoke on a healthy or compromised immune system, but elevated levels of air pollution have been associated with increased COVID-19 rates. That's because whenever there's an issue with your immune system, it distracts your immune system from fighting infections and you have a harder time fighting off viruses. Limiting your exposure to wildfire smoke is your best bet to keep immune systems strong.

    Have a plan in place if you think your child is suffering from smoke exposure.

    Whatever type of medication your child takes for asthma, make sure you have it on-hand and that your child is keeping up with regular doses. Contact your child's pediatrician, especially if your area has a hazardous air quality—they may want to adjust your child's medication schedule or dosage to prevent an attack. Oro also recommends that, if your child has asthma, it might be helpful to have a stethoscope or even a pulse oximeter at home to help diagnose issues with your pediatrician through telehealth.

    Most importantly, don't panic.

    In some cases, social distancing and distance learning due to COVID may be helping to keep sensitive groups like children with asthma safer. Oro says wildfires in past years have generally resulted in more ER visits for children, but the most recent fires haven't seen the same results. "A lot of what we've seen is that the smoke really adversely affects adults, especially older adults over 65," Oro says. "Children tend to be really resilient."

    This article was sponsored by Stanford Children's Health. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

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    Mama, all I see is you

    A love letter from your baby.

    Mama,

    I can't see past you right now, I'm so small and everything's a little blurry.

    All I see is you.

    When you feel alone, like the walls are closing in, remember I'm here too. I know your world has changed and the days feel a little lonely. But they aren't lonely for me.

    You are my everything.

    When you feel like you don't know what you're doing, you're making it look easy to me. Even though we're still getting to know each other, you know me better than anyone.

    I trust you.

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