How I Parent: A Father of Two Who Believes Divorce Can Be a Positive Experience
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Name: Steve Kane
Location: Boston, Massachusetts
Occupation: Serial tech entrepreneur, author of F*** It. Get A Divorce: The Guide for Optimists and founder & C.E.O. of gethappy.life.
Family situation: Divorced and co-parenting two sons with my ex-wife: Sam, 20, and Jack, 17.
Parenting “philosophy” in a sentence: Stay tough on the outside but be soft on the inside.
What was your journey to having the family life you have today?
I’m 56 and have been divorced for about four years. I have two sons: Sam, who is in college, and Jack, who is a junior in high school. I was married for about 20 years and had a good relationship with my ex-wife. I will always think of marriage and having kids as the highlight of my life … my marriage was an incredibly positive experience that just didn’t last forever [and] my ex and I were both ready to move on.
My kids have experienced living in a household with married parents and now, they’re living in households where we co-parent. Since my oldest is in college, he hasn’t really had to deal with anything that different but my youngest has had to adapt to the new living arrangement; we have joint custody so he splits his time between his mom’s house and mine. His mom and I always try to be transparent with our decisions and we always try to keep things amicable.
I’m also happy to share that I have, what I call a “VSO”: a very significant other. Her name is Kiva and she’s also divorced with children; they’re a little younger and we don’t all live together. We’re not like a Brady Bunch-type situation, but we’re all in each other’s lives. She’s been divorced for a few years and I kind of participate, albeit from a distance, in her co-parenting as well. Our kids know each other but they don’t all live in the same place or go to the same school. The whole family situation has worked out pretty well, but nothing’s perfect and we’re all doing the best we can.
I gathered all my experiences and wrote a book called F*** It. Get A Divorce: The Guide for Optimists. The two major messages I decided to focus on are: learning to make a positive change to create a fresh start for yourself and your family and ditching the idea that divorce means failure. I try to show people that divorce doesn’t have to mean war. I’m not saying it’s going to be easy and people won’t feel hurt, but if you start your new journey with the mindset that you’re doing this for the right reasons and the betterment of your family, then you should not feel guilty about pursuing what is going to make you happy.
To be clear, I’m not recommending that people give up on their marriages. Marriage takes work and there’s no such thing as a perfect union so you need to give it your all, but if you get to the point where you think it’s over, it probably is. Do yourself and everybody else, especially your children, a huge favor and approach the whole process with a positive mind. Then, it won’t feel like a destruction of a family but more so a reorganization. Divorce doesn’t have to be a terrible experience if you approach it in a healthy way.
How did your upbringing influence your parenting style?
My mother’s still with us but my father passed away a number of years ago, and now that I’m the father of teenagers, I often find myself apologizing to my late father. My parents were both tough on the outside but soft on the inside consistently throughout my entire life. We had challenging moments, but I always felt my parents were clear and I knew where they were coming from. I knew what they were thinking and feeling because they would tell me. There was no subject that I couldn’t talk to them about, even if it was painful or difficult. There were some occasions where my father would go nuclear because he was really upset, but I preferred their transparency because I always knew where I stood and I carried what I learned from them into my own life as I got older. I also had a very physical relationship with my parents. We always hugged and kissed so I try to do that with my children. In a nutshell, I do think the family I grew up in has been, I’m happy to say, a great model for me.
What’s your favorite thing about parenting?
There’s something incredibly rewarding about parenting younger children because they’re sweet, innocent and kind of silly and just when you think you have no more room in your heart for anything, all of a sudden you realize your heart is 10 times bigger than you ever thought. You have all this love and desire to do the right thing for your kids. You’re constantly discovering this capacity for love and life.
When my boys were younger, my single favorite thing was falling in love with them over and over again. Now that they’re adults, I would like them to be my best friends as we go through life. I certainly felt like my father was one of my best friends. It’s one of the most rewarding things for me to be able to interact with them and collaborate with them as peers. Yes, I’m still the father and they’re still my children but I don’t pull rank. Being able to make life decisions about our family and what we do and how we act as peers is incredibly rewarding. It’s something I really value.
What’s the hardest part?
One of the most difficult things for any parent is trying to compete with everything and everyone outside of the family — whether it’s stuff they see on social media or other people in their lives. My kids’ experience of the world is kind of infinite. They can use the Internet and social media to experience the world in a way that previous generations couldn’t, so it can feel as though you’re constantly swimming upstream. Never try to convince a young son that the world they’re experiencing through social media is not the real world! But in all seriousness, that’s a huge challenge for all parents today and I definitely struggle with it.
What’s your trick for achieving balance when things get crazy?
Most of my career I’ve been involved with tech start-ups so when the kids were much younger, I struggled to make time for them. My ex was very supportive of what I was doing and very willing to fill in the gaps so when I had the time, I tried to make it meaningful and worthwhile. Now, I have the opposite problem. I would give anything to spend quality time with my kids.
As far as my current situation, I share an online calendar with my ex that has my sons’ stuff on it, and Kiva and I spend a lot of time checking in with each other regarding our kids’ schedules. I know I just spoke about how the Internet can be very frustrating as a parent but now I’m about to say that I don’t think any parent could live without digital calendars. I don’t think our crazy, busy lives could remain intact if we didn’t have a bunch of calendar reminders keeping us on schedule.
What’s the best advice you can share with new parents?
Enjoy it while it lasts. A lot of people tend to get very understandably overwhelmed in the beginning but I would remind new parents to also slow down and enjoy the journey.
The pediatrician that I took the kids to had this incredibly hands-off approach, which freaked us out at first. We’d bring in our little baby and the pediatrician would look at him and say, “He’s fine, get out of here.” I would nervously ask, “What do you mean? What about this, what about that?” but he would reassure us that our baby was fine. In the end, we loved this man. He became our hero because he showed us that we didn’t have to live in a state of panic. I learned to enjoy the fact that I had healthy, happy kids and that was enough for me.
What would you want your kids to say about you as a parent?
I would hope that they would say that I was a good parent and a great friend. I think about that old cliché, “You don’t know who your friends are until you’re in a foxhole.” I would hope that my kids would say that I would be somebody they would really want in a foxhole with them.