When my ex-wife and I first split, we shared joint custody; an even 50-50 split. Five months later, she relocated to the East coast for work and I became a full-time single parent.
Our divorce decree required me to provide technological correspondence. 7:30. A.M. and 7:30 P.M. That’s when the phone rang. Like clockwork: Code Orange. Mama was calling to wish her son a great morning and later to check in on his day’s events. Facetime became our primary means of communication.
At first the interruptions seemed overbearing and intrusive. The iPad was prepped and there she was in our home, in living color. Every. Single. Night. Trying to heal from divorce while e-habitating was difficult. I was resentful of the daily check-ins. It was as if she was on a work trip and would be walking through the door any second now. The worst part was the loving conversations; cheerful, consistent and positive in ways our marriage hadn’t known in years.
My son was nearly six and getting him to engage after a full day of school and aftercare was sometimes challenging. His mom wanted to be part of his daily routine but it was too late for him to focus on homework. He wanted to play and I was usually called in to act as part of the performance. I didn’t want to take part in the theatrics. As far as I was concerned, the play was a tragedy. Romeo and Juliet were dead.
To avoid the drama, I decided to have his bath ready so he would have a task and some modicum of privacy in a 1,200 square foot bungalow. Alone time was important to his mother and enabled me to shut the door and go about my evening chores. If only for ten minutes, it was a welcome reprieve.
Flash forward four years and things are very different. Some nights they talk for an hour. Some rainy day weekends she watches a movie with him. Now they read together, dance, and talk about school, work, politics, bullies, summer plans and dream vacations. Depending on our schedule, sleepover nights are missed and the check-ins, while routine, are more flexible than they first were.
Children of divorce share their stories and there’s a hierarchy of hurt among them. As my son recently pointed out to a friend: “In some places kids like us have to be soldiers and kill people. Other kids don’t get to see their parent ever because they died. Some kids are orphans and some kids have a lot but their parents don’t like each other very much. Then there’s divorced kids like us. And some kids don’t have Xboxes.”
Just like the kids, single parents have a hierarchy as well. Some parents are gone. Some require supervised visitation. Others bail on their kids during their custodial weekends. From my experience, most parents wish they could see their children more often. With today’s technology, there is no excuse for a parent to be absent from a child’s life. No matter how uncomfortable for the custodial parent, children need contact with both of their parents as often as possible.
What I initially viewed as obtrusive, I now see as a blessing. While he misses his mom, he is able to maintain a connection with her and doesn’t view her as an absent parent. While he occasionally doesn’t feel like talking, I know that their communication is paramount to our collective emotional health. It has helped us all come to terms with our “new family”. My son occasionally will connect with his grandmother and cousins. All things being relative, relatives matter. Technology is a wonderful gift.
Editor’s Note: The following article was written by Dave Heiges. Here’s a link to the original article http://www.huffingtonpost.com/dave-heiges/parenting-by-remote_b_9405132.html
Also see http://www.huffingtonpost.com/dave-heiges/lessons-about-divorce_b_6000432.html for Dave’s article on Lessons About Divorce