In a few days, I will walk my son down to the American Airlines gate and say goodbye to him for the summer. The time has come for his annual, eight-week summer visitation with my ex.
For nearly five years, I have traveled with him each time he flew, but this year he will fly alone at his request. The airline charges an additional $300 round trip to accommodate him, and he will have someone with him at all times while negotiating the gate changes. But it is a milestone nonetheless.
I have a love/hate relationship with this particular visit to see his mom.
I love the opportunity to catch my breath, to do a little less laundry, to read a little more, and to catch up with some friends I do not often see.
I hate not having him near, not playing with him, not tucking him into bed, not hanging out with my son for two months.
I know he wants and needs time with his mom, and understand how critically important it is for him to connect with maternal grandparents and relatives beyond phone calls or FaceTime sessions.
I know I will soon be the one on the other end of the phone or iPad for those brief moments to talk and tell each other what we have been doing during the summer.
I know how quickly eight weeks can fly by, but also know how long the walk will be from the American Airlines gate to my truck in the garage. I know I will cry.
You may face a similar circumstance this summer or at some point – a time when you have to say goodbye to your kids so they can be with your ex or with her family.
During these times, consider the following:
Your kids did not choose this separation from their mom and they long for that connection. Do not let those natural feelings they may share with you intimidate or make you feel like less of a father.
Allow your kids to be with their mom without guilt. If we try to manipulate our kids so they will want to be with us instead of mom, it will backfire. Again, I do not have a double-blind placebo study to back up that statement, but common sense tells me it is true.
Ask your kids how you should communicate with them while they are away. I have made it a practice to ask my son how often he would like me to call or FaceTime. In the past, I have smothered him, but learned over time the value of finding a balance with him. Each child will have different communication needs, so let them tell you what they desire and find a balance.
When you walk by their empty bedrooms, express gratitude for being a dad. When your kids return home, your grateful attitude will help ease their potentially rocky transition.
I can’t wait for you to come back home, son.
How do you prepare for an extended time away from your kids? How do you prepare them for an extended time away?