Posted in custody, distance parent, non-custodial mom, non-residential parent, parenting

Planning the Perfect Non-Custodial Parent and Child Reunion

November, 2019, Bergen County, NJ and August, 2020, Boston, MA.

Hello from New Jersey! I should be resting my eyes. I’ve been rolling since 2:30 or so a.m. this morning. Ok, 2:30 a.m. or so is when I gave up the ghost on trying to sleep, showered, walked the dog, unsuccessfully tried not to wake The Omen, and then got on the road.

…where, of course, even 2 hours before dawn, I hit traffic.

I love you Connecticut!

There are always, it seems, 1,000 things to do before a weekend with my son. Do I remember to do them over time starting the weekend before I’m scheduled to hit New Jersey? Heck no! I wait and scramble the 1 – 2 days before I reunite with Leading Man #1. I clean the house like my former, superlative ex-mother-in-Law, my current, Superlative current mother-in-Law, and my superlative mother were all coming to visit at once. I stock up on clothes in my son’s size. I make sure all his favorite foods are in the house.

Then I scrupulously plan out our time together to the last minute. I feel like I have to scram however many weeks I haven’t been around into however many days I will be. I have always done that. I have always felt that way.

I still do.

I know better. 

It’s not the perfection of the time we spend with our kids when we see them. It doesn’t really matter how scrupulously clean my house is, and, as I will learn 8 months now, my house is going to get cluttered and dusty no matter how scrupulously I clean. When you have what becomes 2 large dogs, 1 lumberjack, custom furniture building CPA husband, and a son who takes long walks, this dirt happens. Right now there is at least 1 dog in shed dog hair on my kitchen/living room floor. 

The Omen just swept last week.

Don’t go there. 

There is also the matter of work to consider. For some reason I cannot hit the road, even on a Saturday at 2:30 a.m., until I know each and every “I” is dotted and “T” is crossed in my professional life. How can I relax and enjoy this precious time with JR if I’m going to get interrupted by a sales team?

Actually, I can. The one thing I do well as a working mom is balance my career and my kid. One of my Canadian sales reps once called me as JR and I were crossing the threshold of Target at Palisades Mall in West Nyack, New York. I answered his question, carefully and precisely, got my then 10 year old son pizza at the Target snack bar, and together we made it to the movie we’d come to the mall to see with 15 minutes to spare. 

My point is, I get so wrapped up in making the time I spend with my son perfect for him in every way, I forget that perfect isn’t required here. A perfect parent is boring, or would be, if there were such a thing. Nor do I have to compensate for all of the time I missed between visits with my son. I am there, annoyingly if you ask him, on FaceTime and the phone twice a day. I don’t miss much of his life. What I do miss, I always catch up on quick.

The perfect moment doesn’t exist. The perfect time doesn’t need to be had. The best times aren’t perfect. Witness this moment, 8 months later, back home in Boston. My son is here, there really is the equivalent of an entire dog in dog hair on my open floor plan downstairs floor, and there are video games, and video game systems, everywhere. Also, The Omen is systematically tracking dirt in from the wooded area of our property where he is building a shed.

My son doesn’t mind this. He just came in from a long walk, and is singing along to what sounds like death metal music as he preheats the oven for dinner.

All of us non-custodial parents need to worry less about being perfect, or carefully planning perfect moments with our kids. Our kids are happy just being with us.

Yeah, I know. Maybe someday I’ll convince myself of that, too.

Posted in autism, custody, distance parent, non-custodial mom, parenting

Reflecting on the End of the Pandemic…

Ok, I’m a realist, so not the end of the pandemic, but at least a lull long enough for me to see my son in person again.

Yes, I will settle for just a temporary lull in New Jersey COVID-19 new case rate

I’ve missed seeing Leading Man #1 in person, hanging out with him, having an excuse to stop working and play BioShock on my dusty PS4, and having someone to visit museums with. Yet, despite not being able to see JR in person, I did, through this COVID-19 enforced separation, see him every day. The Pandemic Mess’ Zoom Schooling Phenomenon allowed me to buzz into JR’s classes for an hour every day.

I think it may annoy the frack out of Leading Man #1 that I did that…

I don’t mind if he’s annoyed. Dropping into those Zoom Classes every day taught me a few things about how my son functions on the autistic spectrum, how he functions without me, and how much like me JR actually is. We have the same expression, right down to hand in chin placement, when we’re thoughtful.

I’ve also learned how smart my son actually is. I have witnessed him seamlessly calculate 18 x 4 in his head in practically seconds. I’ve heard him answer comprehension questions that left me baffled. I even learned to budget more effectively thanks to his classroom teacher.

I’m a long distance parent, but I’ve learned that I am no less a parent for the long distance between Leading Man #1 and I. TheEx works for a lab testing company, therefore I was the one, most of the time, making sure JR was “in class” (and reprimanding him to get in class when he wasn’t).

The pandemic also forced me to come off the road for an extended length of time. With multiple state quarantines and travel restrictions keeping me at home, I was finally able to learn what living in my house, with my husband, is like. Fun fact: I have a rhododendron that blooms purple in my front yard. Equally impressive: I can survive my husband (a CPA and Tax Director for a MetroWest Public Accounting Firm) working from home during tax season. Ok, that might be because he also cooks fantastic dinners every night.

Finally, the pandemic taught me to think first, and stress out later. Just because we’ve been divorced for 15 years and I have accepted that as non-residential custodian/guardian means I have very little say or insight into the day to day decisions made about my son does not mean I’ve stopped fighting for my son. It just means I’ve gotten choosier about my battles. I think my combat strategy through more carefully BEFORE I act. Some things – visitation when a pandemic is spreading like wildfire – aren’t worth arguing over…or getting stressed out about.

I have never liked being a long distance parent. I have never liked being a non-custodial one. Now, though, I’m a little more at ease with the situation, and a little better at co-parenting.

Not nearly enough, but something…