Adjustment Period

I haven’t posted here in awhile. Truth be told, I view this site (and accompanying Facebook page) as an uplifting support system, ripe with extremely valuable insight and optimistic outlooks and advice on how best to make the most of a very trying situation. I love how all involved help to lift each other up, give advice and share their own stories. It’s a virtual home of hope and support, all in such a wonderful vein of positivity.

I guess lately, I’ve felt that I can’t add too much of that hopeful outlook, as I’ve been struggling as my little girl has started Kindergarten, and that changed the dynamic quite a bit for me. I still try to call her every single day (my work Outlook Calendar is still blocked for 30 minutes every afternoon for the task). But more and more phone calls go unanswered. More and more text messages go unreturned. Each unreciprocated attempt feels like another kick in the gut, to the point where I have come to not expect a connection, but rather that vacant sound of the generic voicemail voice, prompting me, yet again, to leave a message a message that I’ll inevitably wonder if my little girl ever heard, or paid too much attention to, in light of all else that is going on in her life; a life that I feel more and more distanced from.

I don’t want to paint a portrait of desperation or despair. As mentioned, I’ve come to readjust my expectations a bit, and I’m extremely thankful for the times that we do get to connect, even if the conversation consists of my trying to satisfy a week’s worth of curiosity about her comings-and-goings into a 5-10 minute chat. Before the school year started, I proactively reached out to my little girl’s new teacher via email, to explain our situation and my desire to be as big a part of her education as I can be from 1,500 miles away. In turn, I was added to the teacher’s class email distribution, so I am made aware regularly of all of the activities, field trips and other special events associated with my daughter’s time at school activities that I otherwise probably wouldn’t know about. Given the infrequency of our chats, I’ve started making notes and lists of all of the things that I want to remember to discuss with her the next time we talk, including all of these things. It’s my way of trying to stay organized and to remember these things when we do eventually touch base, but at the same time it feels as if I have to formalize something that should come so informally and organically.

Growing up, I was one of those few who enjoyed school and all that it did to keep me occupied, challenged and even entertained. I certainly understand and appreciate school days, after school care and compressed periods of time at home in the evenings – to cram in dinner, play, and a bath before heading to bed to do it all over again – creates a busy, hectic life, especially for a 5 year old little girl. I can understand that talking on the phone to explain all of the exciting activities in her life is much further down on her list of priorities than on my own. She’s certainly not one who dwells on the past, and she lives for the moment. I appreciate the fact that two time zones, extracurricular activities and all else that we both have going on at all times inhibits and complicates our ability to be in regular contact. But at the same time, understanding and appreciating these things does not make it any easier. I hear the joy and excitement in her voice when we do speak. I hear an enthusiasm for school that any father would be very proud of. Mostly, I hear the maturity and development in my little girl that formal education is designed to foster; maturity and development that I both love and hate at the same time. I couldn’t be happier that she’s adjusted to school and doing so well. At the same time, I loathe that I’m not more a part of it all. I long for time with my little girl, who’s just not so little anymore, and I hate that she never will be again.

Anyway, I realize that this is a time of adjustment for us both. I anxiously look forward to her visiting over both the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays. Of course the school year now makes it a bit trickier in planning these visits, as my available time with her is now predetermined and her school obligations must be considered. But I suppose it’s an adjustment that I’ll need to figure out, since it’s my reality for the foreseeable future.

While I look forward to seeing her in person, I’ll continue to block my schedule for 30 minutes every day to make those phone calls, even if I only wind up using the 30 or so seconds it takes to hear 4 rings before that impersonal voicemail greeting and the impending feeling of emptiness of another day without hearing my daughter’s voice that can change my entire disposition and put a little extra skip in my step. Many days, my entire mood is dictated by how long it’s been since I’ve spoken to my little girl.
To ease the difficulty, I signed up for an email account, in her name, to which I’ll occasionally send a brief message simply telling her I miss her, I love her, or whatever else I haven’t been able to tell her directly, recently. At this point, it’s nothing more than a repository to store notes of my thoughts of her, stories of my day and other rather innocuous and usually mundane views. Maybe one day, several years from now, I’ll give her the log-in information for the email account. Or maybe I won’t. The reality is it doesn’t really matter. Either way, it’s been a therapeutic way for me to feel a bit of a connection to her when I’m missing her so much. I might not be able to be there for the field trips to the pumpkin patch or for her weekly gymnastics class, but that doesn’t mean I don’t think of her every single day.

So, knowing it’s not a real ‘silver lining’ aggregation of words, I post this with hesitation. But my sincere hope is that anyone reading it can find the positive aspects of this transition, or better yet, feel a deeper sense of appreciation for those moments that they do get, whether via phone, Skype, or in person. Being a long distance parent isn’t easy, by any stretch of the imagination, but that doesn’t mean that we can draw on one another’s insight to remain strong and make the best life that we can for ourselves and our children. I’m quite thrilled and blessed to have this outlet.

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matthew

Matthew recently began his long distance parenting arrangement with his four year old daughter after relocating to the Los Angeles area earlier this year. He is learning to navigate the emotional difficulties and challenges in trying to maintain a relationship and stay involved with such a young daughter, while embarking upon a whole new life out West.
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