“She’s just 4 years old. Don’t take it personally.”
This is what I’m often reminded, by my girlfriend, my mom and even myself, at least a few times per week. And deep down, I know that they’re right. I shouldn’t take offense to the fact that my little princess doesn’t really like to talk on the phone, she really is just 4. I suppose it’s partly my fault for blocking my work calendar at 3:30 pm every day, to take the elevator downstairs and out front of my office building, to try to call her, knowing that this is the time of day that she should be riding home from daycare (she’s two time zones ahead of me), in the back of her mom’s car, presumably with nothing better to do than chat with me. You’d think sooner or later I’d realize that with a 1-out-of-5-or-so success rate of her actually answering the phone to take my call, that my expectations would be appropriately set and I’d call less frequently, or at least I’d wait for her to call me. But no, like a teenage boy with a high school crush, I make the trek down the elevator every single work day at the same time, only to find myself making a 180-degree turn right back up to the 6th floor, just a couple of minutes later, 80% of the time.
Such is the current state of my life as a long distance Daddy. I use the word “Daddy” since it’s the one word I love hearing come out of my little girl’s lips more than any other, even though as time goes on I hear more and more “Dad.” And I guess it’s those little things that eat at me more so than anything else. Just knowing that each and every day she’s growing up and I am relegated to hearing about it, or picking up on it contextually, rather than getting to be there to see it firsthand or to help her through her journey as she grows. This little girl who has always been the epitome of a Daddy’s Girl only checks in every so often. She used to think I hung the moon; some days now I wonder if she even remembers what I look like.
I’m very fortunate that her mother, my ex-wife, has come around to a point that two years ago I never dreamed possible. I don’t want to rehash, or even think about, the ugliness and sheer unadulterated hatred that we’ve had to overcome through the course of our divorce. Neither of us was especially adult about it all at the time and I’m sure we both regret how it all went down, I know I do. However, through it all, somehow we are now at least able to be amicable toward one another. I won’t pretend that there’s not still a part of me that thinks she should handle some things differently, but at least I know how my daughter is doing, what she’s up to, etc. via the occasional text message from my ex. It’s not ideal, and far short of how involved I’d like to be with my daughter, but it’s better than nothing.
I’ve only been 1500 miles away from my precious Allie for about 7 months. I’m still in the adaptation phase, trying to figure out how best to make it all work. I try not to take it personally that she doesn’t want to talk as often as I’d like to, and she’s still so young, so she doesn’t see beyond the inconvenience and boredom of sitting on the phone when there are a million other things she’d rather be doing. But I’d be lying if I said it didn’t wear me down and make me sad when a few days have gone by without me getting to hear that adorable little voice.
One thing I can’t argue though, is that now, I’m happy. Happier than I can ever remember being, in fact. Staying back in Allie’s hometown didn’t offer me that. Sure, planning flights for me to pick her up and take her home for her visits to my home on the West Coast is a bit more time consuming and much more costly than every other weekend visits, but I relish each and every single day, feeling like I’m no longer suffocated. As tough as it was to go, moving away was the best thing I could have done for all of us. Staying would have surely eaten away at me and made me into someone who I don’t know Allie could be proud of. As tough as the distance aspect is, life is better all in all. So, while I continue to try to figure out how best to say in my princess’s life, I’m sure I’ll continue to make that 6-floor trek virtually every work day.
It’s a process, I’m sure, and I’m doing the best I can. She’s just 4 years old. I’m trying not to take it personally.