Need Christmas and Extended Family

The other day I got a very short email, simply:

Any ideas for you and Allie for Christmas?  What’s she into?  Love, Mom

I closed out of the innocuous and harmless request for ideas and started to feel a little choked up and sad.  Truth be told, I guess I  kind of know what Allie is into.  I mean, Barbies and princesses and all of the other stuff that 4 year old girls play with, right? I guess I had a moment (okay, maybe more than just a moment) of feeling like a pretty lousy dad.  When it comes down to it, I guess I don’t really know what it is that my daughter is really into right now.  Humbly, I fired off a text message to her mother to ask for a few ideas.  Needless to say, I was pretty in the dark about some of the stuff that came back (really, a drum set??).

In the few conversations that I get with my daughter we talk about school, about playing with her friends, what she’s up to at that given moment, and about how much we love and miss each other.  I guess it never really dawned on me to ask her what she’s playing with, what she watches on TV or what books she reads.  I know that the last time I saw her, over the summer on our vacation, she just wanted to swim and read books.  But she’s growing so fast, it’s tough to keep up.  It’s so hard to know everything about her development and growth from 1,500 miles away.

I also struggle with trying to figure out how to best facilitate my daughter’s relationship with my Mom, her grandmother.  I know that my Mom misses her so much, just like I do.  She lives on the complete opposite side of the country, with my daughter probably about smack dab in between us, geographically.  It gets difficult just to coordinate frequent visits with just my daughter, but to incorporate my Mom as well is extremely tough.  However, I am very anxiously awaiting my daughter’s next trip (her 2nd) to come visit me out West in November, when my Mom has graciously scheduled a trip of her own to help watch Allie on the days that I have to work.  I’m very thankful for the help, but more than anything, I’m just excited that my Mom can get that critical 1-on-1 time with her only granddaughter.  It should be fun.

I’d be curious if anyone has any ideas on how to best cultivate that grandmother/granddaughter relationship?  My Mom doesn’t have the greatest relationship with my ex, which makes it tough for her to directly manage contact with Allie.  Aside from the occasionally encouragement to Allie that she should call her grandmother, I don’t know what else I can do.  I don’t want either of them to feel like a stranger to one another.

At any rate, I’m planning on taking my daughter shopping for Christmas ideas when she comes to visit next month.  We’ll bring along her grandmother, and I’m sure we will come away with more than enough ideas.  It’s those simple moments that I cherish.  I’m sure I’ll have more than my fair share of “lousy dad” moments after I have to take her back home and feel so disconnected again, but for the 2 short weeks she’s out here, I’ll be on top of the world, sharing the best parts of all of my life with the most important people in it.  And that’s better than any Christmas idea I could give my Mom for me.


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.

This Post Has 6 Comments

  1. Liz

    Hello Again!

    Do you get your lil one for Christmas time? I am always interested in how others worked out custody agreements. We get to see our munchkin in just 9 short days and we can hardly wait, it is going to be a very exciting 8 day span.

    The best solution we have to the grandma/granddaughter thing was to set up a standard weekly time to skype or call. That way it keeps her in the loop without having to communicate too much with the mother, as it is just an expected thing. I think that grandparents play an important role and should be allowed involvement also.

    With that said, I hope you have a great visit with 2 very special ladies!

  2. matthew

    Hi Liz. So, my arrangement is one that I think is pretty agreeable to my wants/needs. We agreed that my daugther will wake up at her Mom’s house every year for Christmas, but I get to pick her up Christmas Day and keep her until New Year’s Day. This year we’re planning on having several family members come out and visit during the same time, as well, so it should be fun. I’ve kicked around the Skype idea, but I’d have to equip my daughter with the necessary tools to do it. I like the “regular/expected” timing thing, that might work. Already having a blast with the little one. Taking her into work today! Great hearing from you.

  3. Liz

    That is agreeable! I hope that her trip was fun. Where does her mom live? Does she start school next year?

    We pick up lil one tomorrow and I can hardly wait!!

  4. Marc S.

    Matthew-  I just shipped a drum set to my daughter.  Weird.  I struggle with all of these things including grandparent time.  Thanks for your story.

  5. Cris

    Hi Liz,

    My ex and I divide up Christmas into Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. I get my son from 5:00 on December 23rd to 8:00 p.m. on Christmas Eve. My ex gets him from 8:00 p.m. Christmas Eve and all of Christmas Day. December 23rd then becomes Christmas Eve. I meet up with my little guy at my folks’ house – I’m fortunate that they live near my son – and we crash there. All of the same traditions I had on Christmas Eve when I was married, I do on the 23rd. We leave cookies and milk out for Santa on the 23rd and on the morning of the 24th there are presents under the tree. All the stuff we would do on Christmas Day, we do on the day of Christmas Eve instead – right down to Mass and a big family dinner.

    My son has the same excitement about finding presents under the tree a day early and I get the added bonus of being able to rest on Christmas Day, LOL.

  6. Pedro

    I know with exactly how bad the weather is outdoors now I am
    not getting established on all plans such as this, sooner.

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