When I was growing up, the standard visitation schedule after a divorce was for the mom to have full custody and see the dad every other weekend. I cannot express to you how foreign that felt to me.
Transitioning from having my dad home every night, other than when he worked nights, to now every other weekend was tough. Before the divorce when he worked the night shift, we spoke to him in the evenings. I remember thinking, “Would I still speak to him every night? Was I able to see him in between visits? That seems long.” Long it was.
I would get excited to see my dad when it was his weekend. I’d pack my clothes and things for the weekend and wait for him to pick us up.
It just felt odd some weekends, though.
He didn’t seem as upbeat as he used to be. We had a camp on the river. I have vivid memories of time spent with my mom, dad, and others at our camp. On many Friday afternoons, as soon as we arrived, we jumped out of my dad’s blue and silver truck with our golden retriever, Wendy, and hit the water! My brother would wear his swim trunks and my sister and I would wear our swimsuits, so as soon as we got there, time was not wasted changing clothes.
I am reminded of those times when I see commercials (sometimes in slow motion) and the kids and families are laughing with the sun coming in behind them, and they jump into the water from the dock and the dog jumps in, too. You know the commercials. And to think, that’s really how I felt at the time; like a staged commercial that appears to be a perfect sunny day with nothing but adventure ahead! My dad built a diving board from the bank in front of our camp, which was super cool. We would run as fast as we could and jump as far out into the water as possible! We had so much fun, and I would wonder if other families “had it this good.”
After the divorce, our camp changed to my dad’s home. Going to the camp was not the same anymore. It seemed so serious now. It felt like we were not connected. Sometimes we would go longer in between visits if he had to work. Then the number of visits became less and less. If one of us children had plans, he wouldn’t come to pick up the other two.
The Day my Dad Quit
Scott remembers Dad calling and telling him that he wasn’t picking him up since my sister and I was not going. This has now been designated as the day my dad quit. The day he gave up. The day he no longer fought for us to spend time with him.
That is how Scott felt. He loved seeing my dad and going to the camp. He loved to fish, run trout lines, and go frogging. He didn’t care if Tricia and I weren’t there. He wanted to spend time with our dad.
Visitation Routines Change as Children Get Older
As children get older, especially teenagers, their social lives take off like a rocket. In middle school, there are football games on Thursday nights. In high school, it is “Friday Night Lights” baby. Mix in all of the practices and schoolwork and the schedules become busy. So for us, every other weekend became every two, three, or more. It then dwindled down to every now and then plus birthdays and holidays.
I don’t remember talking on the phone often with my dad in between visits. That was long before there were cell phones, so the calls would need to be made once he got home via a landline or from work. There wasn’t FaceTime so a lot of times I wouldn’t see his face until his weekend came. The switch from seeing my dad all of the time to every now and then was rigid. There is no other word for it. There was a void and the bond diminished over time. My heart continued to break.
When we got together, all three of us would talk, talk, and talk, as we were trying to catch him up on everything going on in our lives since the last time we spoke to him or saw him. It seemed like a lot of energy was spent catching him up rather than true family time like we had before the divorce. Each one of us was always trying to get a word in.
As time went on it felt like I didn’t matter anymore.
Stay connected with your children. Call them as often as possible, even if it’s just to say, “Hi, I love you! How was your day? Good night and sweet dreams!”
It’s your Responsibility to Fight for Your Children’s Time
Parents, it is your responsibility to stay connected. Please do not let yourself get so down, that you begin blaming your children for not calling or reaching out. Do not take the easy way out based on inconvenience and choose not to see your children. Do not allow yourself to believe that your children do not want to hear from you or see you.
Children are going to be aggravated with you at times, not like you sometimes, think you are too hard, think you are dumb and much more. This will happen regardless of whether you are married or divorced. Do not allow yourself to think that they feel that way because of the divorce. They feel that way because they are children.
Do not give up and throw in the towel because of their social lives, inconveniences, and teenage hormones. It would mean the world to a child to receive a phone call every day, or every other day, saying the simplest things; a five minute call.
With today’s technology, there really is no excuse a parent can give that would justify not contacting their children in between their visits. I am also very thrilled that the visitation schedules are much different from when I was a child. The frequency and duration of the visits have increased. There are several people I know that have 50/50 custody. That is wonderful!
About Please Don’t Divorce Me
Vickie Hall’s Please Don’t Divorce Me is candidly written as a timeless parent’s guide from a child’s perspective aiming at fostering a healthy transition and minimizing hurt for what is already a difficult time in a child’s life. Please don’t divorce your children. You may purchase her book at Amazon.com.