As regular readers of this blog know, I’m a single co-parenting divorced Dad to three children, a 12yo girl, a 9yo boy and a 5yo girl. My ex and I are blessed to live within about a mile of each other and each of us has a place with sufficient room for all of the children to stay with either of us.
Linda has stayed in the house bought in 2002, almost seven years ago, when we came to Colorado, and I have the smaller place that we’ve had for about fifteen months, since we first separated.
That’s the back story.
Here’s the dilemma we face: while I think it’s pretty darn important for the children to feel that both houses are their homes and move smoothly from place to place, the fact is that each of them, in different ways, have made it pretty clear that the never ending transitions of our four-nights with Mom, three nights with Dad parenting schedule is driving them bonkers.
In fact, it’s more complicated than that because both Linda and I agree that our boy needs special solo time and special extra time with Dad, so he’s currently at three nights/week at my house, while the girls are scheduled for two nights/week, giving them a night off from his boyish chaos and him a solo “dude night”.
I expect that I don’t need to say this, but I adore my children and have a very good relationship with each of them. But I admit, single parent to three children at these very different developmental ages is a tough, tough task and it taxes all my patience and calm at times.
You can imagine, then, my emotions this evening when I had the following conversation with my son:
me: “So, what’s it like having two houses?”
he: “Well, it kinda drives me crazy, actually. I just want to be in one place.”
me: “I can understand that. Switching back and forth’s gotta suck.”
he: “Yeah, it sucks.”
me: “So which house feels more like home at this point?”
he: “I dunno… (pause while he thinks)… I think Mommy’s house, probably.”
me: “Yeah, that’s the house you’ve grown up in and that’s where all your friends are, huh?”
he: “Yeah, that’s it.”
me: “So what would it be like if you stayed one week at my place, one week at Momma’s, so you didn’t have to switch so often?”
he: “I dunno. What about me being at Mommy’s house and having special nights with you sometimes?”
me: “so you’d just live at Mommy’s house?”
me: “Hmmm… we could make that work, perhaps. I’ll talk with Mommy about it if that’s what you’re thinking would help you settle down more and be more happy.”
he: “Yeah, I’ve been saying that switching back and forth drives me crazy for months, but no-one listens to me.”
me: “That’s gotta be frustrating. I’ll talk with Mommy and we’ll make a decision about it and let you know.”
he: “Okay. Oh, and maybe I can just stay with you until we leave on vacation?”
(aside: Linda’s taking all three kids on a two week trip that’s been long planned, and they’re leaving in nine days)
me: “That could be cool. I’ll talk with Mommy about that too if you want.”
he: “Lemme think about it, ‘k?”
me: “You bet.”
It’s a very interesting situation because I can feel that the competitive part of me wants to insist on 50/50 custody and wants to insist that they just “get used to it”, but I’m also very aware that neither my 12yo or 9yo are very happy with the arrangement, and emotionally I’m also aware that if I were in their shoes, I’d want to be in the big house, the house I’d grown up in, the house with rabbits, guinea pigs, mice, and a big crazy dog, not to mention lots of other kids on the street to play with, rather than “the new place” where there’s considerably less space and none of their animals are around.
And therein lies my dilemma: will I have a gradually decaying relationship with my children if they live full time or just about full time with their Mom, my ex, and see me less frequently, perhaps not at all for a week at a time, and certainly only rarely share my space and life, or do I just need to relax and focus on their needs, trusting in our love and bond, and trusting that it’s just as likely in six months that any of them might want to live with me 90% of the time and just visit Mom on occasion?
Advice, suggestions, ideas? Thanks!