I remember summer vacation from when I was a kid and it was day after day of nothing structured, no trips, no significant plans, an endless expanse of bike rides, shooting hoops, playing baseball on the street, tennis against the garage door, hanging with friends and having summer adventures. I never made Super 8 movies (never thought of it!) but my friends and I definitely did crazy bike rides to the beach (a really, really long way), got deep into the CB radio craze and otherwise frittered away week after week of holidays.
I think that’s part of what summer vacation is all about, that endless hanging out with friends and finding things to fill the hours, stuff to do that kept us more or less out of trouble. Building deeper friendships and finding that life isn’t what you’re given, it’s what you make of what’s around you.
Today with the rise of “playdates” (rather than just “playing”), an almost infinite number of themed summer camps and the increase in travel, it seems like just as many kids are on the go for most of the summer, something that I think is potentially a problem for their success in school. But that’s not really the issue.
This topic arises because my ex doesn’t work and essentially has the entire summer off to go on trips with our kids. So they do. Two weeks to her Dad’s place in Missouri, then three weeks in Germany. Great stuff, super experiences for my kids, and really fun, but…
… it teaches my kids that we parents are responsible for their entertainment (as in “you’re bored? I’ll come up with a solution!”) as opposed to my own summer experiences of it being my responsibility to figure out what to do day after day with my friends to avoid the dreaded specter of boredom.
Plus, as I state in the title of this blog entry, it’s a long time for them to be away from me. Five weeks out of the ten that they (realistically) have for summer vacation and they’re out of state? I get to have a taste of single, no kids life, and frankly I don’t particularly like it. I love my kids and want to have them around so we can do stuff, so they can lay around on my couch and complain about being bored :-), so we can meet up with friends, so I can host sleepovers and parties. So we can, in a nutshell, enjoy the summer together.
I know that they miss me when they’re on one of their frequent trips with Mom, but the years have shown that their coping mechanism post-divorce is to be extraordinarily focused on the now and while they may think about the other parent, they don’t check in. The result? They’ve been gone a week and I’ve gotten one text message from my son — “can you mail my favorite t-shirt here?” — and zero communication from either of the girls. If I suggest Skype or a phone call, my ex will tell me it’s problematic because the kids get sad and depressed afterwards, so she discourages them from occurring.
The big trip to Germany is going to be even worse because they won’t even be able to send text messages without it costing an arm and a leg, so I’m expecting three weeks without a peep from them the entire time, no post cards, no email, nothing.
Two weeks is a long time, but three weeks immediately thereafter?
That’s a long time to be without my kids. And I miss ’em.
I am a single mom and I know how you feel. Even just sharing the boys back and forth every week or so – leaves me with a sense of loss when they go. I drove into work this morning knowing that I will see my boys in 24 hours and I can barely wait. Previous to our separation I was a stay at home mom with them and was able to be there with them every day in the summer…. letting them sleep in, taking them to the beach, getting ice cream, having play dates… 🙁 This is my second summer having to work and I miss my guys already.
My ex also has a ton of vacation time that he can take so he is taking most of the summer off to be with them. But on my 4 weeks that I have them .. 2 of the weeks I have to work so they will go to camp.
I guess summers are also about camp…. but I so wish that I could be hanging out with them instead to reconnect with them and letting them just be boys. Being there with them and watching them is what I so miss the most.
Good luck this summer and try to think about the Wonderful experience that your children will have in Germany. Give them something they can take with them to remind them of you – a necklace or a bracelet. And don’t be afraid of showing your children that you will be missing them the whole time they are gone – but that you are proud of them.
I know how you feel Dave. I’m not divorced but my wife sometimes takes the kids to New Zealand (staying with my parents) while I have to stay in Japan and work. I agree to this because I feel it is really important for my kids to get exposure to English, and also to have time hanging out with their family in NZ. However it is really hard for me to be alone in our (usually riotous) house for 2 or 3 weeks. I have tried skyping with them but it just makes me (and them) feel worse afterward. Being a co-sleeping family, night time is the worst time for me, with just me in the futon instead of 5 of us.
Still it is a great experience for my parents and kids. I wouldn’t take it from them. I just wish I could be there too.
We have similar issues, but I encourage you and your ex to agree to a communication plan while the kids are away. Even though they may get sad after talking with the absent parent, they still feel the connection. They hear a little about what’s happing back home, and they hear, not just, “know” that” the missing parent loves them and is missing them too; but is OK, and they will see them soon. Since our (high conflict) divorce 4 years ago, we have worked with a child developmental psychologist to understand and back up our parenting with a little science. Early on the kids did not even want to talk to the absent parent. I used to sit next to them and talk for them, or toss the phone on the couch (speaker mode) and (in our case) dad would talk. Now they talk more easily, and enjoy it more if I email pictures in advance, or if they can skype. 3 weeks is a very long time for a kid, and for a dad. Hang in there. Try work out something so you can talk to them during that time. Enjoy the time hanging out when they return. That was, and is, my favorite type summer activity too–traveling wherever your mind, and your bike can take you.
My children just left…again for two or more weeks w/dad and he lives 4 hours away. No it is not out of the state/country but it is a lifetime away for me…their mom! Their dad was out of their life for 21/2 years but now is back. I wanted to give them as much time to be together during the summer months because once school starts again they will be with me most of the time. Then there is the long commute if it is every other wknd type situation. The drive time and wknd will be there and gone for everyone. This is all very hard for everyone. I just happened to go online to see if others experience this sense of ‘loss’ and I feel a sense of relief to know that I am not alone. I wish no one would have to feel this way. So sad for everyone. Thanks for listening and letting me read your situations. Thank You!