I haven’t seen my 13-year old daughter, Rowan, for more than a week. And I won’t be seeing her for another three weeks, as she spends the rest of the summer with her Daddy. I know they went to Switzerland to visit friends, but I didn’t know the address or even who these friends were. Why? I didn’t ask, even though I know her father would have told me if I had.
At present, my daughter is now in Paris for a three-day jaunt with her father, but I don’t know where they are staying, or what they are doing. Why? Again, I didn’t ask.
While I miss her dearly, I’m a firm believer that, when you share custody, and it’s not your time, that you should let the other parent, well, parent.
It’s their time with the children, not yours, and that’s one of the cold hard truths of getting divorced and having to share custody. You don’t get to tell the other person how to parent. I mean, sure you can try. But why? I refuse to, let’s say, ‘interrupt’ this very important bonding time with my daughter and her father, by constantly texting, calling or Face-timing. Nor do I expect my daughter to call or text me, when she’s with her father. I have never said to her, ‘Text me every day!’ even though I want to.
Why? I trust her father and I don’t want to put pressure on my daughter. It’s really as simple as that. There are so many newly separated or divorced parents who just don’t seem to trust their exes. They wonder if their co-parent is making sure their teeth are brushed. They wonder if their exes are introducing their children to new partners. They worry that their exes aren’t feeding their children properly, or aren’t making sure they shower, or are spending way too much time watching television. To which I say, so what? Baring any abuse or addiction issues, what ever happened to plain old TRUST?
Don’t get me wrong. I wasn’t always this laissez faire when it came to her father’s time with our daughter. When my daughter was younger, and spent weekends with her father, I used to call her every day, often twice a day.
Looking back, I let my emotions take over, because I just missed her so damn much. Looking back, you could say that I was just worried and that I just wanted to ‘check in,’ as any good mother would do. But if I’m being perfectly honest, It was also selfish. It was ME who wanted to hear my daughter’s voice. It was ME who wanted to make sure she was happy. It was ME who wanted to make sure she wasn’t coming down with a cold. And, if I’m being honest, if the roles were reversed, I would have been super annoyed if her father called to speak to her twice a day, if it was my weekend with her. But we trust each other. So what if he keeps her up way past her bedtime? So what if he gets her anything she asks for? So what if he wants to introduce her to another woman? Again, it’s his time, not mine. He doesn’t tell me how to parent, and I don’t tell him how to parent. Maybe we have different parenting styles. Maybe we don’t. But I know that we both have our daughter’s best interest at heart. And isn’t that enough?
It’s hard for many parents to ‘let go’ of their children and just let them be with their other parent. And I get it. I really do.
I had to train myself. I started to look at her visits with her father as I would if I had just been dumped, suddenly, by someone I was really into. I had to learn to suck up the heartbreak (because not seeing your child for a long period of time can indeed feel heartbreaking.)
I had to learn to distract myself, sometimes even going to movies alone, just so I could shut my phone off. That way, I wasn’t waiting around for a call from my daughter and in the same vain, it helped me to stop calling while it was her father’s time with her.
Of course I have the urge to call my daughter…. every second of the day. I am her mother after all and she’s my favourite person in the world. But, again, back to the being dumped metaphor, if someone dumps me, I’m not the one who will be picking up the phone to beg or plead for ‘another chance’ or for ‘closure’ or just to ‘talk.’
I had to learn to be strong and, like anyone who has ever been dumped before, had to force myself to stop wondering what they are doing without me, who they are now with, and also stop wondering if they’d call me, eventually. I may miss someone who has dumped me dearly and smell their T-shirt that they left behind, while crying, just like when my daughter is with her father, I can’t help but go into her bedroom just to smell my daughter’s pillow. And, yes, sometimes I cry in her bedroom. But, still, I will not call. I will let her father parent on his own.
Again, I trust my daughter’s father and I also believe that no news is good news. No news to me now means that my daughter is too busy having fun and spending quality time with her father. She has her own phone, after all, and if she wants to call, or text, she will. And I also have come to believe that hearing my voice too often, while she’s with her Dad, may also make her miss me, and sure, of course I want her to miss me, but not to the point where it could possibly ruin a fantastic adventure with her Dad and possibly make her sad. Nope. I want her to be happy, and me constantly checking in, makes no one happy. In fact, calling often would make me feel like a nag, and who wants to be a nag?
And guess what happens when you let the other parent, again, parent, without constant interruptions? They’ll return the favour. I asked for only one thing when my daughter’s father came to pick her up. Could he please send me some photos on their journey. And yes, her father has sent me photos of my beaming daughter. Obviously, she’s having fun.
Since my daughter has gone off, she has sent me only one text. ‘Hi Mama! I love u so much! Just arrived in Paris. Tres Bon! See you in R and R Land! Love u!’
So what is R and R Land? Well, it’s something I also started with my daughter when she started spending weekends and weeks with her father. It’s an imaginary place, where we meet in our dreams. (Rebeca and Rowan Land) So, every night, even though my daughter is not physically with me, we have this ‘place’ together where we ‘meet’ in our dreams. I go to bed with a smile on my face and I think my daughter does too.
But during waking hours, when it’s her time with her father, I’ll let my daughter and her father enjoy each others company.
It does get easier. You’ll just have to trust me on this. And while you’re at it, try trusting your children’s other parent that they can indeed parent, without you.
Rebecca Eckler is currently the Executive Editor of Savvy Mom.
She is the bestselling author of Knocked Up: Confessions of a Hip Mother-to-Be, Wiped!, Life With a Pint-Sized Dictator, as well as the author of the international bestseller, How to Raise a Boyfriend. Rebecca has written for numerous magazines and parenting blogs across North America, and has been a columnist for The Globe & Mail and National Post.