Sending our kids back to school is always a tough time of year for parents. For me, it’s an even tougher year than usual. In about a month and a little after the start of school, my 7-year old son is moving back to our hometown in Michigan with his mother while I stay in Maryland. Obviously, that’s going to make things a little tougher on me- but what about him?
You might presume his mother and I are divorced or not together, but actually we’re dating. I need to stay in the area for work. So on top of his going to school in another state, I’m also going to be in a long-distance relationship. I should also mention, I suppose, that he has some learning disabilities- not intellectually, as he is gifted as well.
So- how will I cope? How will he?
I put this in perspective when I look at my best friend Tom, a guy I’ve known for twenty years. He’s got kids in school and is currently serving our country in Kuwait, bound for Iraq in a couple of weeks. When you look at the difficulties in my life in dealing with distance and relationships, they sort of pale in comparison.
But I have a few ideas on what to do to bridge the distance. For starters, I’m buying my son his own laptop and we’ll have Skype and web cameras to keep in touch. I can hook up my computer to my TV, so if he needs to talk to me it’s almost as if we’re in the same room.
I’ll be taking long visits as well, heading up to Michigan with a few days off and over weekends and holidays and doing some teleworking during the days, spending time with my son in the evenings. With any luck, I can afford to visit every two months. They’ll be back here as well to visit.
I intend to ask his teacher to keep me informed via email of his progress and I’ll be calling in for all teacher-parent meetings, unless I happen to be in town that week. I guess I won’t be much of a “helicopter parent” which is just as well- maybe more of a satellite parent? I don’t think there’s an official word for us yet, so I’ll try to coin something better.
Distance means we’ll have to make the most of the time we’re together, and we haven’t decided what things will be like a year from now. Perhaps I’ll move out there; maybe they’ll move back closer to the DC area; a third option may be to all meet up somewhere else entirely. For now, I’m playing it by ear and we’ll just have to see where life takes us. I know one thing is for certain- if he wants to be in touch, I’ll be there any time, day or night. I have a feeling things will work out just fine. I know this because as I was talking to him about the concept of change on his last day of summer camp, he looked up at me and reminded me, “Sometimes changes can be hard for people.”
It can be hard, but it doesn’t have to be bad.