I adore hearing real stories from real people.
This is a submission from a real father about how he and his son communicate from a distance.
Being as far away from any Father of the Year candidate as possible, I live approximately 1300 miles away from my son (he is in Virginia, I am in Tulsa, Oklahoma) – leaving town for a better career opportunity shortly after the divorce of his mother and I.
The driving factor was that financially I could care more for both myself and him in taking the position, and thus far while the separation has been difficult, economically it was the best decision to make.
Living in San Antonio for four years was much better for our relationship as I had family readily available to help watch him when I would get him for the Summer, usually 6-8 weeks every Summer.
Since taking a promotion to Oklahoma, I’ve had to pack more action into our visits as one thing I refuse to do is fly him to Oklahoma for half of the Summer and put him into daycare (he is currently 11 so as he gets older it will work better and he will be able to do things independently while I am at work should I get him for longer periods of time).
We do talk twice a week per the agreement his mother and I made upon divorce. The problem is that neither of us are much for phone conversation. I feel the calls do help me maintain a presence, and he takes the that time to tell me about whatever video games he is playing at the moment.
When I was his age I would shut myself in my room and listen to my stereo whenever home from school and all during the weekend. It led to me having pale skin, I know this. My son is following suit except instead of a music obsession his obsession is Nintendo, be it the current Gameboy or wii model that is out. He talks to me about beating bosses using Mario, Luigi, Sonic, and Final Fantasy character names that I cannot pronounce.
Our visits since I’ve lived in Tulsa are sadly only twice a year.
The Summer visit he usually flies to Texas or we collectively come up with some other plan. For instance we went to Disney World two years ago. This year, I let him choose between a week in Disney, the Disney Cruise, or to spend time with my sister and her kids in Houston before they move to England. He actually chose family time over Mickey Mouse which made me proud but upset at the same time as I was ready to cruise, dangit.
As I get him for either Thanksgiving or Christmas on alternating years, I’ve found it easier to fly to Virginia and rent a beachfront hotel and spend the Holiday with him there. He likes hotel living, and helps me choose the hotel location as we look at different amenities each one has. We have now gotten to the point that he has a favorite hotel so I always try to get that same one every time I go in either November or December.
The Summer vacations, if we are not in a resort area like Disney, go as follows. 1) I come up with a list of things that I know he likes to do, as well as I do research of what is going on in town during the week we are going to be there, from sporting events to traveling circuses or parks. 2) When he gets to town there is never a set schedule unless it is something we have talked about and I have purchased tickets. 3) Once we are settled either staying with family or at a hotel, we break out the list and he loves reading over it and choosing either the day that we are to do the event, or we just wake up in the morning and he asks for the list and we plan the day around what he is in the mood for for the day.
I’ve already begun this year’s list actually and currently on it are:
- Laser tag
- Comic Book Store
- Movies – he likes movies so we see whatever superhero, cartoon, or kids leaning movies are out there every visit
- Game Stop – though he would choose this every day, he only gets one solid shopping trip for video games out of me so he knows he has to make it count
- Slot Car Racing
- Incredible Pizza
- Dave and Busters
- Discovery Green
- Houston Zoo
- Museum of Natural Science
- The beach
- Baseball game
- Soccer game
- Putt putt golf
- Go karts
Lastly, I am a firm believer in tradition. When I lived in San Antonio our tradition was going to have raspas (sno-cones) in front of the Alamo. In Houston, our tradition is going to the Water Wall. I hope to build in him that going to the same place every year is a special event and he has gotten the jist of it. For instance in Virginia we go to The Raven restaurant either on Thanksgiving or Christmas, as it is open on both of those Holidays and he likes eating the shrimp there.
Though the system of communication is not perfect, and though I may never be the father figure I would like, or the father figure that George Michael would like, I feel the next best thing I can do is be a friend.