Summertime Schedules

My younger daughter is in between her kindergarten and first year of school.  This summer is bringing new discoveries of “deep-end” pool swimming, new height category rides at Hersheypark, and geographic expansion upon mastering her scooter.  I know the two wheel bike is just around her corner.  She wants to do more and do it more often.  It’s summertime and she wants to soak up every moment of its possibilities.

My daughter’s dad also likes to play and explore.  He’s frequently available, beyond our visitation schedule, for pool and park time with her.  He lives close enough that her scooter can quickly get her to the “hot spots” of town with him.  Gone are the days of the FOREVER lasting trips around the block with her.  Now she is on a mission to get somewhere.  The promise of fun and dad are the extra incentives for a quick scoot down the blocks.

So I have a daughter who wants to do more with her dad.  I have an ex that wants to do more with his daughter.  They both enjoy spending time together and they both have extra time to do it.  So what’s the problem?

The problem is that gut sensation that I have every time he suggests interrupting the normal visitation schedule.  As a divorced mom, I know to stop and listen to my gut.  As a Pro-Child mom, I know to hold my tongue until I have a chance to figure it out.  So, I’ve been thinking…

I’m glad that my daughter enjoys spending time with her dad and it makes me smile to hear of her adventures when she is with him.  I certainly don’t want to bar her from enjoying time with her dad.  So, that’s not it.  That’s not the source of my gut “no” reaction to the changes in the visitation schedule.

While my life style is best described as being organized and structured, I am practiced enough at life to not get too hung up at a change of schedule.  In an “old way” of divorced parenting mindset, a parent may baulk when the ex wants extra visitation time, but I realize that it’s my daughter’s time - not mine or her dads.  I can accept that sometimes it’s OK to change the visitation schedule.  Jumping into the pool on a hot summer day is a compelling reason to change the schedule.

But my discomfort with the switch-up remained through all of this pondering.  I champion clear visitation schedules.  I didn’t like the uncertainty affect that these new requests for visitations could have on my daughter.

My gut wasn’t reacting to whether or not my daughter should enjoy an extra moment of fun with her dad, my gut was reacting to her potential disappointment in his asking.  I wasn’t resisting the outing, I was resisting the method.

My ex needed to stop telling my daughter of altered plans and start asking me.

“Mom!  Dad said we can go to the pool again tomorrow, ok?”  This approach was filled with disappointment potential.  What if we had other plans?  The answer would be “no” and she’d be disappointed that her extra day with dad wouldn’t happen.  I know she’d also feel bad for her dad’s disappointment.  Her sad eyes are a good gauge that this approach isn’t the right one.

So, instead of responding to my daughter, I looked at my ex and told him that he and I would discuss it later.  It was bad enough that the subject was brought up in front of our daughter, I wasn’t going to let it continue.  I prompted our daughter to say her “goodbyes” and off she and I went.

Later, when I was able to privately call my ex, I assured my ex that I’m happy that they’re able to spend more time together - but, the planning had to be done between him and me.  Not through our daughter.  She’s too valuable for us to risk her disappointment.  He agreed.

Two days later, as my daughter was ending her time with dad, he said, “maybe we can go swimming tomorrow!”  “Tomorrow” was not a regular visitation day.  Once again, I didn’t respond and I prompted my daughter to say her “goodbyes”.  I called him when we got home and re-explained my concern over disappointing our daughter with careless suggestions of time together.  I did have plans for her and now he risked her being disappointed in either not seeing him or not being able to go ahead with her other plans.  In his enthusiasm, he forgot to ask me first.

Just as it’s predictable that he’ll slip and ask again in front of her, it’s just as predictable that I won’t answer and will call him later.  Discussions regarding visitation don’t happen in front of our daughter.  Period.  His slips will lessen over time along with her possibilities of disappointment.  Meanwhile, our communicating privately and agreeing on extra play times will be greeted by our daughter’s smiles and excitement.  She’ll get those extra fun summertime moments and she’ll do it without the possibility of disappointment.

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