Visitation’s End: Understanding Your Child’s Needs

7:00 pm Saturday.  Visitation with dad was over and my younger daughter was riding home with me after an overnight with dad.  As usual, it was an action packed visit for her including a trip to Christmas Candylane, a birthday party, and fun with dad.  The excitement bubbled over during our short car ride home, filled with displays of new tricks learned and a running commentary of her adventures.  With my older daughter, I used to have to ease her into telling me about her day at dad’s.  With my younger daughter, I now have to ease her back from warp speed.

There was no way that she was going to jump out of the car and slide into the bedtime routine.  I knew that she needed some transition time.  Something between Go! and Stop.  It was my job, to see that her spinning-mind and on-the-go body got a chance to unwind.  So we took a walk.

There’s something nice about taking a “late night” walk in the fall.  A bit chilly, the smell of fallen leaves, darkness, the sounds of distant Hersheypark fun in the air.  Our dog notices the difference too.  A bit more cautious in the night, she walks off leash: liking the freedom but liking the security of her family even more.  My daughter’s mood settled into the evening’s stillness with every turn of the block.  While the chit-chat continued, it’s pace and tone became more in-line with the night.  By the time we returned home, my mind, the dog, and her energy were all better in tuned.  Now, she could get ready for bed.

At light’s out, my daughter scooted over in her princessey pink bed, making room for me.  “Lay down”, she said.  I did, and we stayed there for a bit in silence.  “Tell me what you’re thankful for today”, SHE said.  “Tell me all the things.”  I smiled.  I smiled for many reasons.  I was immediately thankful for her remembering to continue our nightly November question.  But, I was also smiling at her clever way of getting me to stay: talking about nice things, “all the things”.  She needed some “mom” time.  I was happy to oblige.  So I shared all the things I was thankful for and she returned the favor with her long list.  But topping her list was her thankfulness for her dad.  “Yes”, I said, “you are very lucky to have a dad that loves you so very much.”  She was also thankful for the Dora birthday cupcakes.

But it wasn’t yet time for prayers.  “Tell me something nice that you saw someone do for someone else today.”  SHE asked.  I smiled again at my little parrot who very much was enjoying her light’s out talk.  During her turn, she told me of her dad who took time to show a stranger the way to a ride at Hersheypark.  “Yes”, I agreed, “that was very nice of Dad.  I’m sure the person appreciated the help.”

She continued, “Tell me about someone that you saw today that you haven’t seen in a long time.”  Hmmm… this was a new one for us.  And while I was truly appreciating these thought-filled questions, I was also aware of the passing time.  I prefaced my answer by informing her that this would be our last question.  I then gave her time to tell me about the pre-school friends that she was able to reconnect with at the birthday party.  All of her experiences over the past 24 hours were given the quiet honor that was due.  She shared.  I listened.  I acknowledged.

We said our prayers and our “love yous” as sleeptime arrived.  As I closed the door behind me, I left in full realization that often, life isn’t as you planned: including, a quick bedtime routine.  But by taking the moments as they happened, and being aware of my daughter’s needs, I allowed magic to happen.  It was an evening that allowed for the transition between her father’s fun and her mother’s stillness, and appreciation for them both.


Relates to Divorced Situation #6: The End of a Visit, The Pro-Child Way: Parenting with an Ex to be released January 2010.  Ellen Kellner, all rights reserved.

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