Olivia asks: My parents are still married, but my dad’s moved to Toronto. How should I deal with that?
Hi Olivia –
The tough part about your question is that it’s probably your parents who really need to answer it.
I’ve known some couples who are really happier living apart. They meet up on vacations, and are as happy to see each other then as Handsome and I are every day (Why, oh why can’t more human couples feel that same way?! I’ll never understand!!). Or maybe they even meet every weekend. But they know that if they lived together full-time, it wouldn’t be as good for their marriage. They really need their space.
Then on the other hand, there are of course lots of couples who are kept separate because of things they have no control over. One’s job makes them move to another city while the other one’s job keeps them there. Or one is in the military and is sent away, or it could even be that one’s in jail. Any of these are absolutely difficult, and it’s really tough for them the whole time.
But regardless of what the reasons are, or how your parents feel about it, you’re asking about you. You have been used to having both parents around, and now your dad is living far away. You probably miss him a lot, and feel you’re missing out on the things your friends get to do with their dads. And that’s tough.
So what do you do about it? Well, again, this is largely up to your parents. But here are some things I’d sure suggest looking into:
1) Plan a trip to visit him. If you’re old enough, have a trip by yourself. Let him show you around Toronto, show you his work, introduce you to his friends, all that. I don’t know if you have brothers and sisters, but a trip could be with all of them too, but I really like the idea of you having at least some time with just him. You need it.
2) Have a routine scheduled for talking. How often do you guys want to talk to each other? Twice a week? Once a day? Whatever works for all of you, plan out a ritual, so that (unless something’s in the way, which of course happens often) you can have, say, that daily 5:00 p.m. conversation, and be able to tell your dad all about the important stuff that happened in your day, and your friends, and your classes, and… well, of course… any cool dogs you met!
3) Know when he’s coming to you. As soon as your mom knows when he’ll be home next, you should have a calendar on your bedroom wall where you can mark those dates. You can even (if you don’t know how to do this yet) write numbers on the calendar to count down the days till he gets to you. And plan out some great things to do when he’s there – like maybe going to your favorite ice cream place, or going camping… or just a day of sitting at home and letting him look at how much you’ve grown since he saw you last.
4) Write each other every week. Even if you’re talking on the phone, there’s other stuff that just can’t happen by voice. So write him, and have him write you, a letter every week. You could send him a paper from school you did great on, or a picture you drew or painted, or a photograph of you and a friend making funny faces at the camera. And he can send you things he finds that he knows you’ll like too (maybe a silly comic from a Toronto newspaper, or a picture of him in five feet of snow!).
5) And maybe most importantly, have some really big talks with your mom. Because no matter how wonderful Dad is, he’s a long way away, and you’re going to need things closer by. Can you and your mom set up a weekly lunch, where you talk about what’s going on in your lives? Maybe you can plan some movie nights, or other special times, that give you some of what you would have had if he were there. You see, she probably needs you as much as you need her, for all this. Think about it – before Dad moved to Toronto, she had a companion, a best friend, a date. And now he’s gone! Who does she get to do special things with? Who does she get to talk to about her day? And who does she go see movies that make her cry with?! Well, how about that wonderful Olivia!
Nothing’s ever going to totally make up for Dad not being there. No one else is Dad! But I know that, when Handsome’s out of town, I have some really fantastic friends who take care of me, and in some ways treat me better than he does (like by giving me so many treats that, if I stayed with them all the time, I’d look like a buffalo!). Sure I miss him horribly. But I also love being with them, because they do such a good job of making my life okay. You and your mom can do that for each other, Olivia. And if so, you’ll be amazed at how much easier it will be to handle Dad’s being so far away.