When my husband went on a business trip to Florida for a few months, he had to figure out how to be a long distance dad. The solution was to call everyday at the same time (about 20 minutes after the school bus dropped off Numbers 4, 5, & 6). He would focus on one boy while I focused on the others.
Spelling Lists. Time permitting, I would allow the boys to type out their spelling list on my phone, then text it to their dad. If I couldn’t spare my phone (or trust them with it), then I would let them send a picture of their spelling list. Armed with the words for the week, their dad could test them daily.
Reading Logs. Number 6, being in the age group that only knows how to read out loud, was able to read to his dad on the phone. I would sometimes hear him spelling out a word that his dad didn’t understand (“Pahaohnee… I said, PAHAOHNEE! P-h-o-n-e… oh, phone“). If the book was popular enough, dad was able to download the story and read along.
Chores. The chore list is on the board. It is the same list this week as it has been for the last 20 weeks. Still, they need someone to say, “Go check your chore list; what do you have to do today?” Their long distance dad was able to get them started, but the boys often “forgot” that they were on the phone and would put him down somewhere… where no one could hear him scream.
Baby Monitor. A couple of times I had to leave the house to play chauffer. Dad was able to stay on the line with the older boys, so he could keep them on track. At the very least, he could let me know if they tried to burn down the house.
Less Disruption. Sometimes a parent’s absence disrupts routines and/or makes the children feel abandoned. Talking to their dad one on one made my kids feel like he was there for them (even if it was long distance). They also loved finally being able to talk on a cell phone!
My Long Distance Call
I’d get my own phone call after the kids went to bed, when we could talk and say our daily readings. Admittedly, I wasn’t happy to hear about all the wonderful food there is to eat and exciting places to visit in Florida when I was in “mother-mode”, but at least I wasn’t resentful because I knew he had done his best to be a part of our daily lives.
Despite the over-the-phone help, we still had our chaotic days. Like the day we ran out the door late to church… and accidentally left the 10 year old upstairs. Sure, I asked if everybody was in the car! Yes, they told me the #1 troublemaker wasn’t there! No, I didn’t believe them, because they are always messing with me like that!! I didn’t put it together until I started wondering why both my husband and the alarm company were desperately trying to get ahold of me in the middle of the service. I realized that boy really was at home and setting off our motion sensors. Of course I tried to get back home to him. Tried… because in addition to leaving my child at home, I had locked my keys in the car. Yeah, that was a fun day.