The custody hand-off is perhaps one of the most difficult moments for a family. It's not a fun day for either parent. Here's a few things I've observed and learned about the process, how I prepare for it, deal with it and then manage the days alone.
The dreaded custody hand-off days are my least favorite days of my custody. For those of you who have joint custody, you know what I’m talking about. It’s difficult for a few reasons.
First, there’s a good chance of interacting with your ex (or their significant other). Second, you’ll have to hand over custody of your loved one. Third, inevitably, you’ll be left alone. I’m not sure which is worse.
Every split family has a different custody structure. Some are better than others. For men, often times we get less than 50% timeshare, and for some families that’s perfect. I’ll be honest with you, some of us guys aren’t ready for 50% (or greater) timeshare. In fact for some, I’m sure that the thought of having your child or children more than 50% of the time alone is actually pretty scary. Had I stopped to think about it more when I was fighting for custody, perhaps I could have scared myself into a different outcome.
I’ll want to start by letting you all know that my timeshare is considered joint custody in the state of Nevada which means that I have my daughter at least 40% of the time. Any parent taking more than 60% in a calendar year would be considered primary custody. My ex-wife relocated 1,700 miles away to Illinois, so I have Kailyn more like 55% of the time and she’s considered a resident of Nevada.
Here’s some info on Parenting Agreements if you’re interested in reading up on them. The laws vary from state to state, so you’ll want to consult an attorney based on where you live. Clearly, this blog is not here to provide you with legal advice. 🙂
One thing I’ll say for my ex-wife and me, is that we’ve never argued about custody. It’s just about the only thing we HAVE NOT argued about, but that’s a different blog for a different day. We’ve done a really good job of putting Kailyn’s needs before our selfish desires to spend as much time with her as we can.
I want to point out, that there’s nothing wrong with not wanting a 50/50 split with your child. You need to do what’s best for you, and ultimately that’s going to be best for your child. If you’re not financially, mentally or physically able to do this, then you need to take what time is best for you. What I will say though, is that you should want to take as much time with your child(ren) as you’re able. Time is the most valuable commodity you’ll have with them.
Having a child or children is not convenient. It’s not supposed to be. But in my opinion, it’s one of the most important things you can do. Having Kailyn and then leaving her on this earth as my legacy is more important to me than anything I’ve ever done as it should be for you and your child. But that doesn’t mean that you need to have custody 182/183 nights per year. You can do this with as many or few days as you’re able.
I talked in my other blog, Happy Father’s Day, about the importance of just being there. That can also mean via FaceTime, phone calls or visits. I try and be at EVERY event Kailyn has, that I’m in town for. That’s 2-hour dance recitals that she performs 2 minutes in, sporting events, awards ceremonies, piano recitals and social events. As a single dad who runs his own company, it’s not easy and I have to prioritize her schedule over mine. It’s worth it. I promise.
But this may not be possible for you. Every family unit has different circumstances and I’m not judging or trying to put your situation into a box. But the overall theme of my post is to just BE THERE.
Preparing For The Hand-Off
It’s sad, and maybe not good form, but the minute Kailyn comes to stay with me, I’ve already started to count down the days until she leaves. It’s a mixed emotion, because I’m SO excited that she’s home, but there’s a sadness that there’s a finite amount of days until she’s gone.
The first thing I remind myself is that I need to live in the moment. That phrase that “they grow up so quickly” couldn’t be more true. All of you parents know that time goes by so quickly when raising a child. I still remember taking her home from the hospital. She was so small and helpless. In a lot of ways, 9 years later I still view her as that. But she’s not that little girl anymore. I need to remind myself of that from time to time. If I don’t live in the NOW instead of the PAST, I’ll miss out on some of her greatest days and nights. If I’m sad about her leaving, I’ll never get to share in the joy that she radiates on a daily basis. And if I can only think about her leaving, I can never enjoy the time we get to spend.
Just Live In The Moment.
What To Bring
From a physical standpoint, as the time comes to send her to her mom’s, I start to prepare her wardrobe, what she needs to bring with her and what she needs to keep. One of the hardest things for me to let go are physical items.
I was told by a therapist once that it’s important to remember that her things are HER THINGS. They do not belong to her mom or me. If she wants to bring HER THINGS to her mom’s, I need to let her. The exception being electronics or things of high value that I’d like to stay at our home. I needed to let go of the things that she wanted to bring. Here’s why . . .
What I began to realize is that although her world was fractured in my eyes, it was intact in hers. These possessions were her way of bridging these two worlds that were so separate in my mind. She WANTED to share her toys and clothes with her mom, and vice versa. It was important to her to have some fluidity and stability with her possessions. Perhaps it was her way of taking control of the one little thing that she could . . . her possessions.
So, I let her pack her bag, ask that she remember to bring those items back and move on. When she inevitably forgets something, I have to remind myself that those possessions weren’t mine to begin with. They were hers.
There’s one item in the the history of our custody hand-off’s that has bugged me so much. Her Yearbook from 2nd Grade. This particular year, she was with her mom the last day of school. I bought her the most expensive, upgraded yearbook I could because I really value memories and wanted her to have a signed yearbook from all her friends to help remember this grade. She brought it to her mom’s place and of course it got lost. Her mom lived in a 1,500 sq. ft. home . . . and they couldn’t find it. Ridiculous.
This has bothered me for almost a year now, and I can’t seem to let it go. Although I’d tell you that if this case were you, you should let it go. 🙂 . I’m struggling with it though, but I have to move on. It’s Kailyn’s yearbook, not mine, and therefore, I need to let it go. So I’ll try . . . but I’m not promising that I won’t bring it up and any future posts. 🙂
The Physical Custody Hand-Off
Some custody hand-off’s are a piece of cake. They occur at school. I drop off Kailyn at school and then her mom will pick her up. These are the easiest of the custody hand-off’s.
Other custody hand-off’s that we do are airport drop off’s. Kailyn has been flying as an “Unaccompanied Minor” for years now, so she’s a pro. In fact, she travels on my status so on United she flies as a 1K flier. I’ll do another future blog on how flying to fly as an “Unaccompanied Minor” works.
The hardest custody hand-off are the face-to-face custody hand-off’s. There are some of you reading who are friendly with your ex and that’s a wonderful thing for you and your child(ren). But I suspect there are a few of you who are in my boat. We don’t look forward to seeing our ex’s or even worse, or ex’s new partners. A future blog about how to deal with your ex’s new partner will be coming. Talking about that here would make this blog even longer than it already is!
Now that Kailyn is older, the face-to-fact custody hand-off’s are easier because I can just get her ready, help her pack her bag and then send her over to the car. But there are times when I have to come face to face with someone I loved, and now dislike. Let’s start a new section to talk about this.
The Face-to-Face Custody Hand-Off
The first thing I have to remind myself, is that I’m doing this for Kailyn. When I chose to have a child with my ex-wife, I chose to be tied to her forever. It’s a contract that you can’t ever go back on, so you need to honor that contract . . . and it’s for a good cause.
Kailyn is well aware of the fact that her mother and I don’t get along, so there’s no need to perpetuate this. My ex is not as good at hiding her body language, facial expressions and tone so it’s apparent that she’s not excited to be there either. I have learned to fake it, smile and try and be the best person that I can be in front of Kailyn. (If my ex happens to read this) It’s not to say that she’s doing anything wrong. It’s just that she has a different way of handling this adversity. I want her to know, that at the very least, I understand what she’s feeling, and am feeling it as well. It’s not easy. It’s difficult, uncomfortable and most likely inconvenient. I get it and I’m sorry that she’s going through it too. I truly am.
It’s during custody hand-off’s that it would be easiest to express your “pleasant words and thoughts” to your ex (please read my sarcasm). I promise you that this will make you feel MUCH BETTER, and make things MUCH WORSE. You have to hold your tongue and be the best parent you can be for your child(ren). That’s your job, your duty and your responsibility. That’s all I have to say about this.
Set The Example
Almost everything I do as a human being since I Kailyn was born, is as an example of how a human, father and friend should be. I am the example to her of how a man treats his ex-wife, how a father treats his daughter, how a friend treats his other friends and how a human bring treats his fellow human beings. With this in mind, and as my mantra, it’s easy to be kind to my ex-wife, when she deserves exactly the opposite.
This is how I manage to get through custody hand-off’s without anger or disrespect. It’s how I get through it with dignity, respect, empathy and compassion. Sometimes it’s not pretty. But it’s how I get by.
After the Custody Hand-Off
This is the hard part. The home is quiet. There’s not a peep in the house except for the sounds I make. I tell Kailyn that my house is just that . . . a HOUSE. When she’s there, it’s a HOME.
The first thing I do when I get back to the house or come into the house after custody hand-off, is play piano. Many of you have listened into my Facebook Live piano sessions. I promise you that they’re the saddest sounding piano sessions I play. But I’ll tell you that they’re also filled with beauty because I play with the thoughts of Kailyn in my mind.
The next thing I do is try and stay active. Being a Las Vegas resident, there’s no shortage of things to do, shows to see or places to eat. I keep myself busy with activities. In my early days of being single and at home alone, I resorted to a lot of drinking and partying. More than I did prior to my break up (and that honestly was probably too much). It’s not healthy, but it was and important pathway to my moving on. I wouldn’t recommend this path to anyone, but I surly understand. Again, I’ll write another blog about moving on. For the record it took me about 6 years to really finally feel like my true self again.
Being depressed is normal I think. I fought depression for the first few years. Surround yourself with good people and know that there’s a light at the end of the tunnel. It may be a tiny, faint light. But there’s a light. I promise you this.
Like most of the themes of my blogs will be, it’s not about what’s going on in your life, it’s about how you deal with these situations that define who you really are.
You need to stay alive to be there for your child(ren). You need to do it for them . . . just like everything else you do. Keep reminding yourself of this. Then I do what I do when Kailyn arrives and I count the days, but do it in reverse. I start counting the days till she returns, and before you know it, she’s in bed, snuggling with me and telling me stories of her time with her mom.
I don’t care to hear too much about her time there, but I found it’s important to let her talk and for me to just listen. Again, it’s a way for her to bridge these to worlds into one, and for that, I’ll gladly listen.
I know this blog was LONG, but I have a lot to say about the custody hand-off. Maybe more at a later time. As always, I’m here to listen if you ever need someone to talk to (yes, I’m talking directly to you). I’d love to hear your comments below and would love to connect if you have a similar or even different opinions.
This world is too small and our time on earth is too short to not use the most valuable resource we have . . . each other. Thanks for taking a read into my life on this topic. Hope to hear from you!
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