My son has never had a particularly close relationship with his father. He was an infant when he and I moved from California back to my hometown in New York to be closer to my family. As a first-time mom, I needed the familial support. His father and I were attempting a long-distance relationship with the goal of reuniting as a family in the near(ish) future.
When my son was little, before he could talk, I would frequently take videos of him to share with his dad so he could see how quickly his son was growing up. As he got older and could understand what was happening, we began video chatting. The months turned into a year, and a year turned into two. It took me time to get my finances in order enough to even entertain the idea of a cross-country move, and by the time I was able to make that dream into a reality, my son’s father and I had ended our relationship.
Regardless of our romantic status was, I knew that moving was still the end game. My son needed a father, and his father was willing and able to step up to the plate. Sure, I was nervous, but I had to take a leap of faith.
Co-parenting is really hard, especially when your kid is really young, and even more so when it’s long-distance. You can’t put a toddler on a plane by themselves to send them to see their parent on the other coast. You have to make much more of a concerted and unique effort to be present in their life. My ex was pretty decent with the communication, but he certainly wasn’t perfect. We didn’t see each other that often in person (it’s super-fucking expensive to fly from NYC to LA), and most of the time, I was the one who had to do the traveling because I had a more flexible work schedule. But it is still frustrating and exhausting to have to travel across the country with a toddler.
When I got too busy to travel, it was a year before he came to visit, and it was a very short visit. Not impressive, I know. He was great about FaceTime, but he wasn’t always consistent. Yes, it’s difficult to video chat with a toddler, but if you’re going to commit to being a part of their life then you make do with the options you have.
Sometimes my son didn’t want to talk to his dad — he just wanted him to sit there and watch him play like all the other adults in his life did. He thought that was typical behavior, so he couldn’t understand why his dad didn’t stop talking and just watch. I think his dad just wanted to feel more included. It took a little while, but they were able to find games they could play together over video chat which made the experience more enjoyable for both of them.
And later, when it came time to get truly serious about moving, I knew what my limits were, and I laid them out in no uncertain terms before I booked our tickets. I needed my ex to be on the same page, and if he wasn’t in agreement, he still needed to understand where I was coming from with my requests, so we could work together to find a solution that was beneficial for ourselves and our son.
My No. 1 rule? No flaking. My son is at an age where he is aware of everything. If you make a promise to him, he will remember it, and he will call you on it. The kid has a memory like a steel-fucking trap. So I can’t have someone who is going to be in and out of his life or breaking promises that will leave him broken-hearted. I stressed the importance of such consistency and dependability, and his dad promised that he would be as available as possible.
So we made the move, and we are now residing on the West Coast.
My ex has made himself available to our son as much as his work schedule allows. He came to see us the night we landed, just so he could give his son a goodnight hug before he went to work. It is important to him that they have time alone together to bond (my son is very attached to me, obviously), so I leave them alone for an hour or so at a time, and go do things that I need to do unencumbered. We were both nervous that my son was going to freak out, but they’ve been having a great time together, and he is sad every time his daddy has to leave.
They already have their own inside jokes and special things they like to do together. Seeing them together reminds me how they really are cut from the same cloth, and they truly enjoy each other’s company. They could never bond this way long-distance, and my son is so happy.
The people close to me were highly skeptical of this move and the trust I was putting in my ex to show up and co-parent his son. My ex has not always exhibited the best judgment, and they’ve been there to witness that and support me through it.
But the truth is, he simply wasn’t ready to be a father, and it took me a long time to reconcile that. Over the last four years, we have gotten into a lot of heated arguments and had a lot of hurt feelings, but the more I saw him for who he truly was, and not who I wanted him to be, I began to see how we could move forward as co-parents. It’s always going to be a learning experience as new hurdles will arise, but my son comes first and I made this decision for him. So far, it seems to be paying off, and I’m feeling optimistic about the future.