You cannot pause time. No matter how hard we may try, while our son B is at his mom’s, life does continue and change happens. We do not have your typical custody on every other weekend and summers just up the street from his mother, but instead with 5 states between us and across the span of up to four or five months at a time. It’s incredibly painful for all parties involved, but most of all B.
B has an unusually strong need for structure when the transition first occurs between homes. It appears to looks like the home he has left, the people look the same (most of the time), but there is the breeze of change. Sister is now walking, Mama Jess has changed from a traveling career focused individual to a stay at home mom, and Dad has grown a beard. Each change, even the tiniest difference takes adjusting for a young toddler. B will take stickers of astronauts, satellites, and comets and place them in orderly lines as according to their shape on his space wall. I will walk into his room to call him for lunch and find him laying out all of socks across his bed in lines, unfolded, and piled with their corresponding mates. B struggles to create his own order.
A Structure I Personally Practice to Aid in Stability:
1. A Daily Task Calendar: The one we use personally is Melissa and Doug since overtime it can be altered as B grows, or as B and I see fit together. I never alter the line up without his input. Each last day before he returns to his mom we layout the many different possible responsibilities and, aside from the usual brush of teeth and bathe, B and I discuss what he may want to try next time. Every night we review his day and place the “stickers” where we have completed each task, and discuss how these were completed which which then completes that day.
2. Weekly Scheduled Activities: Every day of the week is planned special.
- Sunday’s we would drive to visit my grandmother and grandfather, if the weather was warm that meant swimming!
- Monday’s were a learning day, we would visit Moody Gardens (an educational activities center). We would base our theme off of the story that was read at the library the week before. Let’s say it was Dinosaurs, we would watch an IMAX of Dinosaurs and then walk through the real dinosaurs exhibit.
- Tuesday’s were library day. We would attend the library preschool story time and craft time. We would check out books that correlated with the theme of the week.
- Wednesday’s were hang out days. A day we would work in our vegetable garden and he would spend hours playing in his beloved space room.
- Thursday’s were a Mama Jess and B adventure day (normally based on the theme). This was a day we tried something new that Houston had to offer for he and I. Perhaps it was day on the carousel at Kemah, or a picnic at Hermann Park, or a quick run through a quiet community beach. (oh, how I miss Houston) On dinosaur week we visited the Houston Museum of Natural Science and only visited the Dinosaur based exhibits.
- Friday’s were the day of friends and sleepovers. As a child I was incredibly close to my cousin, on here I will refer to her only as my sister, but just as close as we were our children too are close.
- Saturdays were daddy fun days. These were typically spent with hot dogs at the beach.
3. Household Responsibilities: I will cover this more in a later blog, but daily chores really help B feel like an integral part of our family.
4. Bedtime Routine: The most difficult hurtle with B was bed time, it seemed like such a shock to him that there was a bedtime and it went with a bedtime routine. But overtime he came to look forward to it. Bath time was a blast, he loved to choose his favorite PJ’s of the moment, but most of all he loves his story time. We make sure to read one story of his choice, and then ask him to close his eyes as we continue with two our three poems of Shel Silverstein, always finishing on the poem Picture Puzzle Piece.
As we continue these routines, the astronaut stickers gradually find their way to other planets, the satellites begin to orbit, and slowly one by one as B feels closer and closer to safety in his routine the comets soar with reckless abandon. Then the sad day comes that our visit concludes and as we head out the door to the airport we find ourselves instructing him to go back and put on a matching pair of socks.