My sons returned late Saturday afternoon! The longest time of not seeing one another (seven weeks, two days) is over! And now, Nigel and I stand eye to eye, nose to nose. Aidan, with his short hair and deep tan, I hardly recognize. But I know their scents, and their embraces. It’s so good to have them home.
This was their seventh summer in LA with their dad. In previous years, they have also visited him for one- or two-week increments at Christmas or Spring Break. Usually I drive five and a half hours to a junction just north of Stockton, California, which is near the half-way point between my house and their dad’s house. Their dad meets us there for lunch, and then we transfer suitcases and bags, sometimes bikes and skates, into the other car. And then we transfer kids. I call it the 700-Mile Kid Swap. Then I turn around and drive five and a half hours back home. It’s a hell of a thing to do six times a year.
So my son’s young lives have been filled with many good-byes and as many reunions. It is a different way to grow up from what I experienced; my parents remained married throughout my childhood. I had friends whose parents were divorced, but in southern California, the other parent was never more than an hour’s drive away, not eleven hours. I often wonder about the emotional long-term effects of this arrangement on my kids. I know it’s hard on me, and I’m an adult. Aidan once said to me, when he was seven, “I feel like I have two lives.” Kids shouldn’t have to feel that way.
But it’s important that they maintain a good relationship with their father, and I think in the long run they’ll realize that we did the best we could to achieve that, given the circumstances. The 700-Mile Kid Swap has taught them flexibility and patience, two skills that are invaluable for autistic kids, and difficult to learn. They’ve had many great experiences in LA that have enriched their lives, and they’ve learned to appreciate and adapt to a different environment. It’s not the typical joint custody arrangement, but for the most part, it’s working.
As for me, I’m just glad they’re back. I’m going to get some more hugs right now . . .