Parents always say you have no idea what it’s like until you experience it for yourself. You have no idea how hard it is, how much you can possibly love someone else, or just how much you’d be willing to do for another human being. It’s one of those things that you hear all the time to the point that it’s almost a cliché. But the thing is, that you hear it all the time because it’s the absolute truth. Since becoming a father, I’ve done all sorts of things that I previously would not have even entertained the thought of for a single second. I’ve made compromises and sacrifices daily and re-prioritized nearly every aspect of my life.
That not to say it’s all struggle and strife. Anyone that’s taken a look through any of my social media profiles and seen all the photos of my daughter and I smiling and enjoying the time we spend together will know that the rewards far out weigh the costs. But what’s really got the gears turnin’ up in the ol’ knoggin’ this evening isn’t an analysis of the benefits or perils of parenting in todays world, not as a whole at least. There is one particular aspect of my life, which is very greatly influenced by my decision to have procreated. And that one key aspect is location, location, location.
For those who aren’t already familiar with the tale of how I came to wind up back here in Ohio, it was not exactly an intentional decision. My migration from Philadelphia to Denver brought me back through Ohio and I had planned to stop here briefly to see my Mom and Sister. Fate, Karma, destiny, or maybe just that ol’ fucker Murphy, had a bit longer layover in mind for me it seems though. When my truck, all loaded down with all the earthly possessions I had, broke down just as I was coming into town, I had to pick up a couple gigs DJ’ing until I could get it fixed and get back on my way.
One gig led to another, which led to a salaried position as the resident DJ for a new club that was soon opening. I figured I’d work that job for a year or so and save up some cash while the gettin’ was good and then continue on my way out west. The wrench thrown into the machine was then meeting the woman that would become my wife for a few years. She has a daughter from a previous relationship and my desire to be with her and not take her away from her daughter, or her daughter away from her father resulted in an agreement to stick around here in Ohio until after my stepdaughter graduated high school, a short time frame of only about 5 years, and then together we’d move out west.
To make a long story short, just as it was time to start planning the move, the marriage fell apart resulting in another split custody situation. Not being the sort willing to abandon my daughter in favor of my own dreams, I’ve stuck around and been here for her. Unfortunately, the other thing that’s decided to stick around is a desire to be somewhere other than Ohio. I desperately feel the need to dig my roots and settle down where I intend to spend the rest of my days, build myself a place that to me truly feels like home. I do, of course, still want to travel and experience the world we inhabit, but I want somewhere that feels like home that I’m always excited to return to after my travels.
Despite my family, friends, and ties to my various communities, Ohio just doesn’t feel like where I’m meant to be and call home. It will always be where I grew up for the most part, but it’s not where I wish to grow old. But what am I to do about it? How would shared parenting work out given a significant distance between parents? I have no wish to be away from my kiddo for any extended period of time, but I also don’t want to take her away from her mother.
This just isn’t where I want to dig my roots. Despite my letting go of the past and learning how to forgive, it still feels as if the soil will forever be tainted by the resentment of feeling stuck here and it will never nourish my soul the way I feel I need. It feels more like it would be forcing my roots into a stunted growth pattern that won’t ever let me fully develop into who I feel I am meant to be, instead of letting them run deep such that they can support the weight of my dreams and goals.
As I mentioned in those first couple paragraphs, there is almost nothing I am NOT willing to sacrifice for my daughter. I want to give her the absolute best of me and every opportunity to grow into the incredible little woman she’s already starting to become. I really only want what is best for her, but the indecision comes in when I try to determine what that really is. Is it best for her if I stick around and have the “normal” 50/50 shared custody agreement so many divorced parents utilize even if it means she never has the very best version of me as her role model? Or is it best for her if the custody schedule is less traditional but she has both parents following their hearts and reaching for the stars in their aspirations to show her that you really do have the power to make the life for yourself that you dream of?
There certainly is no replacement for quality time spent together, but with all the wonderous technology we have like facetime, photo sharing, and instantaneous messaging, would things like that be enough to keep our connection strong and nurturing during the times she was with one of us and not the other. I don’t mean as in only living with one parent full time, but rather splitting custody around the school schedule so that she could spend as close to equal time with both of us but still maintain a normal school schedule.
Would that be too hard on a kid, to go to school with one group of friends but be gone during summers and vacations and have a second group of friends somewhere else entirely? Is there some better solution that doesn’t involve changing schools mid-year or every other year? What about online schooling, does that offer any sort of solution to situations like this? You can work in a job that’s online based and can work from anywhere you have an internet connection, but is it the same with schools? How does the online school experience impact kids differently than a traditional system, aside from being safer by eliminating the potential for mass school shootings of course?
There’s so many different questions to find answers to, and which questions are relevant relies entirely on that first question; is it better to stay for the sake of staying, or to go and work out the best-case scenario for her based on that situation? For that matter, if each parent comes to a different conclusion regarding that question, what then? Who’s to say which is right?
As happy as I am with my life with just Kayla and I, she’s a remarkably intuitive and empathic kid and if I spend her entire childhood feeling trapped and stuck somewhere, wishing for a different, better life for her an I, she’s bound to pick up on it. What impact will that have on her. I could do my best to ignore how I feel and go along with the status quo for the sake of ease, but what kind of example would that be setting for her? I don’t want her to grow up expecting she will have to settle for less than what she feels her heart yearning for.
The only thing I really know for sure is that I want to do what is in her best interests first, and my own second, but beyond that, I’m just making this shit up as I go. What “they say” really is accurate, until you’ve been in such a position as a parent, you really have no clue just how hard it is, how challenging, how confusing, and what a struggle it can be to know what is the right thing to do for your child.