My custody arrangement with JP’s mother is hopelessly complicated. Please all, take out your calculators as I explain.
It is divided into a four-week rotating schedule, under which the following rules apply:
On week 1, I spend the first two nights of the week with JP along with the two nights of the weekend. I also have this schedule on week 3. On weeks 2 and 4, it flips, and I have JP for the middle three nights of the week. There are also variations for major holidays (we switch years); school vacations (under certain circumstances we switch off; others we don’t); religious holidays supersede the parenting schedule (except when they don’t); in all circumstances, vacations end at 9 a.m. (!) on the day prior to the alternate parent’s regularly scheduled parenting time. For those who are confused, I can send along my 40-page custody decree, along with the forthcoming divorce stipulation that will implement certain alterations (much needed) to the aforesaid ridiculous legal document that governs most of my life and time.
Most of the stuff goes out the window during August, when we each get to spend two (non-consecutive) weeks of vacation with JP. This is a rather wonderful thing: a full week with my boy, uninterrupted, away from work. I have tried to make the most of my time. I travelled with JP to Florida, Mississippi, and New Orleans; tried, somewhat successfully, to teach him to swim; played soccer with him; discussed the arrival of his sister; let him spend time with my mother, other friends; went to the zoo, an aquarium, the movies, whatever I could think of.
The real question was how good any of this was for him. At this age, it’s debatable that the break from the regular schedule (and the imminent return to the schedule) is a net benefit. I tend to think it is—his mother strenuously thinks otherwise. It should be no surprise that I have a fundamental disagreement about JP’s welfare with his mother. There’s (many) a reason why we’re not together, after all.
This week is one of hers with JP. As is natural for any part-time parent, I’ve spent at least some part of every day beating myself up for my decisions about raising my son. If, as the saying goes, absence makes the heart grow fonder, in the case of divorce absence also makes it grow guilty. Basically, I keep myself sane by reminding myself that JP is a happy boy, surrounded by people who love him, even if at times those people don’t include me.
I also know that it could be worse. We still live in a world in which mothers are the default parents in cases of divorce, and I could have ended up with far less time with JP than I have. So I’m lucky, in many ways.