Sitting at LAX. My kids and I missed our early morning flight and will be spending a few hours people watching.
Once the disappointment of not being on the beach by noon today subsides, we focus on all of the families traveling through the less than impressive airport in our fair city.
Many different languages, skin colors and familial make ups trudge past. Two parents, three kids – one parent, one kid and a grandmother – one parent, one clearly new and younger girlfriend and two not much older than the girlfriend teenagers (yikes!)– We try to figure out how each family or group is related and where they might be going as the strollers, travel car seats, Dora the Explorer backpacks, surfboards, companion pets, neck pillows and an unending tail of roller bags and carry on items parade by.
Traveling families come in many shapes and sizes and as part of your post-divorce life, child custody and scheduled parenting time will be your new reality if you co-parent your kids with your ex - or in my case two ex’s. It can be exhilarating, stressful, rewarding and exhausting.
Here are some of the single parent travel experiences I have had over the years:
This is not the first trip I have taken with my boys. They are proficient travelers. Both domestically; New York, DC, Hawaii, Kentucky, Massachusetts and internationally; Mexico, Nevis, Thailand, Italy, the Galapagos Islands. Both with me and with their dads, we have always encouraged adventure and exploration.
We were supposed to be in Israel this week with my mother’s side of the family but Claire was diagnosed with Pancreatic cancer a few months ago and we all felt that such a long journey would be too taxing for her given her chemo treatments. Interestingly, my older son’s dad whom I share child custody with, was going to participate in this adventure. It would have been a really excellent opportunity for our son Paul to experience this country so full of history and religion just months after his bar mitzvah. But alas, our trip was not meant to be this year after all.
Instead, we are heading to Cabo for a few days of surfing and sun.
Traveling with My Kids and Making Memories
Traveling with my sons is one of my great joys in life. Since they were babies, they have slept on planes and boats and trains. It is awesome to see the world through their fresh wide eyes and experience (or re-experience) the adventure of new cities and cultures.
Sharing child custody with both of sons’ fathers, allows me to do adult trips when I can get away, but traveling with my sons is what I really enjoy the most. And, there is no way that traveling as a single parent would hamper my wanderlust and desire to see the world with them. But it is...different.
Often, we have traveled with other families, friends and relatives especially when my sons were younger. In those situations, there are more adults to help with rental car pick ups, day trip destination planning, headcounts and language translation.
But, now that Paul and Peter are old enough that I am not lugging car seats, diapers, bottles or the beloved Froggy or Fluffy Bunny travelling with just three of us is much easier.
More Experiences Traveling
Until recently, Peter my youngest, was not able to get on a descending escalator without holding my hand. This is difficult in an international terminal with a backpack and two carry-ons. Sometimes, an elevator would be conveniently placed but, often not so much.
I would ride down with both sons and as much as I could safely carry holding Peter’s hand. Leave them and the first of the bags at the bottom, ride back up, keeping a backwards eagle eye on my two kids below, and ride down with the remaining bags which had sat at the top of the escalator notwithstanding the constant multi-lingual airport reminders “DO NOT LEAVE YOUR BAGS UNATTENDED”.
I got the stink eye from many, some kind souls offered assistance but as is generally the case with travel, folks are primarily concerned about getting where they want to be. We were on our own and, eventually, we were on our way.
Entering new countries, and even re-entering the US, is always interesting as as we all have different last names and, although they resemble each other, neither looks particularly like me at first glance. I have often been confused for their nanny or caregiver and asked for a letter authorizing me to travel out of the country.
Each restaurant arrival is met with “Is it only the three of you?” after being seated the server checks again, “are we waiting for one more or shall I clear this setting?” as the last spot on the four-top is whisked away.
More single parent travel experiences I have had heard about:
Many couples I have seen over the past few years opt to travel together in spite of their break up. As was anticipated this summer when Luke’s dad very much wanted to be a part of his first trip to Israel, parents do not want to miss out on the experience. If this works for your family, it can be an excellent message for kids to see how their parents remain equally invested in their cultural exploration and education.
Several years ago, I represented a family who had always planned to go on an African safari when their twins turned 13. As luck would have it, they separated when the kids were 12 ½ years old. Around the same time, we filed the divorce Judgment they all departed for Africa for this once in a lifetime experience – as a family.
This doesn’t always work. For some it may be absolutely abhorrent to imagine traveling with your ex again “Are you kidding me? His inability to consult a map and stringent rules regarding mini bar consumption is what drove us apart. Never again!”
Traveling Alone With Your Kids After Divorce
If you are traveling post-split with kids without your ex, remember to exercise good communication and consideration when planning. Since you likely share child custody of your kids, your ex will need to authorize or at least be informed of your itinerary - particularly if you are traveling out of the country.
Make sure he or she has all of the information necessary to feel comfortable about you leaving town with the most precious beings in both of your lives. Be considerate of time. If there is only two months this summer break, figure out well in advance which one of you will have parenting time with the kids. If your proposed adventure is going to take more than one half of the longer vacation, see whether your ex will go for you having this year and he/she having next year. This can all be arranged if you plan in advance and have respect for your co-parent’s schedule and feelings.
When you are on the trip make certain that the kids reach out to the absent parent regularly if possible. If you are going somewhere with poor internet or no Facetime or Skype capability, let your ex know in advance and pick up a postcard or two. Even if they are received after you have all returned it sends a message that they are not forgotten.