A New Co-Parenting Problem: how do we do COVID-custody switches?

Yesterday, the Corona virus broke my heart.

Because of Spring Break and custody agreements, I haven’t seen my kids in three weeks, since March 16. A lot, and I mean A LOT, has changed in the last three weeks. I was supposed to get them for a week Friday. On Thursday, my daughter texted me and told me she had a fever and sore throat. Same for her mom. To add evidence to the argument, I found out Tennyson and her mom had been at the Fred Meyer that recently had a confirmed COVID case from a worker.

We agreed to check in Saturday and Sunday and maybe do the kids switch later. The message was the same: low-grade fever, sore throat, not feeling horrible but not great, either. I have watched enough news lately to have warning lights going off in my brain. Shield’s up, Red Alert! God, I hope my kids don’t have the Corona virus.

My wife, my ex-wife, and I all agreed that it was a bad idea to switch houses now. My ex-wife only lives 10 minutes away, so it’s not like they are in a different state. I have heard some real horror stories about parents who are completely cut off from their kids, in a different state, and not able to have their child fly back to the other parent. However, knowing that others have it worse doesn’t make me feel any better. I get it theoretically, but in practice I still find this unfair.

My kids and I text, FaceTime, or call once a day when they are at their mom’s house. I’m use to not physically seeing them for a week at a time. Throughout the course of this Corona Craziness, I hadn’t seen them since I took Brock to his hip doctor’s appointment on March 16. As the world has continued to get weirder and weirder, I have had to communicate about it long distance to my son and daughter. However, Sunday, I decided I needed to see them face-to-face. It had been far too long.

I decided to give them a dose of Dad humor. I built them each an Apocalypse Present containing one roll of toilet paper, one .22 shell, one package of Top Ramen, one set of rubber gloves, and two bags of chips. I know, dad’s are really funny. I figure an outdoorsman could live a week or two on what I provided them, so they should be fine in a suburban house.

And then I broke my heart. Brock and Tennyson stood at the front door while I stood in the front yard. I had already promised Lynette I wouldn’t hug them when I went over there, because if I am going to hug them, I might as well have them come stay the week with me. Not hugging them when I saw them was excruciating. I have struggled without them through all this uncertainty. I hate that I don’t have them. I know they are uncomfortable because I am uncomfortable. I tried to be funny, tough, and normal as I stood socially too distant. I could feel my heart getting sad as I looked at them. I felt the same sadness from them, which made it worse.

But soon, there was some normalcy, even from appropriate social distancing. The kids taught me about a new popular song, which says “I’m bored at home, I’m at home bored” over and over and over again. They YouTubed it and played it for me. Every once in a while, the rapper blends in various grammatical forms of the F word to exemplify the boredom. It is a terrible song. I’m glad there is still normalcy throughout this. Our youth continues to listen to shitty music.

Both kids indicated that Netflix and video games were eating up a lot of time. Since I’m a teacher, I have been pushing them to read a book, write an essay, and complete schoolwork even though it isn’t going to be graded. They accepted my advice with the appropriate eye rolls and non-committal head nods which tells me they aren’t ready to listen yet.

It’s stuff like this that makes me want them at my house. My ex-wife is a good mom but I’m a control freak. I want to be able to bug them in my persuasive, fatherly way.

Brock had hip surgery on Feb. 28. He is a Sophomore and trying to recover and rehab for next football season. I went to one physical therapy appointment with him and I want to see how he is progressing. I want to see him do the work every day. I want to help him stay on track. I want to push him to study for his AP Biology test. I want to push him to get his grade up in his English class. I want to be his Dad.

I want to help Tennyson stay in shape and stay active. She is in 8th grade this year and wants to try out for the high school cheerleading team. Obviously, those tryouts have been canceled but she wants to stay in shape and keep some skills. I want to help her. I want to talk to her about going to high school next year. I want to help her prepare for one of the big academic moves of our educational lives. I want to talk her into signing up for the Student Council class next year. I want to be her Dad.

Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe they should stay with me and everything will be fine. I hate doubting myself and having no way of knowing. But is it worth it? My wife has Rheumatoid Arthritis and is on the drugs you don’t want to be on if you get this COVID crap. The gamble just isn’t worth it, even though I really want to change my mind. But I don’t really want to change my mind. As Anne Lamont says in her Ted Talk, all truth is a paradox. I understand that statement now. Is my daughter fighting allergies? Does she have a cold? Does she have what we all hope she doesn’t have? Am I being a paranoid freak or am I being pragmatic? Does this mean I won’t see them for another three weeks while they quarantine after a fever?

And so I awkwardly stood on my ex-wife’s lawn and waved sadly at my kids for 10 minutes. I hope they laughed about the funny items I gave them. I hope they start listening to better music and read a book. Eventually, I got in my Jeep and drove away. My eyes are getting wet again just typing it. Damn allergies.

Written by: NathanWhite