Friday, September 28, 2012

Virtual Visitation with a Douche Canoe

Photo Credit: wired.com

With cameras on computers, video chatting, Skype, FaceTime on Apple products and the like, it's reasonable to schedule regular "virtual visitation" when crafting a parenting plan for divorced parents and such provisions in court ordered parenting plans are becoming more and more common.  Especially if there is a geographical distance between a parent and child(ren), it seems that being able to actually see children, while not in person, and to have them see their parent, is still better then a phone call, email or text.

It seems ...

Don't get me wrong, I completely agree that while there is no replacement for direct one-on-one interaction between individual parents and children, using technology to virtually spend time with kids can be a positive option for many divorced families.

It can be.

That's why when the STBX proposed the idea of having twice-per-week FaceTime "visits" with our then one and a half year old son during negotiations for a court ordered parenting plan and visitation schedule, I agreed without much hesitation or argument.  At the time, I couldn't think of a better way to dedicate myself to preserving and fostering the relationship between my C-man and his father through whatever means available.  With the STBX only traveling to MA for in-person visitation one weekend each month, I believed that the frequent interaction during FaceTime calls every week would help more than it could hurt.

In some ways, it has.  I firmly believe that the frequent visual contact with his father, even if it is only via my iPhone, has helped our young son learn who is "Daddy" is in a much more profound and loving sense (he was only 13 months old when we separated).  I also know that the calls during the weeks between those monthly visits ease any separation anxiety he may experience during the actual visits themselves.

And that's pretty much where the benefits end as it pertains to virtual visitation with C-man, who is now two years old.

After months and months of these "virtual visits", I'm discovering that as sensible as the concept may be as an alternative option for visitation, it is very limited in its effectiveness to promote an engaged relationship between parents and children.  Especially if one of those parents is a douche canoe and doesn't even try to make the quantity of the time spent video calling with our very young son a quality experience.

Lately, our FaceTime calls to Daddy every Tuesday and Thursday night, amount to me desperately trying to encourage C-man to "talk to Daddy", while his wonderful father (sarcasm) says hardly a thing back to him (toss in a "Hey Bud" every 3 minutes or so and that's the total extent of douche canoe's effort).  During these "virtual visits" I'm pretty much following around an active and playful toddler trying to play with him with one hand as my other holds the damn iPhone.  C-man is usually distracted (he's only two!) and has the attention span of a fly, which is to be expected, but does his father even try to keep him interested in engaging with him? No!!

And people wonder why I call him a douche canoe? 

On at least four separate occasions since May of this year I've made the suggestion that maybe the STBX pick up a few books that we have that C-man loves having read to him.  You know, since C-man is just a toddler and simply not developmentally able to carry on a meaningful conversation with his father during these "virtual visits" I thought, being the engaged mother I am, well I just thought it was a swell idea.  It seems better than tossing out a few "Hey Bud's" every few minutes while I try and wrangle C-man into looking at my phone to "talk to Daddy". I even sent the STBX a list of some of our favorite books (The Cat in the Hat, Hop on Pop, Make Way For Ducklings etc.).  I figured he could read the book to C-man and we could follow along, turning the pages, while I propped my phone up in a way so that he could see us (namely, C-man).

Has the STBX picked up a single book to do this? No!!

Why?  Because he's a douche canoe!!

Needless to say, I've come to dread FaceTime each week and my intuition tells me that it won't be long before C-man will too.  I long for the day where my son is old enough to manipulate the phone on his own without the threat of it getting tossed in J-dog's water dish or having to deal with multiple hangups or mutes (he loves to push the buttons!), but at the same time my gut is full of dread because I know if something doesn't change with his father's effort during these calls, they are going to amount to 10 minutes of his father interrogating a reluctant child who's just waiting to hang up so he can go off and do something fun and entertaining.

And so it goes, technology can bridge distances created by geography and circumstance but it is powerless to influence the outcome of complex relationships between parent and child.  That is clearly up to the people in those relationships themselves and being that one of them is a child in this case, it would make logical and sane sense for burden of effort to fall on the parents.

I feel like I am doing my best to do my part every Tuesday and Thursday evening during this alternative visitation option for the STBX.  I truly want my son to get something out of this time with his father.  However, his father isn't doing his part and being the douche canoe that he is, I won't hold my breath waiting for him to change. I won't waste my breath trying to get him to try harder either. That ship has sailed. That's why I have this blog. Here, is where I can vent. During FaceTime itself, I smile and grit my teeth through every minute because that is just how much I love my son.     

4 comments:

  1. Hopefully your son will be more interested in engaging with his dad as he gets older. It's tough...CBG has video chats with his son twice a week now that he's moved, and his son (now 6) isn't always interested in having a big conversation, despite his dad's efforts to engage him.

    You're doing all that you can do to help facilitate things between your son and his dad. After that, it's up to the douche canoe to make a better effort. That's not on you to wear. I totally understand that you want them to have a better relationship, but again, that's not yours to own. Do what's reasonable on your end (which it sounds like you're doing) and let the rest be up to him....

    *hugs* to you.

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  2. Hi Phenom- I stumbled upon your blog a few months ago and heave been following along. I'm 3 years post divorce (no kids) and could not be happier. Actually, i'm remarried to an amazing guy (who also went through a divorce, with a now 4 year old daughter). Anyways... the point of my comment is that we used to do mandatory nightly phone calls with my step daughter's mother (who is not a douche canoe) and even at 4 years old, it was a struggle to encourage meaningful conversation. These phone calls were always a fight to get her to stop doing what ever she was doing and concentrate on talking to her mom. Who wants to be forced to call their parents every night? We have finally agreed to let her decide every night whether she would like to make a phone call to her mom (or to her dad when she's with her mom). Most nights she does not but when she does, she's excited to tell her something and stays engaged in the conversation. Just wanted to share what's worked for us. Good luck!

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  3. Seems like a good idea for older kids but you chasing around a toddler trying to get him to engage a screen is a stretch. I feel for you. And very thankful my kids were older when the separation occurred.

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  4. My ex is in town and we birdnest, meaning our 3 kids stay put and we rotate in and out, and it is still hard to get him to engage sometimes. I think he sits on the sofa and the kids run amuck while he plays on his phone. They have no interest in calling or texting him during his off times. Just goes to show, can't make a Douche Canoe (love that) engage.

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