Long distance parenting
Separation from a child needn’t spoil the relationship, suggests Marlon Abrahams.
How would you react to meeting a parent or your own child for the first time after an extended period of time, in my case 3 years. Yeah I’d been to see Sofia shortly after she was born, and the last time I saw her was three years ago when we spent two weeks just hanging out and discovering Prague.  Sure, I’ve been for Czech lessons and have stayed in-touch via regular phone calls, the odd skype interaction and millions of photos, but still, you don’t quite know what the reception’s gonna be like, now that she’s more able to understand and ask more questions.

These were the thoughts traipsing through my mind while waiting for her arrival at OR Tambo last month. Well, I need not have stressed. From the second I swept her up and hugged her hello, our bond was reaffirmed. I guess you could say it’s that knowing feeling that all families have: you know you belong, or you know you have something in common, something strong, no matter what the circumstances or reasons for the separation.

Love overcomes language barriers

In our case it was a magical reunion and for the next ten days we were nigh impossible to separate. My Czech remains scary at best, Sofia’s English has improved from 0 to being able to say “please”, “I love you”, “stop” when I swing her to fast, and “good morning”. I’ve learnt a whole lot of new words in Czech from her, like the words for “again”, “more” “chase me”, “pick me up” etc. But yet, despite the language barrier, we had absolutely no problem understanding each other.

Put in the hours, receive the rewards

I sometimes get requests for advice from single parents about how to handle situations of separation from their kids, forced or otherwise. And I always say do absolutely everything you can within the context of the circumstances. Whether that means keeping a daily diary of communication to your child, that you may only be able to show her or him when they’re an adult, or whether you can only call or Skype or email…. Whatever it takes, do what you must. In the end the rewards will come.

My bond with Sofia was not only real, but vibrant and alive; Maddi was decidedly put out! This despite me preparing her for Sofia’s arrival, and that she would have to play the role of big sister and set a good example. Though I have a feeling that she took her cue from Hannah’s example as a big sister always giving her (Maddi) grief. Sofia and Maddi are alike in many ways, and I guess it was always going to come down to a wee power struggle to establish who’s boss.

The other cool thing about having her here is that we got to celebrate her 5th birthday together… and we registered her as a SA citizen on the day of her birthday. Clearly a long distance relationship with a young child is hardly ideal, but if you stress about it rather than do absolutely everything to make it work within those circumstances, you’re never going to enjoy these magical moments when you actually do spend time together. Next trip, August 2012, European summer!

Read more by Marlon Abrahams

Disclaimer: The views of columnists published on Parent24 are their own and therefore do not necessarily represent the views of Parent24.

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