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Keeping My Kids Close, Even When They're Far Away

Photograph by Getty Images

While my career has taken me to Los Angeles, my sons live in Fort Lauderdale with their father. That’s nearly 3,000 miles of land between us, but we’ve managed to bridge the gap in creative ways, in fact I believe that the distance has made our relationship stronger.

I remember when my sons lived with me, I would rise early in the morning, rush through getting them dressed and out the door to drive to not one but TWO different schools before heading to work, myself. I would then get off, rush to pick them up from their respective schools, drive home, prepare dinner, enforce homework duties before bathtime and then off to bed they go while I stay up for a few extra hours working on my own writing projects. I usually passed out a little after midnight and then the saga began again.

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What was missing? Face time. I was so caught up in trying to make some headway in my career as a journalist that I would regretfully abandon them to playtime in their rooms when we had a spare moment so that I could market myself, write freelance articles or cultivate my online audience on my blog. I didn’t want to give up on my dream of supporting myself by being a writer, but my relationship with my sons suffered.

Now, five years later, my sons live with their dad and I live far away; yet I spend more quality time with them than I ever did before. I know my sons—I mean I really know them now. If I can catch them in the morning before school I call them and wish them well on their day, or ask them to make a wish and see if it comes true that day. Once they leave school and make it home, they call me and we talk about what happened. I ask them questions about their friends, their attitudes and daily activities.

I do miss them and I do cry, but I try not to do it while they are on the phone.

I can tell you who they hang out with, which girls they like and what they learned in school that day. I hear about the daily woes with teachers, adventures with their dad and recitals that they perform in. We talk about current events and what that means to them as children, we tell lots of jokes, and trade YouTube videos and emails back and forth.

My sons are 10 and 12, and I bought them both laptops so we can stay in touch. We use Skype, though not as often as I would like. My 12-year-old is really into sneakers. He researches them and prices them, and when he found a website that allowed him to design his own sneakers for fun, I encouraged him to think about designing his own line of sneakers as a business, so now we discuss how to begin by learning about others who have done it. My younger son is into books, just like I was when I was little.

The biggest surprise about all of this is that I have never heard my sons cry because I am gone. Before I left I explained to them why I was leaving, and they said they supported me in going after my dreams. I do miss them and I do cry, but I try not to do it while they are on the phone. We teach our children how to react to situations by allowing them to watch us react. I decided that my leaving to live in Los Angeles was going to be a big step in my career, and I shared these goals with them with such passion that they share my passion and excitement, too.

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I’m doing OK. We’re doing OK. I can’t wait to hold them in my arms again, to cuddle with them and to take another trip to the beach. Until then, as long as cell phones work, I’m happy to set aside a couple of hours every day to involve myself in their world, to listen, teach them how to navigate tricky situations and laugh with them as we continue to create memories, despite the distance.

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