Originally Posted by Flor
In my experience, routine is nothing compared to spending more time with a parent. Dss's mother moved away and it broke his heart. The courts told us to get over it. It is what it is. Now, how do we make sure dss is happy and conected to both parents given the fact that she lives very far away, is rather flakey, and shows up randomly? I can't imagine making dss continue on with his routine (afterschool YMCA, karate lessons, Wednesday playdate, etc.) when his mom was in town just waiting to spend time with him. There's nothing he'd want more. Keep in mind, I don't like this woman, I think she is a nut, and it bugs me to no end that she moved away. Still. Dss wants to see her and he is happier with her more in his life.
However, I think the OP's question was how to tell the dss. I guess I'd ask the mother what she'd like me to say. Or, I might say, "That is what the custody arrangement says."
It's a tough call. If the parent who moved away is a real flake, or has some sort of serious problems that makes him or her deeply irresponsible and you know it can't get better, I can see bending and bringing the parent in to see the child in some supervised environment. Otherwise, I still think it's a poor idea to teach children to get up and run for people who aren't treating them in a respectful manner. My father lives far away and has health issues that prevent him from traveling out here often. Still, when he's here, he never asks to step on our daily life. If my XH wants to give up time with dd so that she can see her grandpa, that's very nice of him, but nobody asks him to do it. My dad doesn't ask or want me to take dd out of her regular routine, lessons, etc. to see him; he and his wife spent time in town till we're done, and then they meet us. He's also careful to avoid visiting when I have heavy deadlines coming up. In other words, he respects the fact that he lives far away and we have a life here, and he doesn't come in shouting, "Hey, I'm here! I'm more important! My relationship with my granddaughter is more important than whatever you all have got going on!" And I respect and appreciate that greatly.
When I was a girl, my favorite aunt was a hippie with, as it turned out, some serious problems. She lived near my grandma. Sometimes, when I was in bed at my grandma's, I'd hear my aunt at the door, wanting to see me. And I'd jump out of bed. My grandma would tell my aunt to go away, sometimes, and come back another day, and I'd go back to bed feeling the separation. Much later, I understood why she'd kept my aunt away from me and why she'd been right to do so.
angilyn, it sounds like you made a difficult decision. I will say, though, that separating from a 16- or 17-year-old is very different from separating from a 5-year-old. When I was 17 I'd already been at college for two years and overseas on my own. I said "bye" to my parents at the airport and didn't look back. I can't imagine his moving away when I was five, though. When I was five he was my favorite person in the whole entire world, and I was still more or less figuring on marrying him. And that's just him -- mix in a stepfamily's leaving too, and I can't begin to imagine.
One thing this board is teaching me is the value of being very careful of acquiring competing interests after divorce when children are involved. In ways I wouldn't have imagined a year ago, I see that it would be wise to build this home for my daughter very stable and strong, with strong community ties, and without bringing in new men or new children while she's growing up. The norm appears to be to accept a long string of disruptions, breaks, and upheavals throughout the children's early years, and to expect the children will be resilient throughout. I wonder how much that has contributed to the unprecedented rates of serious childhood mental illness that exist now. In any case, if what I'm hearing here is representative, then having a fixed pole sounds like a good idea.
Incidentally, re the situation the OP asked about, if the mother is not likely to allow irregular visitation, I'd be very careful not to tell the child that her father is in town until the mother has said yes to the extra time, and not to make it appear that he is available to see her during other nonscheduled times.