We’ve all seen countless things happen since things really started to go south (which in Arizona was somewhere around the 2nd week in March, give or take a few days) due to COVID. From the time I started to realize that parenting plans and kids who share two or more households were really, really going to be affected by this (see Separated Parents and COVID, posted March 15, 2020) until now, just about six weeks later, amazing things have happened. Many are not good: I’ve participated in several emergency hearings. Some were real emergencies, but most were differences of opinion between parents. I can’t count the calls and emails I’ve received about parent arguments about things both trivial and crucial. There are parents who have been separated from their children for weeks because of travel restrictions or health concerns, or because a parent is on the front lines giving medical care. Worse yet, some parents are separated from their children because the other parent is withholding a child for no good reason, or using the current situation to take advantage.
And there are parents who are taking care of children full time, 24/7 with no respite, who are barely able to keep it together and who have few resources to help.
But most of what I’ve seen in my practice is cooperation. I’ve seen a number of separated parents offering the other help, offering to find hard-to-find supplies and deliver food. While some parents have chosen to argue, blame, and fight over a child’s time as if they were dividing toilet paper, others are simply asking “Are you all right?” Can I get you anything?” While some parents are denying the other Facetime with the children, others have added extra telephone and Facetime to make sure kids get to see both parents for awhile each day, no matter what the circumstances. (And, unfortunately, some parents use the Facetime and telephone to quiz the kids inappropriately and say nasty things about the other parent. Some things don’t change.)
I think my favorite parent story of the last few weeks is the parent had the child and emailed the other parent to say that their daughter wanted to put temporary dye in her hair and turn it purple. The parent stressed that it was temporary and would wash right out, and said “I just didn’t want you to be caught by surprise.” The other parent responded “Great! I can’t wait to see it!” What a great thing. It could have been two parents bickering about someone dying the child’s hair and how dare they do that, and instead it was two parents enjoying their child’s creativity. And communicating.
Other good things? Kids are getting new experiences by trying to get some kind of education without traditional schools and teachers. They realized how much they love and miss their teachers and they’ll likely appreciate them more when they go back. The working parents I know are (for the most part!) love getting more time with their kids and getting to know them better. The court system is fast-tracking technology for telephonic and online proceedings that frankly should have been put into place more than a decade ago — but at least it’s happening. Lawyers are learning how to use more technology and how to practice from anywhere, not just from an office or a courtroom. I’ve attended Zoom webinars during the last few years, sporadically, but never previously had any interest in hosting Zoom meetings or using it regularly. Now I do at least 4-5 Zoom sessions a week, every week, and use more of Zoom’s features.
Everyone is learning new things. Co-parents imagining “What’s the nicest, most reasonable way I could handle this situation?” would be such a great new learning experience. Just an idea.