It’s still dark when I quietly creep to the door, heading to the airport for a work trip to L.A. The hubby and the kids are all asleep, and I think, “Okay, good. I’ll sneak out and there will be no tears.” Then I stop and realize that I can’t walk out and not say goodbye—especially to my seven-year-old son, who is really aware of what it means when Mommy or Daddy goes away for work travel.
So I sneak back up to kiss each of my loves. When I get to my son’s room, he wakes up and asks if he can see me go. This means he jumps on the couch by the window. Once I get outside, I turn and put my hand up to the window to match his hand and say, “I love you. See you soon.” We never say goodbye; just “see you soon.”
AWAY FROM HOME
As soon as I land, I always like to run through my scheduled interviews and appearance plans. But first, it’s time to FaceTime my loves. I call in and, at first, there is great excitement that I am on the phone. I, too, am filled with delight to see my family. Then the strangest thing happens to all of us: the happiness turns to longing. I can see it in their little faces. My baby grows frustrated and upset that she can see me but can’t touch me. My son changes like the sun being covered by a cloud—he has suddenly been reminded that I am not home and won’t be for a few more days. He says he wishes he could jump on my lap and have a hug. Right then and there, I know I need to end the call to put a cap on the longing they’re feeling. It felt like the virtual platform was teasing my kids by offering a connection with me that was almost real — but the realization that it wasn’t real, and that I was still far from home, was very hard on them.
CAN FACETIME BRIDGE THE DISTANCE?
So I wonder, are video conferencing apps like FaceTime or Skype a good way to connect with young kids when parents are away? Or should that kind of technology be left to older children who understand what it means to connect with someone through technology? I don’t know the answer, but I feel like it can be very confusing and upsetting for small children. They don’t understand that there is no person in that electronic device. They wonder: Where is my mommy? Why doesn’t she want to reach out to me?
I know for some people, FaceTime really works. But for us, I find it doesn’t help bridge the distance when I am travelling. The heart wants what it wants, and sometimes technology just teases kids into wanting what they can’t have. How good or bad is that for a little person? I do know that a real kiss and hug is what they really want; not a screengrab of one. And I feel the same way.
When we do FaceTime, we follow a few rules to help keep emotions in check. Sometimes, we find that a phone call during travel just works better.
From my family to yours,
Our Family Tips for Connecting When Parents Travel
- Never FaceTime before bed
- Don’t try and fake a hug on FaceTime
- Ask kids to show you something to keep the video call active
- Keep it short
Published on: Vitalize Magazine