April 13, 2011

{Parenting After A Divorce}

Raka’s mom and I have been divorced for nearly eight years now. Somehow we live on different planets and anytime we need to interact we follow some simple undefined rules. Instead of phone calls, let us go for voice mail. Instead of voice mail, let us go for emails.Of course that is convenient for Raka’s mom and me – we never have been forced to interact.

Things changed last week when Raka announced that she wanted to go to NYU before she finalized her college choice. She wanted both her mom and me to be with her on the trip. 

I have to admit my first thought was “Whoa! Do we have to do it?” Of course that thought immediately translated into, “Wow, how do I do that?”

But Raka being Raka was not going to take our hesitation as a no, at least not this time. Before we realized, I had booked airline tickets for the three of us and Raka found two hotel rooms for us. We were ready to go to NYC with our daughter.

I have always talked about the importance of divorced parents working together for their child’s sake, just like business partners with a common dream. But this trip was different. This is where the rubber hit the road and any failure on either of our part would have left a painful, everlasting memory on our beloved Raka’s little heart.

The trip started with Raka’s mom and me both being cautious. She emailed me her frequent flier number, I checked us in, and Raka took her mom’s boarding pass to her. On the day of the trip, Raka got back from school and she and I dashed to the airport together. Raka called her mom as we drove and she was totally surprised when reported to me, “Guess what dad!  Mom is already at the airport, two hours before the flight.” Then she went on to share how her mom had been excited the entire week before the trip and had even packed and was ready to travel a few days early.

Raka and I got to the airport and went to the gate to meet her mom. Her mom could not hide her excitement and very soon it turned into “all about Raka.” No words were exchanged between her mom and me. No subtle expressions of despair or frustrations were thrown in. Instead, two people were simply happy to be there to see the world through the bright smiling eyes of their daughter. Raka chose a restaurant and we went. Raka wanted pictures with both of us and she got it. Raka was simply on cloud 9. Finally when we boarded the flight, Raka was in the middle seat and dozed off immediately. Raka’s heads were on my shoulder and I was beaming with pride. It made me remember Raka as a baby and all her burp spots on my suit jackets. No, Raka was drooling. After some time, Raka switched positions and put her head next to her mom. Her mom gently ran her fingers through Raka’s hair and I realized that she too was waiting for the moment.

We landed in NYC late and immediately shared a cab to the hotel. The next morning we were up bright and early, ready to get to NYU.

Raka’s mom and I had no idea what we were to do that day. But as both were wearing sneakers, I guess we both knew that we would be doing a lot of running in and out, following our baby. We were in presentations, and then we rushed to get tours of the dorms, then more meetings and presentations. We both were relieved when we got half an hour to sit down and eat lunch. After lunch there was more running around until finally, at 5:30 Raka decisively informed us that she was done. She had all the information she needed to decide on NYU. Her mom and I were both impressed on how Raka maximized her time and used the day to get all the information.

That evening Raka decided that she was going to NYU. The reasoning behind her choice was as thorough as any of the business decisions she had made as President of Restaurant Marketing Group’s teen division. I captured the moment on my iPhone.
That evening we had dinner with one of Raka’s friends. By the time we were back in the hotel and I got to my room, I was glad to crawl into bed.

We woke up early the next morning and dashed to the airport. United Airlines gave me an upgrade to first class, and I asked Raka to take it instead.  She looked at her mom and me inquisitively and said, “So you guys will be alone back there, without me?”  

Raka boarded and went to her first class seat. She deserved a moment of limited indulgence. Her mom and I went to our seats which were in different rows. I guess our work together was done for the moment. I started looking at Raka’s picture and was so happy to see Raka’s eyes full of hope and happiness.  I was so glad her mom and I could make the trip all about Raka. Nothing was planned. Nothing was said. But each of us felt true, unconditional love for Raka and nothing else mattered in front of that. I wanted to take the credit for starting the process, but I was honestly not sure who started it. Did it matter? What mattered was that both of us did it and Raka was truly happy and excited. We were both rewarded with a lifetime of memories of seeing Raka smile.

Good luck at NYU Raka.  I have to admit that I am stressed and worried, but know you will be fine!

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