Rachel and I recently had a chance to take a trip with our kids, Mollie Ann (9) and Emma (8). They had only been in an airplane one other time. Due to our travel schedule, we had to catch a 7AM flight out of Jackson, which meant we needed to get moving at the house before 5AM to get to the airport in plenty of time for baggage checks and security clearance. We forgot to get our boarding pass online, and we were running about 15 minutes behind, which felt like an eternity on a rainy Thursday morning. The kids looked so grown up with their headphones and backpacks, foreshadowing of the day in the not-so-distant future when they will be leaving for college. Uhggg.
We had to split up on the packed jet. Each parent took a kid. Rachel and Mollie found seats in the front, one behind the other, and Emma and I were across the aisle from each other on Row 19. My legal and non-profit work is limited to Mississippi for the most part, so I only infrequently travel on airplanes. Nevertheless, I have learned to tune out the safety instructions before take off –but not today.
I am traveling with my kids.
I get thumbs up from Mollie Ann from the front of the plane, big smile from ear to ear. Emma is all smiles too, asking tons of questions, excitedly noticing every little detail inside and out.
“How do I buckle my seatbelt?”
“What’s that orange thing he is holding connected to that tube?”
“What’s this tray for?”
“Are those the clouds?”
“Do they have apple juice?”
“When is my drink going to be here?”
“Who is the captain?”
I patiently answered all her questions. Her enthusiasm makes me happy, but it made me think about kids caught in the crossfire of divorce. They are going on a life journey with their divorcing parents where things are uncertain, although strangely exciting. They have to grow up fast and be little adults before it is time, sometimes packing suitcases to go between mom and dad’s houses every week. I think divorcing parents should pay close attention to instructions from counselors, attorneys, trusted mentors and friends. There will be lots of questions needing patient answers fashioned in a way they can understand.
Like Rachel and I did on the airplane, parents can navigate life separately, although no one who knows would call it ideal. Pay close attention to instructions, be patiently supportive of your kids, and enjoy the ride.
Craig Robertson is a family law attorney practicing throughout Mississippi.