Photo: Herrera

My husband and I have five kids in school, so afternoons are usually the most challenging parts of the day.  When my husband went on a business trip to Florida for a few months, he had to figure out how to help the family long-distance.  His solution was to call every day at the same time (about 20 minutes after the school bus dropped off the three elementary boys).  He would engage one boy while I focused on the others; we would switch boys when needed.

Spelling Lists.  Time permitting, I would allow the boys to type out their spelling list on my phone, then text it to their dad.  If I couldn’t spare my phone (or trust them not to take unconventional pictures with it), then I would let them send a picture of their spelling list.  Armed with the words for the week, their dad could study with them daily.

Reading Logs.  Our first grader, being in the age group that only knows how to read out loud, was able to read to his dad on the phone.  I would sometimes hear him spelling out a word that his dad didn’t understand (“Pahaohnee… I said, PAHAOHNEE! P-h-o-n-e… oh, phone“).  If the book was popular enough, dad was able to download the story and read along.  Since this was easier on the both of them, my husband started telling our first grader which book to read instead of the other way around.

Chores.  The chore list is on the board in the kitchen.  It is the same list of chores this week as it has been for the last 20 weeks, but they still need someone to say (if not point the way), “Go check your chore list; what do you have to do today? Okay, now go do it.”  It was nice to let someone else parrot directions to the kids while I concentrated on starting dinner. Their dad was able to get them started working, unfortunately, the boys often “forgot” that they were on the phone and would put him down somewhere… where no one could hear him scream.

Baby Monitor. A couple of times I had to leave the house to play chauffer.  Dad was able to stay on the line with the older boys, so he could keep them on track (or at least let me know if they tried to burn down the house).

Our middle school and high school girls would arrive home too late to participate in talking to their dad, but he was sure to text them a quick word each day to let them know he cared about their day.  Our three-year-old was the lucky one; he got to FaceTime his dad… though, I’m pretty sure he just enjoyed watching his own face talk the whole time.

I’d get my own phone call after the kids went to bed, when we could talk and say our daily readings.  Admittedly, I wasn’t happy to hear about all the wonderful food there is to eat and exciting places to visit in Florida when I was in “mother-mode”, but at least I wasn’t resentful because I knew he had done his best to be a part of our daily lives.

Despite the over-the-phone help, we still had our chaotic days.  Like the day we ran out the door late to church… and accidentally left the 10 year old upstairs.  Sure, I asked if everybody was in the car! Yes, they told me the #1 troublemaker wasn’t there! No, I didn’t believe them, because they are always messing with me like that!! I didn’t put it together until I started wondering why both my husband and the alarm company were desperately trying to get ahold of me in the middle of the service.  Once I realized that boy really was at home and setting off our motion sensors, of course I tried to get back home to him.  Tried… because in addition to leaving my child at home, I had locked my keys in the car.  Yeah, that was a fun day.