Give fathers more access in summer

By Peter Ehrlich

Summer holidays are fast approaching and for many single parents, the long hot days of July and August cannot be anticipated without a certain amount of angst.

Access agreements often list April or May as the time when single parents must present each other with their "summer intentions" in term of access to their child.

I wish I could just say "summer plans," but that would imply unconditional mutual acceptance, and that seldom happens.

Why are summer holidays often a time when lines are drawn in the sand? For many single fathers, summer is one time of year when restricted access makes no sense. If a loving, competent father wants to spend a meaningful block of time with his children once in July and once in August, neither his ex nor the courts should interfere.

By competent, I'm talking about fathers who:

  • Want to be with their children, capital W.
  • Plan to create an intimate space of time with their children, without cellphones, BlackBerrys or computers.
  • Are willing to spend less time with their girlfriend if she doesn't already have an established relationship with the children.
  • Are willing to make creative vacation plans, even if finances rule out exotic destinations.

Dads know that there is no legitimate excuse for restricted access during the summer, no good reason they should be limited to one weeknight or every second weekend for a day and a sleepover.

From September to June many fathers accept the fact that it's probably wise that children shouldn't be shuffled back and forth on a 50/50 basis just for the sake of being able to say they have their children exactly half the time.

I accepted it. No matter how much I wanted the formula to be 50/50 from day one, when I was able to separate myself from my ego, I knew the best thing for my son was for him to spend 60 to 70 per cent of the time with his mother during the school year.

But summer offers fathers (and mothers) the opportunity to spend meaningful blocks of time with their children.

"Blocks of time." Sigh. Many single mothers don't quite understand how precious those words are to fathers who ache deeply for more access.

Too often, personal resentment gets in the way of allowing moms to truly understand a man's yearning (and natural right) to have meaningful access to his children in summer.

Please allow me to make it easier for you to plan your summer holidays. Single dads should have no less than:

  • Seven consecutive days and nights, once in July and once in August if the children are between the ages of 3 and 6.
  • Eight to 10 consecutive days and nights if the children are between the ages of 7 and 9.
  • Ten to 14 consecutive days if the children are between 10 and 13.
  • Children over the age of 13 should be allowed three weeks plus per month if they want that.

Children under the age of 3 may have a difficult time being separated from their mom for an uninterrupted week. In such a case, only both parents know what's right.

That said, a caring dad should have little problem taking care of a young child by himself for at least five consecutive days and nights.

Kids love summer. Summer means freedom. Don't spoil it for them by thinking you own them.

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