I ran into the UPS Store carrying a grubby, freakish-looking, wadded-up dress belonging to an 11-year-old, along with black and white striped tights and a dirty little stuffed voodoo doll that was missing an eye and wearing an evil grin. I threw everything on the counter. The woman behind the counter gave me a look that I, more than likely, deserved.

A horror movie could've broken out right then and there if someone wasn't careful.

"I have to have this in Sacramento by Wednesday afternoon," I said, a bit breathlessly. I grabbed a big plastic envelope and jammed everything inside. To her credit, the woman didn't call the authorities.

Making long roundtrip drives to deliver and pick up children is just one stressful reality in long-distance parental relationships. (Doug Griswold/Staff
Making long roundtrip drives to deliver and pick up children is just one stressful reality in long-distance parental relationships. (Doug Griswold/Staff file) ( Griswold )

This is the occasional insanity of a father whose daughter spends most of her time 80 miles away. I've gotten used to it during the past six years.

It's hard enough dealing with child transfers when only one other parent lives 80 miles away. However, my stepdaughter's father recently moved just about as far away in another direction, adding more hours to our driving schedules. It becomes a lot of work for parents -- and probably even more for kids.

The first child in question, Olivia, left her Halloween costume at Dad's house because she thought she was spending Halloween there.

Then came the upset phone call that prompted the mad dash to the UPS Store. Actually, I'm not sure it was a real phone call, because it came via the iPhone feature that lets you talk to people while you can see them, like you're in "Star Trek" or something. It's really great -- until your little girl is crying. That's when futuristic technology sucks.

Hearing them cry is one thing, but seeing them cry is a much-worse thing.

She was torn (that's a word you get used to when a child has to travel a pretty long distance between her parents' homes), because she planned on trick-or-treating with her sisters and friends at my house. Then, out of nowhere, a school friend in Sacramento dreamed up the greatest Halloween idea ever, involving a combination of trick-or-treating with about 10 girls in their class, followed by a party afterward.

My 11-year-old is sensitive, emotional, loyal, empathetic and good at blackjack -- which has nothing to do with this, but it's something I like to tell people as much as possible. She didn't want to disappoint me. Naturally -- because I can't take it when girls cry -- I immediately absolved her of her guilt and gave my blessing. That made her cry even more -- for a half-hour.

I love girls. I don't understand them, but I love them.

So I mailed her the costume and moved on with my life. As I mentioned, the father of the other 11-year-old just moved, with little warning, to Sonoma County from Walnut Creek. So now I'm not the only bimonthly, long-distance child-delivery service at my house. My wife and I both do about 160-mile round-trips now. It's even worse for my wife, because her ex doesn't have overnight visits. Every other weekend, she makes that round-trip drive twice in one day. That's a lot of driving for one kid in one weekend.

People say long-distance, romantic relationships are difficult. That's nothing compared to long-distance parental relationships.

Contact Tony Hicks at thicks@bayareanewsgroup.com, Facebook.com/BayAreaNewsGroup.TonyHicks or Twitter.com/insertfoot.