Luke was away last weekend, in Panama, of all places. People kept asking me why Panama and honestly I have no clue. This is how strange our conversations are these days. I knew when he was going, who with, and when he was coming back, but I had no idea why they went there and what they were planning to do. Maybe he had a secret passion for canals as a kid.
He wasn’t gone long—in the neighbourhood of four days—but the littles acted like he was off on some round-the-world trek with no end in sight. She had an emotional breakdown the day before he left, thinking she hadn’t given him an adequate goodbye and wouldn’t see him again. And man was she pissed when she woke up on Sunday to find him not yet home. Clearly she inherited her calendar skills from the maternal side of the gene pool.
She talked about missing him much more than the boy, though that may be a factor of age and understanding. One minute, she was acting out about some random thing only to break down in tears a moment later, desperate for a hug from dad. Hugs from me were not an adequate substitute.
The boy was okay during the day but then kept waking up at night for more snuggles. I was okay with this the first couple of nights—who doesn’t want a warm, cuddly bundle of affection right next to them in bed— but by the last night I was in need of a little space. There’s only so much touching an introvert can handle, even if it is in the form of an adorable, nuzzling little boy.
The problem is I'm a sucker and the boy knows it. This is why Luke has been on middle-of-the-night duty ever since Judah was about 15 months old. I can’t fathom the idea of losing more sleep than is necessary, so I always just crawl into bed with him which results in neither of us getting a good rest. Somehow when he falls back asleep in the middle of the night it’s that light, not-really-sleeping sleep that causes him to jolt back upright anytime he senses my desire to go back to my own bed.
“DON’T LEAVE,” he whisper-yells as he reaches out to grab my arm. At 3 am, I don’t have the mental capacity to argue nor the physical stamina to resist so back down I go. This is partially the reason why his big boy bed is a double. I never understood why people got huge beds for little kids until this guy came along.
The night that Luke came home, everything came back around. The girl chilled out and the little guy slept in his own bed for the whole night, possibly because I told him he had to but that’s putting a lot of stock in my ability to influence the actions of a sleepy preschooler.
I always find it amazing how Luke’s return can bring them back down to earth, which is why I often hesitate to write these sorts of things. I realize how lucky I am to have a partner who’s here more often than not and who shares in a lot of the child-rearing when he is here.
So many parents out there are doing this on their own full-time, with either no end in sight, or with the moments of reprieve months away. I don’t give them sympathy—no one needs pity—but my compassion and empathy for the struggle that is managing kids on your own. It’s probably the same way people who have family support might look at me and wonder how I manage to get by every day. A lot of the time, it’s really friggin’ hard. But what other choice do we have?
The times when Luke is away are definitely getting easier, despite the afore mentioned struggles. It’s nothing like the trip to Nova Scotia a couple years ago. I think we’re all still traumatized by that one. But there is still something about having him missing from our foursome that sends them into emotional upheaval. It’s like we’re a square with a missing face. We aren’t a triangle, just a box with a big hole on one side.
With two more trips near on the horizon, I’d be wise to consider a strategy for managing the next hole. Perhaps a bit more patience when little man loses his shit over an uncomfortable sock. Perhaps a bit more empathy when she snaps at of me or gives Judah heck for not “playing right.” And, if all that fails, baking cupcakes in our pyjamas always seems to help.