Distance Makes the Heart

My kids left yesterday to spend half of their spring break with their dad. There is nothing in the world more bittersweet than having the house stay exactly as spotless as the housekeeper left it 24 full hours ago.*

There are traces of them everywhere: the humming of the Wii left running, the smell of teen spirit wafting from my oldest's bedroom, the T-Rex frozen in time on the Whiteboard of Glorious Correction and Societal Alignment for the Advancement of the Revolution, whom I've named Fupa. Because shut up. 

Fupa the Mighty TRex.jpg

The fact that I can't figure out what to do with myself when they're gone tells me that it's important they go. The fact that I have spent 12 straight hours in this same spot on my couch hyper-focused on work in the first day they're gone tells me that I need them to go. 

Minutes take hours and hours pass in the blink of an eye. I check my phone and my watch and my phone again for text and right at the moment I stop waiting for them the phone finally rings, and they are short-spoken and distracted on the other end of the line, somewhere on the road between this life with me and that one with their father. I am relived. They are perfectly happy. They don't need me the way I need them. They are going to be just fine.

I have to get through six more days of this quiet, but I only have six days left of this quiet. I try to remember to save each extra fragment of time these elongated minutes give me, because it will be an even longer time before I hear this silence again. I close my eyes and try to conjure the things I like to do when I have any option in front of me. The smell of bath salts, the way the hair behind my ears clings to the cold of nighttime air, the taste of a cocktail at the audaciously early hour of 8pm.  

I break the silence, turn the TV on, and catch up on all the shows the show I like. I work and work and work and work and work and am grateful for the luxury of time to see something, anything from the beginning to the end, without once having to make the impossible choice between my children and anything else.

I pass each of their rooms and whisper goodnight to them, just like I do every night and I imagine I will continue to do so long as I am able. I crawl into my bed and drown myself in the tiny sounds I can almost never hear - the creak of the house, the chirp of the crickets, the buzz of the streetlamps. I cherish this fleeting eternity without them, and in their absence I am reminded that my choice to be some small part of their lives has always, and will always, supersede my obligation. 

(And no, I cannot believe I have a housekeeper, even one who only comes every two weeks. I have a ton to say about it that I just may, someday, but if you want to read a really thought-provoking post on the subject, click here.)

What Goes Around Comes Around

My oldest son's first word was bubble. He was three years old, and didn't do a damn thing until he could do it perfectly. He took his first step at 8 3/4 months, on Christmas Day, to a video camera. By the end of that day he was running circles around the tree, his poppup, and me.

The first time he rode a two-wheel bike without training wheels (at the ripe old age of two) he rode it down a huge hill and back up again. He does things loud, big, and on his own timeline. So he was three and he didn't talk yet, but he had better balance and gross motor skills then than I have at 39. 

In fairness, he did kind of talk. He mumbled some stuff and pointed a lot and I pretty much knew exactly what he was saying. His baby brother was an infant - a freakishly verbal infant - so I had some bandwidth to decipher my first-born's weird little language. We realized much later that his godmother had set out to teach him Dutch, but had failed to mention it to anyone else, so a lot of what we thought was his cute whittle made-up language was really just an English-Baby-Dutch hybrid. Talk about your reckless fusion. 

Eventually, this whole non-verbal thing came to a head for him. Little Baby Brother Talks-a-Lot gets the teletubby dolls and thesauruses and stuff; what's a toddlah got to do to get some damn bubbles off the top of the fridge to blow over the neighbor's new fence? Oh, right, grow four feet right now or ASK FOR THEM.

Oh right, YOU CAN'T.

There are few forces in the world more powerful that sibling rivalry, but irritation with your parents inability to "get" you as strong as it is eternal. He stood in front of that fridge, red faced, screaming garbledeegook at me while I tried to decode - do you want milk? popsicles? cheese? crackers? a nap? what, child??? 

He inhaled, and pointed his stubby little finger up just a bit higher. "I! Want! BUBBLE!"  he shrieked! His first sentence! And it was yelling at me! Of course it was.

And now here I am, 13 years later - standing in a different kitchen, pointing up to the shelf where we keep the stash of tea, telling that same child who currently stands 6" over my head and is growing that I want a teabag. Of course I am.

Everything comes back around, parents - every little thing.