David just came back from Edinburgh. The kids and I had five days alone together.
Let me just say that when you have a great partner, you do feel their absence. There is a space that goes unfilled, not just emotionally, like, “I miss you,” but in all the areas. At first, it seems fine they are gone. We eat easy dinners of frozen food. There are no dishes to be done. Yay! We stay up a little later. We read one more book at bedtime.
It’s fine, we all say to ourselves.
But then the new normal seeps in, and it isn’t as good. It doesn’t run as smoothly. There are cracks and fissures. We hate the frozen food, and we long for a roast chicken dinner. We are tired and need our old sleep rituals. We feel cranky and we don’t now why.
Then, by day four, its friggin’ clear that something is amiss, and the rhythms are off, and there is baby-wailing for no reason and boy-acting-out for no reason, and the voices are louder, and the confusion is greater, we are losing things and the older girls are having tantrums about it. The children need a lot more attention, but I’m just struggling to cook the damned chicken, and I can’t hold them all in my arms and love them all while I cut vegetables, and do dishes and pack lunches, and I need some time to myself, that would be nice, to have a complete uninterrupted thought, but we are in triage mode, so I’m not even thinking about that, that’s laying on a beach in the sun on a far off tropical island fantasy shit.
Okay, so maybe I’m not as patient as I usually am, because everyone is mad. Mad. Mad. Mad.
Just fucking mad.
I control the mood in the house, I know that. So, I change it up. I stop everything that is practical and efficient. I corral them there all there on the couch, and we lay around feet over feet, legs over legs, watching Sharknado for the 3rd time because it’s stupid and awesome and it makes everyone happy. We laugh. We scream. We hide our eyes when the sharks eat the bad guys in lots of tacky, bloody, glorious bits. I let the dishes curdle in the sink. I let the leftover food sit out on the kitchen counter.
This helps. Me giving them all my attention, but I grumble in my head about having to do the dishes at 10 o’clock tonight. Then, I let it go. I smile at them. I kiss their little heads. I rub their little feet. I make fun of Ian Ziering in my head.
And David is on a plane, oh yes he is, somewhere over Greenland, he tells me on International Wi-Fi. But he cannot get here soon enough. For all of us.
Finally he comes. And just stepping through the door, they all run to him, and grab him around the waist, the legs, and the baby toddles over and falls on his feet. It isn’t that second, but maybe an hour or two later – after the hugs and cuddles on the couch that happen before he has even taken off his jacket, that twilight time where they fill him in on everything, their voices and stories overlapping, and gifts, bought at the airport, get handed out and unwrapped – that the normal comes back.
There is dinner, and he and I debrief quickly in the kitchen between quick, the-children-are-watching kisses, and there are baths, and the readying for school, and the uniform that needs to have an emergency washing or else the universe will crack into millions of pieces and the girl-child will explode from embarrassment, and all the other completely essential routines of the night.
He takes a shower to wash off the plane. I make us a cocktail. We hold hands and binge-watch some show we are addicted to. He is jet-lagged, part of his body still lingering in Britain, but most of him is here.
Most of him is here.
And the normal seeps back in. Everything calms down.
I will be able to sleep tonight. First time I’ll get a sound sleep for four nights.
We go back to the way we were, all together. I see our children breathe again, their anxiety quiets like shallow, unmoving puddles of water.
We are okay, put back together.
Back to normal.