Long-time readers – which means anyone who has been here longer than three weeks – will recall that we moved here from Los Angeles in order to slow our lives down and find some peace. My husband was travelling constantly, the kids didn’t see him, he was exhausted, and I was stressed. J found a new job in a new place.
Surprisingly, it has worked. My husband is home for dinner. In the mornings, we take turns working out. He is a present father and a happier man. I am getting a little time to work, and the children are clearly feeling more secure, despite the stress of moving.
Unfortunately, J did have three week-long business trips over the course of May and June. That’s it for the summer, which is a drastic improvement over the days when he was gone five days a week.
Zach has never been particularly fazed by his father’s travel. He misses his father, but he has always invested most of his emotional capital into me. Both boys grew up with Daddy travelling constantly, and Zach’s response has been to simply rely on Mommy.
Benjamin’s response has always been to fall apart. Which he did continually back when J travelled all the time.
These three trips have been so hard on Ben, who feels things deeply. He refuses to talk to his father on the phone. He hits me. He gets out of bed at night, looking for reassurance. I can’t get him back to sleep. After two nights of this, I equipped him with a picture of his father to sleep with.
I try to keep my temper, but his emotional outbursts are very difficult to deal with, and it doesn’t help that I’m constantly changing sheets because Daddy’s absence seems to equal bedwetting.
Last night, putting him to bed, I stroked his hair. “Do you think you can be a good boy for me and try to settle down nicely tonight?” Translation: please don’t flail about, kick the wall, throw things at your sister, and play with the blinds. To be honest, he does those things when his father is not travelling, as well.
“I know you miss Daddy,” I told him. “I miss Daddy, too.” He lay there silently, but after a minute, I saw a very quiet tear coming down his almost-four-year-old nose.
“Oh, sweetie, are you crying?” He nodded and then the tears started coming faster. “Baby, he misses you so much too. He looks at pictures of you all the time and wants to be here with you. He’ll be back in a few more days, and then he won’t have any more trips for a long time.” At this point, the child was openly weeping, head in pillow, sobbing for his Daddy.
I sat there for a time, stroking Ben’s head, until he slowed down. “Where’s my little flashlight?” he asked.
I found the flashlight on the dresser and handed it to him. “Just please don’t flash it in Lilah’s eyes, OK?”
He nodded, slid his giraffie blankie in his mouth, and then rolled over to fall asleep, holding the flashlight in one hand and the picture of his father in the other.