Aaron: “I’m gonna miss you, Mommy.”
Lea: “I’m going to miss you too.”
Aaron: “No, I mean I’m really gonna miss you.”
– exchange on the couch Tuesday night
The boys have been away from Lea for two nights before—fairly recently, actually—but best we can remember, this is the first time she’s been the absent party. She’s attending an out-of-state funeral, and that she’s traveling with her 87-year-old mother means she can’t get away with only one night on the road. So her total absence checks in at 52 hours or so.
And it’s quite different when Mommy’s away and everyone else is at home.
Now I’m hardly a bumbling sitcom dad who sets out to microwave a turkey pot pie and winds up painting the dog orange. I’m careful, capable, and responsible. It’s not even a tiny gamble to leave our children in my exclusive care for two days.
Tell you what I’ve noticed, though.
First, Lea has a great many things so completely handled that they don’t occur to me day to day. I walked into the kitchen three nights ago to see her packing our boys’ lunches into freezer bags that included notes like this:
Chance either of our sons would have gone to school without a nutritious lunch? Essentially zero. Chance I’d have prepared said good lunch in a panicked, hurried state because I hadn’t thought of it until eight minutes before we had to leave? Uh, 95% or so sound right?
(The specific directions are very much appreciated.)
Second, when one parent is absent, one big thing you lose is simultaneity. The boys and I had dinner with my dad Wednesday night, and while we were doing so, not one single thing was being done at our house to advance the boys’ needs. No laundry was being done. No pets were being fed. No memos from teachers were being read.
When there is only one of you, you operate in series, not in parallel. When you’re each attacking and defending your own end of parenthood in a complementary fashion, and doing so with conviction, almost nothing escapes. But doing one thing at a time—like you have to when half of your team is gone—requires a different sort of diligence.
I love the boys to the depths of my soul. Their ability to expand my capacity for love amazes me to this day. And they’ve been happy enough. I mean, Dad made homemade chili cheese fries for dinner last night, right? But I still can’t hug and kiss them like their mother can. And wow, does their father ever notice when their mother isn’t there to his left overnight.
We love and miss our queen. Glad she’s almost home.