Being apart from your children - it's so much harder than I thought
My kid is having a tantrum. He’s 3 years old, red in the face, grey with exhaustion and he’s very, very loud. He just wants his mum. That’s me. The problem is he’s in Australia and I’m, well, not.
There are many advantages to marrying an Australian. The Tim Tams. The chance to escape Brexit if it turns our (mostly) wonderfully inclusive country into something else. Another sporting team to support (because it’s hard work being a die-hard Wales fan.) But when your mother-in-law is poorly and your husband dashes to see her (he didn’t really dash – he booked a plane and spent 3 weeks packing), taking your 3.5-year-old over too, then it’s pretty bloody crappy being married to one whose heart is often the other side of the world.
We are giving our son so many happy memories with this trip. Time with his aunt, who adores him, and spoils him in all the right ways. He's meeting the kids of our friends who I haven't seen in two years, and he's (mostly) charming them. He's had an introduction to his granny, who raised his dad to be a mighty man and has amazing stories of travel around the world. Regular readers know my relationship with her is strained, but how can I begrudge my kid cuddles from someone who loves him? He is having a great time, and he only asks about me when he’s really knackered.
However it turns out I begrudge all of it. I miss him down to my very bones. When I see pictures of him having fun in the sun, I wail. The photo alone makes my eyes prick, and I bite my lip to stop the tears. I can’t bear that he is so far away from me. And now he’s having a tantrum, I just want to hold him and comfort him. And there is a physical pain in my core, visceral, because I can’t.
For all the benefits that being half-Australian brings him, being apart from him has broken me in a way that I didn’t think was possible. I know he is well loved, and having fun. I know he is cuddled and getting lots of attention and adventures. Yet still I am bereft. I’m left wondering how bereaved parents ever get out of bed again after the loss of a child. I’m wondering how they ever look at photos, or watch videos, or say the name out loud of the child who is no longer there without cracking in half. I’m so very grateful that I have 11 days to go of this 2.5-week break, and I know I’ll get so many cuddles when he’s back. My heart is just stretched, not broken.
And my two-year-old is ecstatic for all the attention. But he's a bit sad too. He asks every morning “Where Daddy? Where Jojo?” and every night he runs into his brother’s bedroom wondering if he’s magically reappeared. I promise him that he’s coming back, I smother him with cuddles, and when he goes to bed I cry on the sofa before watching Motherland, which reminds me that parenting is always tough, and that this is just something to get through. And then next morning I wake up, and I’m one day closer to getting my biggest boy back, and I cross off the date on the calendar and sniff his t-shirt and I try to keep my shit together.