One of my 2 year old’s main topics of conversation this week (with anyone who will care to listen actually) is that ‘daddy is at work’. He will tell me this about eighteen times a day and follow it with: ‘daddy come back’. Sometimes he will throw in a random (perhaps hopeful) timeframe on the end…such as ‘daddy come back, morrow’. This will be accompanied by decisive head nodding, as if the force of his conviction is enough to make it happen.
It’s not sadly, but my son’s increased understanding of his father’s away trips got me thinking of all the things we do to help him (and me) with periods of absence.
Any more suggestions very welcome – particularly if they are suitable for a 2 and 32 year old and if they are prettier and more creative than my rather rubbish triangle drawing.
1. ‘ALWAYS COME BACK’ MANTRA
My son knows if I go out I ‘always come back’. (Ok, don’t shout me down on this one. I do sometimes throw in the ‘unless something unforeseen happens to me’ line, but frankly I’d rather he just got the basic idea that I would always want to come back.)
This works very well as a concept for his other parent too. ‘Daddy always comes back…he just takes a bit longer than Mummy’. I like the positivity with this technique. I do my own enthusiastic head nodding.
2. LOCATE THE ABSENTEE
We have spent a lot of time at ‘daddy work’ so my son pretty well understands what it is his father might be up to while away.
I say he understands, I don’t actually have any idea what my imaginative toddler sees in his head when he shouts ‘hit, ball, hit, bat, hole, yay!’…some sort of shouty cricket/golf hybrid. But it’s something to focus on anyway.
3. KEEP BUSY
At the start of summer, we will always look at the cricket fixtures and try to plan activities for a few of the away trips. My family live far, far away from me so going to stay with them is always a great distraction and it’s not somewhere, unlike home, that is so closely associated with Daddy.
Going to join in on away trips can be fun too (if exhausting). In doing so, however, no one is absent and the point of this post goes entirely out of the window.
4. GO WITH THE FLOW
I definitely notice (and this trip is no exception) that feelings can run high for when Daddy is away. More shyness, more tears and more crossness but, above all else, more attachment to me.
We’ve had many an away trip in the past (particularly pre-language) with my son unable to sleep or settle unless with me. On one occasion ‘with me’ was incorrectly and uncomfortably translated as ‘face pressed against my face’.
It can all get quite intense but realising the underlying reasons can definitely help the parent at home keep their sanity.
5. NAME THE FEELINGS
I think it is really important for little people to develop their emotional understanding and simple vocabulary to identify feelings is supposed to help. ‘We are sad, we miss Daddy. We are excited to see him soon’. That sort of thing.
I have just realised in writing those lines that I have never actually said them as simply as that. I wafffle on and on and on and actually get quite philosophical with some pretty admirable thoughtful head nodding. But I think that’s the basic premise of the theory.
6. UTILISE TECHNOLOGY
If we are doing something fun or at a new place I will ask if we should take a picture to send to Daddy because Daddy would love to be here.
We also use the good old Jetson family classic video call service. It works for us but you have to be the judge of whether that’s a treat-type blessing or a horribly confusing curse.
Shuffling around in Daddy’s slippers is favourite game (of the todder’s I hasten to add) and one that mostly occurs during bouts of separation (probably because if the adult was at home he’d be wearing his slippers, but I like to think it’s a way for them to bond across the miles).
My son also has a t-shirt with his father’s crickety face on it. ‘Daddy’s not here…but do you want to wear him on your tummy today?’.
8. COUNT THE BIG SLEEPS
I know this works for a lot of people. I’m thinking this will work when we get to, I don’t know, four!? Perhaps he needs to not be waking up in the night.. We can steam through about three big sleeps in one night. Or are they medium sleeps. I’m confused.. So instead we…
9. COUNT THE TRIANGLES
Strictly speaking, you don’t have to use triangles. I asked my son what shape he would like me to use to represent the days Daddy was away for. He requested triangles, I obliged.
At tea time, we talk about what we did on today’s triangle, and I remind him what we did on the preceding triangles, then point out how many triangles are left until we get to the red triangle that represents Daddy being at home. Then we (I) ceremoniously CROSS OUT TODAY’S TRIANGLE. Genius isn’t it.
I believe calendars have the monopoly on squares, so tread carefully there. But rectangles, octagons, dodecahedrons are probably safe.
10. ENJOY THE QUALITY TIME
The best trips are the ones when I’m of the mindset that they are a treat and an opportunity for me to spend some unbelievably special times together on my own with my son.
And while an unbroken night’s sleep in a hotel, an evening bath and glass of wine in the bar sound bliss, I actually know where my husband would rather be this week.
(HERE…in case you got distracted by sleep and wine!)
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