Understanding Absence

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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.

 

7. PROPS
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.

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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!)

And now it is my duty, yes duty, to suggest tentatively and uncomfortably that if you are a floating voter for the BiBs then maybe, possibly, perhaps you could consider my blog in the Readers’ Choice category. You can click the below badge or read my post about it here.

BritMums
Domesticated Momster
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30 thoughts on “Understanding Absence

  1. Wow what a lovely post. You sound so tuned into your son’s feelings. Very interesting reading, I was really gripped from the beginning.

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  2. This is a great post. The triangle idea is genius! I always think it must be strange with young children on things like this because on the one hand they are so adaptable and accepting, but on the other you have no idea what they really think or understand about the situation.

    I love the wearing daddy on tummy!

    Think technology slightly confuses mine too. We skype family a lot, as we don’t live near any relatives. Toddler loves skype, but now if she tries to speak on a normal phone call, she mostly just yells, ‘I can’t see Grandma/Grandad ANYWHERE!’ in the general direction of the phone.

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    1. That’s exactly the problem…not knowing what they think is the problem. With everything actually.
      We have more daddy based props but it was starting to sound a bit shriney so I edited.
      That is so sweet! If nothing else The Toddler is accurate.
      Thanks for popping along to comment Silly One.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. These are great, I know the time is coming with CB will be able to communicate better how much he misses daddy when he’s at work; right now I always let him know when daddy is on his way home and he’s only 20 months old but he KNOWS. He loves and misses daddy so much, luckily he hasn’t had to go on a business trip since he’s been old enough to understand but I know it’s coming…

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  4. My hubby is in sales. He has always traveled frequently for about 3 days at a time, and during big trade shows for a week. When my kids were smaller, we used to look forward to the phone calls a couple times of day… but really that whole video conferencing worked! Have you done that? The mini camera didn’t cost much and Skype was free… that helped a lot! But, you have to kinda call them first so they will pick up the Skype call. 🙂 He has read to them over Skype and sang our nighttime songs. Itsy bitsy spider, this old man… etc. It really helped. We also got a calendar, and started learning the days of the week and showing when daddy was due back and a MAP, a colorful map of the United States and we made an tiny airplane to show where he flew from and where he flew to…who lives in that state, etc. Eventually, the kids get used to the traveling and don’t really think much of it. Just don’t lock yourself out of the house like I did while dad was not due to return for 24 hours. Crap, crap, crap!

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    1. I always worry about locking myself out of the house when my husband is away. Poor you!
      Yes…Skype is a wonderful thing!!!
      Ooo I really like the map idea. I get confused with maps and globes at the moment though…my son is two and I feel as though his head might explode if he tries to understand how big the world is! But i did buy him a toy plane a few months ago to show him what daddy was in. Although he then thought daddy was in every plane he saw. Haaa maybe it’s the way I explain things!!

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      1. Well, the colorful map is just of the USA. And my 1 year old, 2 year old liked the airplane I taped to a stick and we made it “fly” from southern CA to AZ. Then we talked about how Auntie lived in AZ. Or we “flew” to OR and talked about Grandma and Grandpa that lived there. He liked looking at the states. Our plane had a picture of daddy and our son on it.

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    1. I know what you mean, actually sometimes it is worse if its just for a few hours. At least if they are gone longer the child gets used to it…i suppose! Thank you for commenting and sorry for the delay, I was having (and possibly still am!) tech issues.

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  5. At my sons’ playschool they laminate photos of the kids with their parents so they can carry around their families when they are away from them. It seems to sooth the toddler spirit to hold onto a picture of those they love. IT’s also pretty cute! Wonder if that might help too? Lovely post! #momsterslink

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    1. Thank you and sorry for my delay in replying to your comment. I’m having comment issues. But, yes, photos are great. How lovely that the playschool do that. I didn’t list this as it started to sound a bit like i was creating a shrine…but LJ carries around a little framed pic of his Daddy sometimes (he knows where it lives and asks for it when he wants it). We also have a book that someone gave us that is all Andrew at work…i think this is particularly good as, again, it places him somewhere for LJ.
      Thank you again for commenting x

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  6. This is a great post with a brilliant list of ideas for others dealing with the same situation as you. I’m afraid I’ve nothing to add, but I found it lovely to read.
    I know a lot of parents don’t really bother to explain and discuss this sort of thing with their children; they just say “yes, Daddy will be back on Thursday” without realising that a child has no concept of when or what Thursday might be. LJ is lucky that you’re making so much effort to ensure he knows exactly what’s going on, and isn’t left feeling lost at sea.
    Thanks for joining in with the Weekend Blog Share.

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    1. I’m so sorry for the delay in replying, i had technical issues (the main one being I’m useless technically!). Thank you so much for your kind words. I really hope it helps him, I’m sure it does actually. Our little ones’ capacities to understand what is going on is amazing. And thank you for hosting the fabulous weekend blog share!

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  7. My husband and I had to live apart for a few years after my son was born and while pregnant and giving birth to the other 2. I remember how hard it was on my son every time daddy would leave. You have a great list of ideas here. The only thing that always seemed to calm my son was talking on the phone with daddy or face timing. I look back now and wonder how we all ever survived all that lol. Thank you for linking up with #momsterslink.

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  8. Love the triangles! And wearing Daddy on your tummy is just adorable. I think talking about feelings is good, I love talking about feelings haha. Hope you are coping ok this time around with bump too. I wouldn’t blame you if you did wear your partner’s slippers, you know… #StayClassy

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    1. Haaa, thanks!! Meh, you know I’m a bit grumpy about his absences this time…just wait until I’ve got two without him, my grumpiness may know no bounds! No, but there are positives. My son and I have fun, we have lots of adventures together…it can be really lovely. X

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  9. There’s are all good tips. The cubs went through a phase of waiting at the window round about the time I got home.

    Technology works to a point. I had my first phone call at work from my son. It started as a lovely moment and then descended into sobbing and howling for me to come back.

    #StayClassy

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    1. Technology is such a double-edged sword I think…it didn’t use to be a good think but now it works relatively well…I ‘m sure that won’t last and then maybe it will work again. Ah that must have been so sad with your son…you can’t just reach through the phone can you.

      Thank you for commenting x

      Liked by 1 person

  10. aww I can not imagine how hard this must be for you at times – not only are you having to cope with your husband being away but you have a little one constantly reminding you that Daddy is away – I thunk you do amazingly well to cope as well as you do and I thunk every now and then you deserve to perhaps not feel quite so virtuous about the role thing – you earn major brownie points though and your relationship with your son as he gets older and older will be a very special one. I know for sure that your husband would rather be with you. My husband goes away quite a lot on business and its tough doing it all on your own – he’s been away 2 weeks in the last 3 – does take it’s toll (I have do the bins and everything!) but I’m super close to the kids in those absences and that is special so I don’t always dislike it xx #stayclassy

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    1. Ah the bins! Yes they get to me too!! It’s never easy when someone you love and a parenting teammate is absent I don’t think at whatever age…mostly you just miss them! But I think you’re right to look at the positives in the relationship. I can completely relate to that…my son and I are definitely building a really special memory bank of one on one time. Thank you lovely X

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  11. It must be hard for your husband to be away for long periods of time – for you as well as your son! She’s really young, but I think the Popple is just starting to understand the concept that Daddy goes to work every morning but then Daddy comes back later. We wave bye-bye and watch Daddy get on the bus, and she seems to get it. The cutest thing in the world is how excited she gets when she hears his key in the door. She runs over and grabs his legs – it gets me every time. #StayClassy

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    1. Ahh that’s so sweet! I know what you mean, seeing my son’s face and excitement at his daddy being back is just gorgeous. To be honest, however moany I am and however much I don’t like my husband being away, it has its ups and downs. I do get really special one-on-one time with my son and she my husband is here he is around quite a bit…well unless it’s summer. Anyway, anyway, thank you for commenting x

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  12. That must be really tough for you when your husband is away. Although it sounds like some serious bonding is happening, face pressed against face time ; ). Excellent list, I’ve only experienced this once so far as my partner has to leave for work every so often and it was very hard with a 5 month old, however at least he hasn’t fully grasped the Daddy/Mommy concept haha. Thanks for sharing with #StayClassy.

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