Tears fill his eyes the moment he spots me at the door. He runs, frantically, into my arms. He buries his face into the nape of my neck, muffling the sound of his cries. I hold him tight, smothering the back of his neck in kisses, telling him how much I missed him. I ask about his day. Did he have fun playing outside? Did he sing fun songs? Was lunch yummy? Searching, always, for some snippet of happiness. A glimmer of good in this week that feels far closer to crappy. Instead, every question is answered with a firm “No!” My heart sinks, despite the teacher’s report of a mostly great day filled with playing with trucks, laughing at songs, and devouring his lunch. I take a deep breath and make a deliberate point to add cheer to my voice as I carry him outside, chatting away about heading home to make dinner. He fights my attempts to put him in his car seat, clinging desperately me. I surrender for a moment, standing in the parking lot and clinging just as tightly to him.
A few minutes later, as we head into the house, he rushes to our chair and asks me to rock. I dump our bags onto the kitchen counter and decide that dinner can wait for a while. I pull him onto my lap, holding him tightly, and rubbing his back. I breathe him in. And can’t help but notice the scent of his teacher’s perfume in his hair. The lump in my throat grows, and the tears threaten to spill down my face. We sit this way for quite some time. Mother and son rocking back and forth, lost for a moment in the desperate need to reconnect.
Dinner done and bath time finished, we settle in for our bedtime routine of stories and songs. He stretches out next to me, laying close against my body, asking for round after round of “Bird.” As the room darkens with the setting sun, I run my fingers through his hair and quietly sing about mocking birds and dogs named Rover. I feel him finally let go, relaxing further into me. His hand rests lightly on my face. I scoop him into my arms and carry him to his bed, giving gentle kisses as I whisper good night then tuck the blankets around him.
This night, I don’t turn to my computer to play catch-up or veg out with the TV. I worry not about dishes or lunches needing to be packed. Instead, I crawl back into my bed, pull the covers up high, and, finally, let go of the tears I’ve been holding onto all week long. I sob into my pillow, wishing it could have continued to feel easy, yearning to go back in time a couple of weeks for just a bit more time spent at home with my sweet little man, worrying that maybe we’d done more harm than good with me staying home for the past twenty months always knowing that I’d have to head back to work eventually. I drift off to sleep, surrendering to the exhaustion that has come with this stressful week of nerves, fears, and interrupted sleep.
When the alarm sounds, I push myself up from the bed, realizing that we both have slept through the night. The first time all week. I go about getting ready for my day, fears of what our morning drop-off will bring lurking at the corner of my mind. Reminding myself that we have just this one day to get through before we can soak each other up for two full days.
The days passes by, and the weekend arrives. We hustle our way through busy days of fun and silliness. All too quickly, it’s over. Bedtime has come and gone. And I’m left to sit and wonder what this next week will have in store for us. My heart races as I contemplate another week filled with anxiety, tears, and confusion. I swallow past the lump in my throat. Attempt to shove the fears aside for a bit. Remind myself that it will get better. And try to believe that it will happen soon.
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