Separation anxiety, right on time

In three days, Duncan and Berry catch an early morning flight with their Dad to visit him for five weeks on the other side of the country. Once they fly back with me in late August, we’ll have five days to readjust, then school starts again. My summer with them is, essentially, over.

Last week, they were at a summer camp at their elementary school — their only one for the summer — yet things still felt normal. Yesterday, Duncan’s birthday, things shifted. It was the first birthday I’ve spent with him in several years and it reminded me of what’s coming. This morning I woke up, no longer the fun director of activities for Campy Mummy, but am anxious mother in mourning, as if I can pre-miss them and get it out of the way before they leave. I’ve tried it before; it doesn’t work.

Clingy at a birthday party, unable to let go of me or the giant, terrifying balloon.

Duncan has been doing all right, with a little sadness when realizing he won’t see his step-siblings for a few weeks after today. Berry has been moody, clingy, needy. It makes her whiny and demanding, sad and grumpy. To be honest, I’ve been having similar feelings, except mine manifest as irritability, tears and a desire for red wine.

This isn’t a new experience for us. We’ve done this dance at twice a year for the last 4 years — sometimes for a two-week trip, sometimes longer. The feelings are the same (although longer separations feel harder on me). And every time, once it’s over and we’ve adjusted to being together again, I forget I need to prepare for these few days before they go. To not plan. To build in transition time.

I’d counted this week as one of our weeks of summer together. I thought we’d cram activities and fun into these last few days — another bike ride, a trip to eat the crepes they earned during their school’s Jog-a-thon fundraiser, outings to the park. Instead, Duncan has several play dates lined up with friends he won’t see for more than a month. And Berry wants to cling to home and familiarity.

What do I want? Centeredness, perhaps, to enjoy the time we have. Restraint from lamenting to the kids how much I’ll miss them — because I know this time to connect with their Dad is good in its own way. Fewer headaches.

We’ll get through this in-between-time. Life won’t go on as normal, exactly, but it will go on. And, once Thursday comes, the next 35 days will go by, one by one, in their own time.

In the meantime, I’ll enjoy being with them as much as I’m able to in every moment, however much that turns out to be.