When Pete moved out, our son turned two. He was sleeping in a crib, speaking a few words, wearing diapers. Having become one with the baby monitor, I carried the sounds of him with me everywhere, listening for what he might want or need from the other side of sleep. He was the nerve center of my life and my home.
Driving him to his father’s place—a place I had not chosen nor childproofed, with a fireplace I would not be monitoring, with sleep unsupervised by me, and then LEAVING him there felt like extracting my lung or liver. For at least the first three months I sobbed all the way home and then spent my time “off” wandering around heartsick and unable to do much of anything.
And for closer to a year, my body struggled to reconcile its night listening to the silence in the home. Because Pete was in school, his schedule was changing constantly. Without a steady co-parenting rhythm, it was very difficult to know, in that first instant when I woke with a start, whether my child was in my house or not.
Over time, these agonies muted to ache. My son built his favorite superball a Daddy’s house and a Mommy’s house out of Legos. I stopped being swallowed whole by his empty room every time I walked by it.
Once he had words, my son chose a parting mantra he’d repeat with every transition: “I love you and I’ll miss you, but I’ll have fun.” I’d say this back to him.
Say something enough times, and eventually it becomes true.