I'm pretty sure my kids think I'm at the store.
On the Friday I left for London, I was ready for a dramatic good-bye. I had been preparing for this moment. Would they throw themselves on me, taking hold of each leg and an arm to prevent me from leaving? Would their tears make me rip up my paperless e-ticket, throw my arms around them and tearfully admit that I'll never leave them?
After all, the trip was a big deal for our family. Mommy was taking a two week vacation. How would everyone deal with the fallout from this ground-breaking event? We are a team. We plan our days around each other. And while I was gallivanting around London, I just knew their little hearts would be broken, feel abandoned...where was Mommy to tuck them in at night? Where was mommy to read a story? Where was mommy?
I was relieved when I left that morning because they were so strong. They gave me enthusiastic hugs, wet kisses, and shouted loud "I love yous" while I was driving away. As the car turned a corner I marvelled at the strength and resilience of children while I broke down and cried like a baby.
But I knew the phone calls would be tough. I got on the phone with my youngest who has been attached to my hip since he was a baby. I steeled myself to sound strong and remind him of how much fun he was having with Mika and Pop.
"Hi, baby boy. I miss you. I love you soo much." I'm sure this was difficult for him.
"Hi, buddy. I really miss you. Are you having a good time with Mika and Pop?" I shouldn't have asked a question that would only remind him of my absence.
"Hi back. I miss you so much, little man."
"Where are you, Mommy?"
Here it is. Answer with a strong mommy voice. "I'm in London bud, remember?"
There was a short pause. Poor guy.
Oh, okay. That went better than expected. It's not like I want him to be sad. It's good that he can be flexible. This means good parenting, right?
Yesterday, we got on Skype and video called each other. Their sweet faces drove home the reality of how far away I am.
My oldest gives me a list of the things she's done since arriving at Mika and Pops. "That's great, honey. I'm so happy you're having a good time."
"We are mommy, we really are. And today we are going swimming!!"
Knowing how often I have to change our plans for some reason or another I say gently, "That sounds like fun, but remember that sometimes plans can change."
She smiles and says knowingly, "Well, Mommy. Mika's plans never change."
She's not wrong. Mika has a knack for sticking to a plan. I, on the other hand, do change our plans around a lot. But it sounded like she missed me and my crazy plan-changing habit, right?
My baby girl gets on the video call and we chat for a bit. This separation would be challenging for her as lately she always breaks down in tears when her daddy leaves for a business trip.
So I focus on the positive bit about coming home soon and say, "I love you and can't wait to see you in a few days, honey!"
"Sure, mommy. Or maybe we can just Skpe. So, Skype ya later!!"
Perhaps it's not the kids who have been most affected by my absence. It's me. I miss my role more than my role misses me. Because what I do best is not making great breakfasts, helping with homework, making beds or even reading a story. What I do best, what Max does best, is to love our kids. They are assured in our love. So that when we cannot be right by their sides, they are more than okay. They are happy and having fun.
So even though I am thousands of miles away, to them it just feels like I went to the store.