I left my four year old son for six nights last spring. It was the longest we’d ever been apart, and as much as I needed the getaway for adult reasons, it sure was going to test my mama heart.
We kept in touch, of course. Google Duo was our chosen method and I got to show him giant sea turtles as we chatted through live video. His dad and grandma sent pictures. I sent pictures. We were as in contact as modern technology would allow. But I still missed my baby. At bedtime especially. I missed hearing his sweet voice say, “Thank you God for all the love You give us” in his nightly prayers. I missed snuggles and bedtime stories. I missed feeling his little hands and big kisses on my cheeks.
So when I found myself returning home several hours earlier than expected on a Tuesday evening, I was thrilled to call his grandma and report that I’d be able to pick up my sweet boy one night early! I could hear the laughter of family and cousins in the background. I could hear excited shrieks that accompany summertime fun. And I could hear the very grown up conflict in my preschooler’s voice when I told him I would be there in an hour.
Had he really grown up that much in just a few short days? He was so clearly able to verbalize that he was excited to see me, but that he was eating a popsicle and they were catching fire flies and that he was going to sleep in a tent that night. I remember he sounded about 12 years old when he said, “This is a hard choice, Mom!” Since when does he articulate so well and form responses so quickly!?
I let my little boy choose that night. And I went home to an empty house. I turned the monitor on anyway, just so I could fall asleep to the sound of summertime crickets coming from his sound machine. My mama heart ached, but it also rejoiced. It rejoiced in the fact that my son hadn’t spent the last six nights bored or sad or exclusively missing me. It rejoiced in knowing that we are blessed with family who bring magical summertime fun to childhood. And it rejoiced in the realization that my sweet child is growing up just as he’s supposed to. That he’s developing emotional security. That he’s finding independence and building confidence.
I’m currently writing from Aruba. This is the new longest period of time Oliver and I have ever been separated. Last time we connected through Duo, he was telling me that they were heading to a T-Bones game. He spoke with an excitement that only a four and a half year old can bring to the conversation, and I knew that he was getting just as many new and exciting experiences as I was. I’m looking forward to wrapping that sweet boy in my arms again soon, and I’m also preparing myself to see how much he’s grown again in just a few short days.