Peter returned late last Thursday night after twelve days in Korea and China for work. And while I hope he never has to go away for that long again (um, honey, are you reading this?), I'm also kind of grateful that he did. Here's why:
1. I missed him terribly, starting a few hours before he left. I spent weeks and weeks preparing for his departure. I lined up babysitters. I planned menus. I streamlined our breakfast options and started packing lunches in the evening in anticipation of stressful mornings. I was ready. But on the day he was leaving, it struck me that I couldn't really prepare my heart for the fact that the person I love most in the world would be flying halfway around the world and twelve time zones away. I started to cry. And I was so glad to realize that as much as I could function, logistically, on my own, I would always need him and always want him to be with us.
2. Our kids missed him too. As Marilee said to him before he left: "Daddy go to Tai-na. And we will be alonely. And we will miss you. And we will love you. Every day." She meant it:
His absence put a spotlight on how much we love his presence.
3. Other people helped me. A lot. My friend Elizabeth drove up from New Jersey with her two kids to help get us through the weekend, which I knew would be the hardest time. Numerous people helped with carpools and bus dropoff and playdates. My regular babysitter agreed to come at 5:30 a.m., twice, so I could work out. Then, one morning I had an email from a student at the school where we live. She wondered if she could take the kids for an evening to the dining hall, just so I could have some time alone. That same morning another friend asked us over for dinner. I almost started crying in Panera, I was so touched. It wasn't just that people were kind and willing to care for us. It was as much the realization that we are starting to belong in this place, that one year after our move we have friends we can call upon, and that they say yes when we ask for help.
4. God answered my prayer. I sent an email out to a few friends ahead of time. My prayer request was very simple: that I wouldn't yell at my kids in the morning. See, the week before Peter left for twelve days, he was gone for one. And on that one morning, that solitary morning of needing to get my kids ready for school all by myself, I found myself berating William as if I were his drill sergeant: "Are you a baby!?!" I yelled, as I complied with his request to help him get dressed. "Are you younger than Marilee? No longer a big brother? Should I start pushing you in a stroller and feeding you mushy food?" Thankfully, he looked confused more than wounded from my barrage, and I heard myself and just wanted that terrible yelling voice to stop please stop. And I apologized and he forgave me and he apologized and it was fine. And I was glad that I hadn't whacked him on the head with his underwear. But oh my goodness I just couldn't bear that voice of mine, that meanness. And so I had to pray, every single day, that I wouldn't yell at my kids. I had to ask others to join me in this prayer. And yes, on more than one occasion I told Penny, "I am starting to get angry because your pants are on your head instead of your legs. I do not want to yell at you. Please listen now and put on your clothes." But still: Twelve days without yelling or throwing things across the room. It was a miracle.
5. God did more than answer my prayer. I wasn't brave enough to go the next step and pray not only that I wouldn't yell but also that we would laugh together. And yet there was the morning when, at 6:02, William climbed under the covers with me and just started to giggle. And we laughed and laughed and laughed together in the dark. There was Marilee, who memorized the words to The Snowy Day, and said to me very seriously, "I know all of da baventures" and proceeded to narrate the story for me. And Penny, sweet Penny, who didn't so much make me laugh as make me smile. Like when I bought her a pizza lunchable (about which I need to write another post because these things are just bad in every way except my daughter's response to them) and she, an hour after discovering it in the fridge, came over and took my hand and said, "Mom. Thank you. For remembering I wanted the lunchable."