I went camping with the boys in the Bruce Peninsula this past weekend. It was a nice, relaxing trip and a decent getaway, but it started out on the worst foot possible.
Pea is really beginning to grasp time and distance. When we tell her she has 5 minutes to play, for example, she knows that her time is almost up and doesn’t (usually) put up a fuss when we take her upstairs for her bath. When I tell her I am going to play hockey, she understands that I will be leaving the house and that I’ll be back in a few hours.
On Thursday night, as I put her to bed for the last time before my trip, I explained to her that Daddy would be going away camping for a few days, and that I wouldn’t be able to see her until he got back on Monday.
She nodded in understanding, but I could tell from the look on her eyes that she wasn’t happy.
That night, she slept extremely poorly. After putting her to bed, she woke up within an hour and insisted I stay close by. She woke two more times before I needed to get up for my trip, and when my alarm went off at 4:15 am, she was already wide awake.
To try and lure her back to sleep, my wife brought her into her room and rocked with her on a chair. I showered, gathered my things, and headed out for my trip. I left without saying my goodbyes, in the hopes that I wouldn’t disrupt my wife’s attempts to get her back to sleep.
Let’s call that decision a bad one.
About 20 minutes after I left, I got a call from my wife.
Wife – “You didn’t leave without saying goodbye, did you?”Me – “I did, yeah. I didn’t want to wake her in case she was close to falling asleep again.”Wife – “Ok, we have a problem. She’s crying, like really crying, and is asking for you.”Me – “I can’t come back, I’m half way there and I’ll be late to meet the guys. Let me talk to her.”
The ensuing conversation between me and my clearly distraught little girl was the worst conversation I have ever had with her. She was crying and urging me with everything she had to come home for dodo (French for sleep). She was clearly emotional and very upset.
As I choked back my own tears, I tried to remind her that I was going camping and that I’d be back in a few days. Eventually, she seemed OK with things, but the conversation left me extremely upset. I wondered if she was scared that I wasn’t coming back. I wondered if she was mad because I didn’t say goodbye.
My wife tells me it was another two hours before she stopped crying and fell asleep. Just that thought alone makes me want to quit my job and never leave her side again.
In the end, I know that the distance for a few days will make me a better parent and will help Pea understand that she won’t always have her safety net around her and that she needs to get used to coping on her own.
But I can already tell you this – I don’t want to go camping ever again.