It felt very odd to be waiting for them today. I had a tight knot of anticipation in my stomach, spent the day cleaning and tidying, buying food they like and tiny presents, all with a sense it shouldn't be like that. They were later than I expected, and I was less and less able to concentrate as the day wore on. These long stretches without them can feel like the starkest kind of personal failure. I've mentioned before, the constant low level anxiety that accompanies longer periods without the kids, an obscure feeling that something is wrong, or out of place. I know they're ok; better than ok. They're great, having wonderful holidays with people who love and enjoy them and care for them, and generally I fill my time without them well, I think. I see people, I write, I laugh, I lie in bed and wallow, or make myself a gin and tonic and read a novel. I'm learning, gradually, to enjoy the peaceful parts; not feeling the need to fill every moment with frenetic, compensatory activity.
But I'm reminded of something I wrote about Fingers a while back. I wrote this:
Your papa thinks I am a bit casual with you, but if I am, I am casual with you like I am with my leg, or my ear. You are part of me.
I suppose this is what I am realising I have lost, the offhand intimacy that comes with spending every waking moment with another person. It's not that it's all bad, it isn't. I am, indubitably, more appreciative, more careful of my time with them. I look at them more clearly and with more wonder when they come back to me each time, that bewildering mixture of completely the same, and indefinably changed. And of course, that shift would have come, in time, in any event. It comes to all parents sooner or later. But this is very much sooner and they aren't quite like my ears, or my elbows any more. They are separate, and that separateness is my doing. It's hard to accept, sometimes.
In the event, they rolled up at around four, an explosion of noise and irepressible good humour. It was wonderful to see them. Almost the first thing they did once their grandparents left was to tell me a long, meandering rude joke, the punchline of which was "Your arsehole is much bigger than mine". Then we went to the park, and Lashes sat under a tree reading a comic, while Fingers lay on top of me cackling every time the dog came and dropped a soggy tennis ball on my face. I will hold them very tight for the next few days and laugh at their jokes, and watch their shitty cartoons with them. And perhaps there's not so very much wrong with that.