Other women don’t tell you when you choose to leave (and you will)

you won’t go very far. And you will see your son everywhere.

When you go away for two nights in January, not for a conference or obligation or commitment, but wholly for yourself, to celebrate a friend’s birthday, those two days pass the way of his childhood, in a flash and eternity at once. Before you even realized you were away, you will be on a shaky train back to him, having fallen off of your friend’s pullout couch just that morning because your phone rang and you thought that it was your toddler calling from his crib, three states away.

And they don’t tell you how you will return to this moment on a rainy April, after having spent three months overcommitted, to travel and events and teaching and more travel and more events, after having chosen to spend too many nights not putting your son to sleep. At first, you feel he is angry with you, when he pushes your face away in the morning and calls for Papa instead, calls for the last face he saw before closing his eyes.

But then, as he gets used to your intermittent leaving, to the regularity of your absence from at least some moments of his life, he once again reaches for you in the morning, and only you. Regardless of the night before or the day that follows. He asks to come into your bed, to drink his milk there, playing with the jewelry on your night stand. He holds your head and smells your hair and listens when you tell him that his grip is hurting you, listens more than he did before and eases the way he latches on. Listens more than when your presence was a constant certainty. And you think, distance makes the heart grow fonder, and nearly break at the thought that this might already be true.

That at nearly two-and-a-half, your son longs for you a little more now that he sees you just a little less. And you, you long for him so much, there are no words for such longing. You long for him, always, regardless of distance or leaving or presence, regardless of how hard he may pull your hair or choke his tiny forearms around your throat. Regardless of you coughing from his grip, unable to be the horse he wants to ride around the house. And when you try to catch your breath, you feel your heart move through the whole of you, feel it fight to leave your chest.

So whether you choose to leave out of desire or obligation or need, to go out with friends or your love or take trip for work or a trip for play, whatever the reason is for the night or day or even week away from him, no distance can make your heart grow any fonder or his heart grow any less. Try to remember this the next time, though you know you’ll always need reminding. So here it is. Your reminder. Remember, apart means your son is always a part of you. Remember, the certainty of leaving depends on the certainty of return—a part of you always with him even when you are apart, a part of you longing for your other part, longing to be together, longing for home.

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