Other women don’t tell you the toughest apart about being away from your kids will be coming home.

Not at first. At first, your 4-year-old son will jump into your arms and hold you so tight you’ll feel how much he’s been longing for you. I missed you so much, you’ll tell him as you put him to bed, and he will say it back, and kiss you, hard, and you will love every moment of his fierce affection. And your 7-month-old daughter, will suck with fervor, her mouth telling you that she’s missed your nipple even more than your nipple missed her mouth, cracked and sore from the mechanical force of the breast pump. You will love being woken by her cry, love your husband asleep beside you, love the non-sterile smell of your bedroom with its dirty clothes and milk bottles and pets, the dog snoring in the corner and the cat ruffling the blinds to let in first light. But in the morning, everything will change.

I don’t want you. I want Papa. Don’t touch me. Don’t kiss me. No. No. No, Mama. Leave me alone. Don’t talk to me. Your son will say to you on repeat. He will slam doors. Act out. And you will tell yourself, this too is love. You will try to reason with yourself that this too is fierce affection, but all you’ll feel is hurt. And your daughter, she will bite down, hard, on your nipple with her two front teeth and scream for silicone. For the ease of a bottle in a moving stroller putting her to sleep. For something other than your body. And you will cry and hold her and look at your son. You will know, this is fierce love disguised as anger.

And in 30 degrees and high winds, you will take your son outside. He’ll ask to fly a kite. Your hands will be freezing but you will let him hold the string in mittens. You will teach him how to let the dragon soar without plummeting to the ground. You will try to learn from the kite how to do this yourself. How to flail amid gusts without breaking. How to keep flying when you are being pulled, yanked, tugged back down by small hands that are stronger than they might seem given their size. By small words that hurt more than you thought they ever could.

Soon, the tree’s low branches will catch the wings of the dragon. Your son will pull and pull and the plastic will only lodge deeper into wood. You will tell him, don’t let go, hold on, and as is his way, he will do the opposite and let the string fly out of his hands up into the tree. It will dangle much higher than your hands can reach. You can get it, Mama, he will tell you. I know you can. And his faith in you will show you the giant branch at the trees base, torn off by the very wind that stole your kite. You will lift the branch that is three times the size of your body, and use its giant claw hands to reach the kite, to untangle it from the tree. See, Mama, I knew you could do it. And you can. And you will. And you did. All of it. All the difficulty. All the anger disguised as love, you can bear it.

Because all the while, your daughter is asleep in the stroller. And all the while, your son is not telling you he wants you to leave. And at night, when he wakes, he will ask, Do you miss me, Mama? And you will say, I always miss you when we’re not together. And he will say, Me too, I always miss you, Mama. And you will realize, it was never anger for him, it was the same hurt you were feeling. Hurt and longing, disguised as anger. And at the bottom of it all, love. Fierce, flying, hurricane-wind love.

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