This was supposed to be a post celebrating a milestone: Terence and I went away for a night without the kids! He had a Fulbright orientation trip to the Negev Desert which looked like a great opportunity to finally get some space from Hannah and Margaret. My sister-in-law was kind and brave enough to offer overnight childcare, and we finally booked our first babysitter. Success!

….but then the reports started to roll in. This morning on the walk to school, an old lady who has started (after two months) to smile at my kids said: “much better this morning!” Another woman brought her dog over and explained that she had “tried to cheer your kids up with my cute puppy” yesterday. Another JAIS parent told us that yesterday’s question of the day in kindergarten had been: “Are you happy today?” and Hannah had written her name under “No.” And then we saw a friend, who pulled no punches and told us that our children wailed all the way to school yesterday and caused quite a scene.

I haven’t yet gotten the full story from Anne; in some ways I’m afraid to ask. But I’m struggling with guilt for leaving my kids behind, and then frustration that they are so incredibly clingy. They were not like this at home. Both kids used to run into school with scarcely a backwards look. Babysitters were an exciting departure from the routine. But all that changed when we started to dismantle their familiar life.Since the summer they have been clinging, hard. I know — duh. It makes perfect sense. Terence and I are home to them. Some days it probably feels like we are all they have. But their level of intense need — for attention, reassurance, contextualizing — is overwhelming.

It’s a terrible feeling, to have parent and child mental health diametrically opposed. I get a night of fun and relaxation, they get trauma. They get comfort and companionship, I go crazy. This will get easier, right? Right? I will get back on the horse. We have plans to go out again sans kids next week.


About hilarymead

Taking two young kids, a great husband, and a whole lot of questions to Jerusalem for a year's sabbatical.
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6 Responses to Clingy

  1. Lindsey says:

    First of all, bravo to going away! I’m sorry the girls struggled with it, and I can see both why and how frustrating it is for you. I have to say I don’t think you should stop being away, just a little bit here and there – every single time you come back you will reaffirm their knowledge that you can leave and come back, that home always returns, that they are safe and sound. Does that make sense? xox

  2. Margaret says:

    I agree completely with Lindsey. Just keep doing it, getting away when you can, and then coming home. I do believe it will get easier for them (and therefore for you). It is extremely unfair to have your needs and theirs diametrically opposed. But what an astute observation. Love you!

  3. Hopefully, at some point in the next few years, my husband and I will have a chance to move to Vienna with our daughter, who is currently 14 months old. I have thought, “What fun adventure this will be for all of us!” never considering until this moment that it might be traumatic for our daughter in this specific way (as you said, duh). Surely something to think about as we move forward, as I, too, would love time away as a couple when living in Europe.

  4. Alexis says:

    Having just gotten home from a business trip, I can totally relate to this. It is such a balancing act between what is good for you and what is good for them. Ultimately I feel the ability to handle change and to understand that Mom & Dad will always be there (even if it is in spirit), is a good thing, it will build strength and character. I hope that routine will eventually include short departures, I am still waiting for the day when that comes true. Sending so much love.

  5. MilesMac says:

    Our year exchange to Australia involves our 8 year old son – we’re already working on the emotional / psychological aspects of a year away with him and ourselves. For the most part, the kids don’t have a lot of say in what happens from day to day, we’ll have to involve him in the planning and give him more opportunity to “buy in” to the exchange. Trust things will get easier for you and them. Date Nights are far and few between for us for the same reasons!

    • hilarymead says:

      Thank you! Update to all commenters, things are going better in this respect. We’ve had a few nights out with various babysitters. No more overnights yet, but perhaps someday soon!

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