Don't tell any of the nice people who are giving me so much sympathy and help during A's long trip, but things are going pretty smoothly here. We're in a rhythm. Occasional drama aside, the girls are pretty fun right now. We keep filling the calendar up with interesting activities. It's a little like rock climbing—as long as I don't look down (check the calendar, like I did the other night, and see that we are not even 1/6 of the way there, and put myself into a fog for two days) it seems like this time is not only manageable, but—with the cushy level of support I've put in place for myself—luxurious.
But. We miss him. Ingrid does, especially, in a way that I can't totally soothe.
When I was a kid, having my mom around always felt like enough. Good thing, because my dad was away a lot: working, or travelling for work. Or metaphysically away. Hey Dad! Dad? Daaaa aaaad? He has an uncanny ability to concentrate (or daydream, or ignore, depending on how you want to put it). He was a good dad in almost all ways, but he wasn’t primary. He went away and came back as he needed to, and I love him, but he didn’t feel essential. Mom was hardly ever away for any length of time, but when she was it felt like a piece of the sky was missing.
I have to keep reminding myself that not every family is lopsided that way, that Ingrid's missing her dad doesn't mean there's a yawning hole in my mothering.
But this is true: I'm not the fun one. When A is around, there's laughter in our house, lots of it. And I’m not going to say I’m a total grump (not these days, anyway), but I don’t make them laugh. I make them put their shoes on and get ready for school. I make them dinner, and I make sure they have clean(ish) clothes and faces and plenty of library books and fruits and vegetables and get to the doctor when they need to. The girls miss A's wacky energy. And I do too.
And when I push away my self-centered little reaction to Ingrid's sadness about this, I'm so glad that A and I are close to equal in this way, and so glad that the girls feel a vital connection to both of us.
Meanwhile, Ingrid continues with her self-prescribed art therapy. I know that outside our immediate family, the level of interest in Ingrid's artistic progress may be close to zero, but check this out: her first-ever portrait. Of (of course) Daddy.