My wife left me two days ago – on a Friday morning......
I sent her off to Phuket, Thailand. We had a heavy breakfast and we kissed goodbye. It was a trip she had planned with her classmates for months now. It was actually a short weekend getaway. She will return three days later on Sunday morning. And she left me with three young offspring: 13 (son), 10 and 4 (daughters).
I knew I had my hands full this weekend. My two older children (Jezer and Jerica) were manageable. But it was the youngest (Joy) that will be a challenge. She needs her mother. She can't live without her. Her mother has never left her for one night to go for an overseas trip - what's more two whole nights!
Although Joy had been weaned off breast milk, she is inseparable from her womb mother. Technically, she cannot sleep without her. Not a wink. This has been tried and tested. My wife had on many occasions tried to extricate herself from Joy after she had fallen asleep. But Joy would wake up after a short while and clamor for her. Her incessant cries would mean that my wife would have to snug back into bed and hug her in a fetus-like embrace for the rest of the night. That's Joy's human pacifier.
It is strange but it appears that Joy has a built-in, motion-sensor alarm system to alert her the moment her mother sneaks out of bed. My wife just can’t escape from her sensitive spatial minefield. So you can imagine my dear-in-the-headlights-look when my wife told me she wanted to go to Phuket, thus leaving me with Joy for two nights. It was a bombshell for me. The image of another minefield spread out before me.
No doubt I was happy for her because she deserved the never-before-taken break for taking care of our three simian-like, intimacy-interfering, privacy disruptors. But if truth be told, two nights of eternal heaven for her would invariably mean two nights of paternal hell for me (now who's the drama mama here?)
Admittedly, the thought of her brief absence took a lot of mental and emotional processing. Yet, for the greater good and her sanity, I consciously suppressed my nocturnal mortal fear (to be left alone with Joy) and in pretentious high spirit, I encouraged my wife to enjoy herself.
But still, the ground work had to be done. We had to break the news to Joy. We had to set her mind (or my mind) at ease. Surprisingly, breaking the news was the easy part. She took it quite well - at least that's what we thought. But the dress rehearsal for the imminent departure was another drill altogether.
To prepare her for the Phuket 3-day-2-night trip, we tried to psyche her up by telling her not be so sticky. We literally threw the book of maternal love at her to instill assurances in her little tiny heart. In other words, my wife and I were anxiously playing the roles of Sigmund Freud and Florence Nightingale to calm her post-utero neurosis of temporary abandonment.
Alas, the AA-like sessions backfired: she grew stickier. The few nights before my wife’s departure, Joy hugged her tightly and the grip was like a baby vice-clamp. She didn't let go - not even for a second. At times, my wife was gasping for air. And when I tried to pull her away, her instinctual response was to tighten the strangle-hold even more. She burrowed deeper into my wife's rib-cage like she was running from the bogeyman. My wife remarked that "she's trying to crawl back into her womb." Immediately, I knew it was going to be a very long weekend for me. I had to embrace myself for it (possibly in fetus-like position).
Like preparing for end-time, I stocked up for the weekend. But it was not canned food or bottled water that I stocked up. Neither was it sackcloth nor bible verses. On the contrary, it was DreamWorks' Home cartoon, Doraemon Stand by me movie, and Aardman's Shaun the Sheep. I even planned for lots of ice-cream at Swenson’s, Terminal 3 mad-hatter runabout for kicks, toy shops for end-of-the-rope bribery, and the icing-on-the-cake is a Sylvanian Grand Hotel Gift Set or doll-house that will cost me more than $200.
Of course, my wife, Jerica and I have always wanted the doll-house for creative play but we wanted to wait for the right time. Alas, no time was more opportune than this wife-less weekend. The timing couldn't be more self-servingly convenient.
When Friday night came and went - I methodically played Home cartoon to pass the time - all was quiet on the Western front. Joy was unexpectedly docile like a toddler OD'ed on drowsy cough syrup. Apparently, I survived the first night unscathed. It was silent night for me. But at three on Saturday morning, she woke up. She softly called out, "Where's mommy?" She dreamily scoured around for mommy. She looked maternally deprived.
However, she came to me, no tears, and snuggled in with me, knowing full well my chest was much less cushion-y than the one she was accustomed to since birth. Yet, she looked content, even restful. And for the first time, I felt fully maternal. I secreted great relief. It was a first for me - and for joy too. We slept like babies after that.
Saturday morning was smooth sailing for all as the kids have Kumon and Mind-stretcher. In the late afternoon, I went to get her the humongous doll-house and the girls (even Jezer) went crazy, bursting at the seams with creative play. Joy and the doll-house became inseparable. The doll house was in fact a God-sent, hole-in-the-wallet distraction for joy. And for most of the night, she was lost in it. The strategy had indeed paid off.
We spent the rest of Saturday night watching Doraemon and Shaun the Sheep and we had a blast of a time because both cartoons came highly recommended - especially Aardman's Shaun the Sheep. After the movie, Joy asked for her mother again – this time, a little determined. "Are you sure mommy coming back?" - was the melodramatic refrain. I smiled and told her just one night separated her from her womb-carrier. Looking resigned and tired, Joy lay down on the bed, fetus-position, licking her lips occasionally while looking forlorn. Soon the knockoff to dreamland came and I heaved a sigh of relief.
When I woke up at around 6 am the next morning, I was waiting in anticipation for my wife's return. It's finally Sunday! At this juncture, I thought to myself: "The events leading up to the reunion with wife at Changi Airport would be to post this weekend "survival" chronicle in my blog and then to attend Church service with the kids."
Thank God everything went according to plan. Being a makeshift, replacement mommy for the weekend was definitely not easy. And I am glad this brief two nights with the kids, especially with Joy, has added warm flesh to the once-bony understanding of what I thought mothers do when they are alone with the kids.
So I guess a little weekend togetherness not only builds up the paternal bond with the kids, it also deepens the maternal understanding too. Cheerz.