Our communication consists of a brief moment over Skype or Facetime. Short bursts of energy and talking twice a week.
I hear quick, abbreviated stories of swimming, camping, and visits to amusement parks.
Then come stories of driving in the car, of wearing a new baseball hat. Of really not knowing what to say. Stories I pry from the unwilling mind of a four year old who would rather be running around.
Their voices are disconnected, higher than in real life. Their faces skewed from holding the phone at a strange angle. Their world spinning while they walk in circles talking to me.
I can't tell if these moments are harder for them than they are for me. They are clearly agitated, confused by the feelings welling up inside them.
I ask as many questions as I can dare, walking a tight balance of wanting to show them interest and love, without wanting to show them my sadness and longing for their little bodies. I know my time is limited to speak before they will start to get sad, too sad to want to talk.
Inevitably, the time comes where at seven she can't think of anything more to say that is fun, all that is left is missing one another. There is a pause, and all I can say is "I love you, you know. More than anything."
She replies back "I love YOU more than anything".
And before she look of saddness sets into her eyes, I tell her I'm glad she's having fun. That I am excited for their fun this next weekend. And I ask to talk to her brother.
She's relieved its over, that she didn't have to get sad, without really even knowing that's what she's feeling. She smiles big and hands the phone to her brother.
He's harder. He's confused. He's not sure why he's having fun and feeling fine--only to see my face and hear my voice making him feel sad and longing.
It was worse when the boys wanted to talk to them. His little face looked so sad, so confused that they were there with me and he wasn't there. Yet, he was so happy to see them and talk to them. I can tell when it's time to go for his confused little four year old heart. His eyebrows start to furrow and he rests his right hand on his forehead. That's the time before it sets in, before his longing turns to sadness and gets too big for him to hold inside.
We used to talk every other day at the beginning of the summer. But it was still fresh and new to them at that point, still exciting. And we hadn't been apart long. Now that the summer has grown, they seem more comfortable talking less often. It is easier for them to talk less often. They've fallen into a safe, happy rhythm with their dad, their summer rhythm. My need for them shouldn't inturrupt that, shouldn't intrude. And my need to see them and hear about their day each day only eases my own mind, while making things harder on their hearts.
So I've had to learn to let go a bit, settle for less, for what is best for them. Twice a week at the most is enough. They need their time without my emotional baggage weighing them down.
I tell him one last time before we go, I rush it in before he hangs up the phone--he has a tendency to hang up at random when the red Hang Up button becomes too enticing not to push--"Remember, I will be the one who loves YOU the most!". I'm referencing the three of us, my babies and I. Our song. We sang it to each other during the hardest times, when they were the ones keeping me together.
We still sing it to each other to remind ourselves we are a little grouping, a safe little haven in the world.
"Nooooo, mama! I will be the one who loves YOU the most!" He's happy, and then he's gone. The screen is blank.
Their faces, the eyes, the freckles. That line. Their smells. It all swirls around me during this time. They are having fun. They are creating memories. That's what I can give them right now.
That little voice saying those little words. Until it's my turn again.
Twice a week I submerge myself in them, let the pain of missing them swell up and surround my every pore.
And then--to make it to the next brief moment I'll see their faces, the next brief moment I'll hear those words from them--I let them go.
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