We've all seen those TV adverts where Dad arrives home from work and the children run to the door to meet him, pure delight shining in their eyes, so happy are they to see him. Well not a lot of that has been happening in our household of late. In fact, quite the opposite. When Daddy has managed to make it home before bed time he has been greeted with more than a hint of hostility.
It is still difficult to explain some things to a three year old. Mirabelle knows that Daddy goes to work, just like so many other Daddies do. If you ask her she will tell you that Daddy goes to work "to earn money, so we can buy things." But what she doesn't really understand or accept is just why exactly that means that very often Daddy does not make it home in time to say goodnight to her. Often from the beginning to the end of the week. Or why he is gone at the weekend sometimes too, either working in the office or traveling. So when he does make it home she gets angry and upset and shouts at him, telling him to go away. She doesn't know how long he might be around for or when she might see him next. So she thinks it is far better not to get reattached and have her little heart get broken all over again. I know that giving him the cold shoulder is her way of trying to protect herself. Because she loves and misses her Daddy so much.
However, saying all that by way of explanation to her equally heartbroken Daddy was not making things any easier for him. "I feel like I'm missing out on so much already and now when I am home she doesn't want to be with me" was his response. For once I could not offer any words of comfort because he was right.
When we jointly decided that I was not going back to work after Mirabelle was born, we did so knowing that it would mean making some sacrifices and that we would have to tighten our belts accordingly. Over the last three years my husband has worked hard. This has resulted in several promotions which means more money and a little less belt tightening. However it has also meant that we have had less time together as a family.
It is all too easy to get bogged down in everyday life and become so immersed that you can't see the woods for the trees. It often takes something dramatic or traumatic to happen to make you take a step back and reevaluate. Watching the deterioration in my husband's relationship with our little girl felt like enough of an issue to make me do just that. Timing is of course everything too. Last week my husband and I were both sick. Life seemed miserable. So I talked to him and persuaded him that he really needed to take some time off and eventually he agreed to take break and make it a long weekend with no working.
Well what a difference just a few short days have made. On Friday we did lots of playing together, just the three of us (yes, including lots of marching and buzzing Cootie bugs around the house). On Saturday we went to see Disney on Ice which Mirabelle absolutely loved. Watching her sitting on Daddy's knee excitedly telling him about it all was wonderful for me to observe. Not quite so wonderful was watching Daddy get suckered into buying a twirling light up Minnie Mouse, a Princess Crown and a Mickey Mouse balloon which cost almost as much as the tickets for the show. But then, how often lately has he got a chance to treat and spoil her I asked myself. They were both smiling with delight as they carried their haul back to the car.
Yesterday we went bowling, Mirabelle's favorite new sporting activity which Daddy had not previously seen her do. They had a lovely time together bowling and I watched my husband visibly relax as he forgot about everything else for a while and just bowled. Next we played the game machines and managed to win enough tickets to trade for a vast array of trinkets from the display stand. The sort of things that young children love like little glider planes, parachutes, bendy snakes and cheap plastic jewelry. After lunch we came home and Mirabelle and Daddy were flying her new glider planes and parachute man down from the landing together. Then for the first time in a very long time she allowed Daddy to take her upstairs to her room for her quiet time. Was I upset when I went to get her up later and the first thing she said was "I want Daddy, go get him." No, I was just delighted.
It is now Monday and the house is blissfully quiet. My husband has taken Mirabelle out to lunch. Which makes me happy on two levels as not only do I get some time to myself for once but also because they are sufficiently reunited to be able to go out alone together. My husband had lost a lot of confidence in his relationship with our little girl as a result of the ongoing hostilities. So much so that most of the time lately when he has been around he has insisted we all do things together, not feeling happy about doing things on his own with her. But what a difference just the past few days have made. Now Mirabelle is delighted to be going out for lunch on her own with Daddy. No doubt he is taking her to Applebee's, which inexplicably is her favorite restaurant in the entire universe and which Mirabelle always refers to as "the old Mac & Cheese place" because that is where she discovered her love of Kraft. Does my husband like it there? Not at all, but if it makes Mirabelle happy then it makes him happy too.
So it has done us all good - Mirabelle is so enjoying being with Daddy and he is looking more relaxed than I have seen him look in a long time. The break has been good for him. But spending time with Mirabelle and seeing her happy to be with him again has been even more so.
Talking with my husband we have decided that no matter how challenging work gets for him in the next few months, he is going to make sure he gets home early from work at least two or three evenings a week. He is also going to take another long weekend next month and try and do that more often and use up the vacation days he has been carrying forward from year to year.
So I know tomorrow morning will be hard for Mirabelle when she realizes Daddy has gone to work again. But I can at least tell her that Daddy will be home early and that she will be seeing him a lot more in the coming weeks. Which will make all of us happier, not just Mirabelle.