I had not intended to stay quiet around here for so long.
A year ago I rounded up the kids, packed whatever I thought I couldn't live without and moved across the world to Canada to start a new life without one essential component: my husband.
We hadn't planned on a long separation: he intended to join us within a year. But as these things go, stuff happened, plans changed and I now find myself looking at an indefinite stretch of years ahead without him.
The day he travelled back to the Middle East (our home of 12 years), my middle child looked out the window at his cab disappearing down the street and said, "Now it's going to be a very quiet house without Baba".
This single-parent thing is challenging. Every once in a while I find myself overwhelmed and far, far from being a picture of grace under pressure. In our initial four-month adjustment-phase the kids and I often got frustrated, tangled in the web of our mutual expectations from each other and unable to move past small things.
I tried to be honest with them: sat them down many times and apologized for my
short-fuse shortcomings, explaining that I sometimes find it all very hard and I need them to help by being responsible and cooperative. It didn't seem to really ring home.
We travelled back 'home' during Christmas Break for some family-time. On my last day there I went to say a quick goodbye to one of my best friends in the neighbourhood and shamelessly broke down saying, "I'm scared of what these kids will put me through again. I don't want to go back and face it".
My fears were mostly unfounded. Many things improved. Maybe their father waved a magic (sedating) wand over them. Everyone was much calmer from then on.
Now that the settlement phase is past us; rituals and routines are in place, we can focus the next year on creating memories.
I'd say we did okay. I did okay.
Although there were moments.. after the kids were in bed, for instance, the weight of the lonely, long winter evenings was unbearable. Because I could not recreate the daily rituals from my other life, I found sleep to be the preferable alternative to facing a deafening silence that even a television cannot mute.
And then there are small things: I eat my eggs over-easy & maybe a teensy bit over-cooked but my kids like their fried eggs with runny yolks. Despite my best intentions, I can't make the perfect fried egg. It's my husband's forté. It's probably the only cooking he has ever done and can do. Each weekend he would fix breakfast with his little assistants crowded around him, cheering him on.
It's a real treat watching them together. Or hearing them pottering together in the kitchen. He is infinitely more patient than me and fully-engaged when he spends time with them. They say "he makes everything fun".
Funnily this little truth no longer stings me. Nor do their other little comparisons. Last month one of my kids announced, "you make the worst soupy-eggs in the world! Baba is the best cook!". Then she quickly bit back her words, scanned my face for visual signs of emotional trauma and slowly said, "You're the best cook in the world for everything except eggs. Baba makes the best eggs. You know he can't cook anything else". Her earnestness made me laugh.
We'll go back in a few weeks. But this time, they have things to look forward to in their new, albeit Baba-less, life. And I'm feeling strong enough to do it all over again.