Closer

Finch…

Now 23 months and ten days old, you are so close to 2.

Although you still struggle with drop-offs at school, you’re becoming a part of the community there, and bringing some of them home, too. This weekend you told us that your classmate “Sammy goes on airplane” and suggested that “Miss Myra coming to Finn’s birthday party.” You then started reciting by memory from one of your school books, beginning with “Black sheep, black sheep, what do you see? I see a brown dog looking at me.” You are speaking in longer, more complete sentences now, and just starting to use articles and linking verbs. You’re almost there with those — but not quite. One minute you say, “Finn is a boy; Mommy is a girl,” and the next, “Finn are happy.” And although you are indeed beginning to use first person and may politely inform us, “”I want water please,” you’re still more likely to shout “”Finn wants water!!!” with emphasis on the last syllable. It’s okay. You’re working on it. You’re getting closer.

Now home after four days in the hospital, I am finally closer to you.

I had never slept under a different roof until that first night away, and after the third night, I was desperate to come home to my boy. You seemed so very far away, even when Daddy brought you to see me. Before I was wheeled in for my appendectomy, you took one look at me in pre-op and said, “Daddy, go THAT way,” pointing at the door from which you had come. I was trying so hard to smile and animate myself for you when you walked in, and your refusal to kiss me was almost more than I could bear. But you warmed up when I made the fishy-kiss face, and then the next day we played peek-a-boo as you hid behind the privacy curtain you soon discovered could be pulled around my hospital bed. That game was the closest we could get. Here, back at home, I am now up and around, albeit moving more slowly. I try to stay where you are, sitting next to you, touching your curls and your cheeks and your chin. But even though we’re closer, I still feel so far away: I cannot pick you up and hold you; I cannot bathe you; I cannot sit you on my lap to read you a story; I cannot carry you out to see the moon. When you wake at night, you now call for Daddy. In just one week, I have lost so much. To my appendix, I say, Finn-style, “Adios!” To you, I say, I’m working on it. I’m getting closer.

Mommy always comes back

These words — my parting words of comfort to my boy — come back to haunt me each day. Finn’s little voice chimes the phrase at me with happy conviction when I pick him up from school in the afternoon, repeats it to his animals as he plays at home, and even announces it to strangers when out and about. Last week at a local play-space, he walked up to the father of another boy and stated out of nowhere, “Mommy ALWAYS comes back,” with prolonged, serious emphasis on the word “always.”

What he’s really saying, I think, is that Mommy always leaves. As much as he may like his school (which is so, so much better than the first one we tried, and which we tried to adjust him to much more slowly), Finn still hates, hates, hates the leaving. His face crumples the moment we walk into the building. He screams when I lower him down from my arms, long before I get to the goodbye part. He wakes up yelling at night from what seems like bad dreams, sometimes even frightening night terrors. And there are other, more unexpected incidents that catch me in the throat. As we were reading one of his truck books to his monkey a few nights ago, his “conversation” with Mono took a strange turn: “Clean diapers go in delivery truck. Delivery truck goes grocery store. Daddy goes grocery store. Mommy goes work. Finn cries.”

His sadness and anxiety upset me, of course, but after thinking about it, I guess his understanding of his own feelings is a good thing. And his sudden attachments to Mono and Puppydog are also healthy new developments, I suppose. In all of his nearly 23 months, he’s never had any kind of lovey — until now. Now it seems there’s an emptiness to fill, and he’s learning ways to fill in the gaps, to cope with the fact that although we always come back, we can’t always be there. Tough lessons for my Finch — and for me.