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.