One thing that I will never get used to in this life is how striking are the indelible changes every time I take a moment to compare my current perspective to one that existed before. It's no big secret to me that experience will alter the way I view the world, but somehow the realization of the utter foreignness of "what came before" washes over me though it's never happened previously.
It still floors me when I think back to the way I viewed the world before having kids, as opposed to after. Still puzzles me when I consider how tough taking care of just one seemed to me before I had two. Still amuses me to consider the comparative simplicity of a "normal" day prior to having three.
Now that I have three, only three will do, it seems. It's not the first time I've gone down to two or less children for a period of time, I suppose. When I've done it, however, I've been away from home and out of my comfort zone to begin with. The longest span I've time was for the two-day trip I made to Pittsburgh, PA with Mia about a month ago.
This time, it was Tom who took off on a short trip- to Long Island, NY- with Abby. Oh, the difference it has made.
Breakfast was quiet, and comparatively boring. It lacked the soundtrack of Abby's ceaseless chatter and the vibrant interplay generally to be witnessed between her brother and herself.
As Abby was putting her feet up on the patio of her Nana and Papa's house...
... Michael was disinterestedly picking at his cheese omelette.
While Abby explored her grandparents' family room...
... Michael sat despondently on the loveseat downstairs, observing Mima as she picked up the playroom. Though he had no words to tell me so, it seemed that I could read in the sad confusion on his face how much he missed the company of his father and sister.
I missed them too, and I marveled at how- despite the presence of my mother and two small children- the house seemed suddenly empty to me.
Long naps for Michael, Mia, and myself solved most of the morning's woes; we all woke refreshed and ready to take advantage of the special time that we had together.
Michael was cheerful through lunch, and focused his attention on his Mima, instead of the empty seat across the table from him. I elected to do the same.
During our afternoon excursion to the local park, it was initially tough to coax a smile out of him...
... but it wasn't long before his sense of adventure kicked in, and whatever stray concerns he may have had were tossed to the side for awhile.
Even as I watched my son circle the park, and checked on my littlest daughter in the carrier, I couldn't help but wonder what my oldest might be up to, so many miles away. Likely she was deep in her own adventure at the beach house on Point Lookout.
Sure enough, I soon got another update from Tom to confirm. As Michael was proudly gripping his well-earned sippy of water like a treasured trophy...
... his older sister was riding a tricycle for the first time, along a narrow sidewalk far away.
My heart ached at the sight of the tiny picture on my phone. How miraculous that I could get a glimpse of my daughter's experiences this way, and how incomprehensible that it took the combined efforts of my husband's and my two phones to tell the story of my whole family's day.
The sky is dark now, and my children, in whatever places they may be, are surely all sound asleep, as they would be even if all were home. And even though Tom ordinarily keeps his vigil with me in the living room in the hours between when the last child goes down and we decide to turn in ourselves, I've had a night or two where I have lagged behind. Tonight should feel just like that, but it doesn't. The house is no more silent than it would be in that scenario, but it's infinitely more vacant, somehow.
It can't possibly feel the same as it should when I know that I will pass through my bedroom door to retire in an unoccupied bed; when I'm certain that in the morning I will have only one child to collect from the upstairs bedroom.
I'm by no means alone, but my house is not full. Tonight, I'll be dreaming of tomorrow evening, when it finally will be again.