Child's Sense of Absence and Time Grows More Nuanced
Asks for clarity regarding Mommy's upcoming trip, wonders when Daddy will return from playdate with Futura's daddy
Laurea flew off this morning to her first actual in-person event in over two years, and Kina was ambivalent. She’s come to expect us here, most of the time, ever since she was three years old, and since her brain has skipped ahead faster than our work travel has, she’s just now coming to a much sharper understanding of what it means to be away from us. She can feel the difference between a night out (as I had with Futura’s dad recently) and a week away, and she’s keen to know which she’s signed up for when one of us steps out of the door.
Something about this phase of cognitive development seems to have triggered in Kina some fear of uncertainty—in our absence, and in the timing of our return. Today’s second headline is actually a good illustration of this. We told her this morning that her friends are going to start having birthday parties that she can attend without us, and while she seemed copacetic with the broader notion, the whole framing of these parties as “drop-off parties” and not “drop-off-and-pick-up later parties” made her wonder why we’d leave our most precious daughter at some godforsaken trampoline emporium for an indeterminate period of time.
We promised her that we’d come back, when the party was over.
Laurea promised that she’d return from Texas, too, when her work was over.
And that I would return from my play date with Futura’s dad, when we were done having dinner.
She seems generally satisfied being apart from us once she knows when we’ll be together again—which is pretty similar to how we feel about her. It’s a good reminder that absences are uncertain and the time we spend together is special. I feel fortunate to be able to tell Kina, with relative confidence, that I’ll see her again so soon; these days, not every parent has that privilege.
After we pulled away from the terminal this morning, Kina was quiet. I asked her if she wanted to listen to her playlist of killer eighties jams, which seemed to cheer her up. I drove her to our favorite soup dumpling place in Flushing, which helped even more, and we made jokes together while we ate. It was time we had together, fully present for the moment, impervious to absence and unbothered by the gap.
Kina walked up to me this morning and said “I am going to paint a Very Powerful Flower.” That is today’s Parade.