Tuesday, June 28, 2011
Our family just returned from 9 lovely days in West Michigan with family. We swam in Lake Michigan, attended a family wedding, and made many memories with grandparents, auntie, uncle, and our boys' very first girl cousin. It was a wonderful week!
This trek was significant for Z, not only because he was meeting many family members for the first time, but also because it was his first ever round-trip. He has left home so many times, but this is the first time he has ever come back. This thought was never far from my mind as I watched him throughout the week, observing how he reacted to new people, new environments, and new experiences. For the most part, he did amazingly well. He took cues from his brothers and warmed up quickly to his grandparents and other family members, he explored the new surroundings with excitement, and enjoyed many fun 'firsts'.
But about halfway through the week there was a subtle shift. Behaviors re-emerged. He seemed moodier and more touchy. And, most significantly, he started asking about people back home. In the middle of playing he would look up at me with big questioning eyes: Papa? Nana? Yes sweetie, we will see them in a few days. This seemed acceptable for the moment and he would go back to his toys. A few hours later: Joooey? No-Nos? Yep, we will see your cousins soon.
On the one hand, I was thrilled to see evidence of the strong connections he has built with his Nana and Papa and cousins. They are special to him, and he missed them while we were gone. At the same time, I couldn't help thinking about all the other people he has left behind in his life... He missed them too, and probably misses them still, but doesn't have a framework for talking about those losses yet. I don't know how that will change as he grows and matures, but as his mom I pray I will be sensitive enough to provide space for him to feel and acknowledge and grieve for those people whenever he needs to do so.
On a positive note, I am hoping that this experience of returning after being away will deepen his understanding of home as a permanent place, a safe place, a place of comfort and familiarity. Thankfully the series of one-way tickets which characterized his first two years of life is finished, and no matter how often he leaves home from now on he can always come back.