After a bizarre 17-day stretch of Justin being either off or home from day shifts in time to tuck Ella in, we are on day 2 of a 9-day stretch of swing shifts (we only see Justin at lunch before Ella's nap).
Whenever we have more than four days in a row of any one type of shift, we get into enough of a rhythm that the transition to another type is rocky. Ella whines more, needs extra hugs and kisses, kicks and screams and pushes more. I know all of this and try to take it in stride.
So tonight, between our prayers of the day and the Lord's Prayer, she thrashed about a bit, whimpered, crawled into a ball with her head buried into the couch cushions next to me, then said, "I'm sad. I miss my daddy."
"I know, Love. I miss him, too. It's hard not to have him here for dinner and night-nights. He works so hard. But you know what? We're lucky because we get to see him in the daytime! A lot of kids don't get to see their daddies in the daytime, and we get to have lunch with him and sometimes go fun places with him. Like today, he got to come with us to your doctor appointment. Lots of daddies don't get to do that, but we get to do that together. Now let's say the Lord's Prayer and go night-nights."
She started thrashing about again, but we couldn't keep talking about it, so I started saying it without her, figuring she'd join in or at least just relax. She covered my mouth, "Don't say it!"
"We always say the Lord's Prayer together. We're going to say it." I know if I just skipped it, she'd decide as she crawled into bed that it was imperative to pick up where the record skipped, back on the couch, for prayers.
"No." She covered my mouth with her tiny hand.
I moved away and started singing it. Singing is how I've always gotten us through rough patches--since she first came home to live with us. I made up a song for getting her into the car seat and stroller, a song for getting dressed, a song for bathing and putting on lotion; now she knows all the words and asks for the songs or sings with us.
Right around "...thy will be done..." we settled into reciting it together.
Finally, we were ready to walk down the hallway to bed, past all of the family photos, which she has taken to stopping at to say, "Night, night, Mommy'n'Daddy... Grandma'n'Grandpa, etc."
"I have to do some work on the frames, so the pictures of Mommy and Daddy are in here, OK? You can say goodnight in here."
"I want to say night-night!"
"You can still say goodnight! They're just in here, instead of in the hallway. It's OK. See! Look!"
We were literally ten feet away from their usual spot, which is around the corner. I just took them off so that I could work on them while she slept and not make any noise.
"I want to say night-night in the hallway!"
"Really? You can't just say goodnight in here? The other pictures are still in the hallway. It's just those two of Mommy and Daddy that are in here."
"You want me to put them back up?" This is so not worth arguing about or standing on principle over. What's the principle? I'm changing things up on you when you're already upset about the change of not seeing Daddy at bedtime or in the morning? Because I didn't think it would be that big of a deal and I was wrong and you're two?
"OK. I have to put this stuff down." When Justin's not here, I have to carry her water and her pillow down the hallway, and sometimes her, too, so I'm loaded up. "Do you want to come with me? Do you want to see? They're all still up there. It's just these two."
She sits on the couch and sniffles, "I need a Kleenex!"
"They're right there next to you. Get one; I'll be right back."
I came back after hanging the photos and she wasn't in the living room. I heard the kitchen trashcan lid snap into position, and she turned the corner, smiling when she saw me. I knelt down and she ran, crashing into my arms.
We finished our routine--night-nights to everyone in the pictures in the hallway ("Why you not hang those two up?" "The paintings of me and Uncle Neil when we were kids? We don't need those ones. You don't say night-night to those ones. The ones of me and Daddy are up."), songs in the rocking chair, hugs at the bed, more songs, just one more song, one more hug, one more kiss, "I didn't get my hug!" one more song, one more kiss, "Bye-bye! I love you!"
We were running almost on schedule; I had all these plans for laundry and dishes and picking stuff up and writing stuff down once she fell asleep. I miss him, too, and the quaint Americana feeling there is about having dinner together and tucking her in together and watching TV together, but swing shifts mean more time to write, and watch political commentary instead of playoffs of sports we don't otherwise follow, and read.
But then, after all that everything, I just need a minute to recover. Maybe a glass of wine. Someone to tell all of this to before the feeling wears off and before the "new" old routine starts again tomorrow morning. So here I am. Forty-five minutes later, with nothing but a blog entry to show for it.