I recently took my first trip without Peeper. After 16 months of spending every day together, I headed up to Seattle for a business trip. It was a short jaunt—I was gone only one night—but, as I wrote earlier, I worried how she and I would handle the separation.
It felt good to be busy. Between meetings and visiting my sister and brother-in-law, I didn’t have much time to dwell on how much I missed Peeper. When I had a few minutes of down time, I walked around and stumbled across the adorable Once Upon a Time toy store in Queen Anne and of course bought her a little present.
That night, though, as I sat in the quiet hotel room, loneliness threatened to swallow me. The spacious room with its two queen beds, sitting room and kitchen that seemed so luxurious in the day felt yawning and empty in the dark.
The next morning, we videochatted. Seeing Peeper’s smiles filled up the hollow space inside me. Peeper kept peering over the top of the computer on her end, looking for me.
As I drove home later that day, I imagined our ecstatic reunion—like the tearful homecomings you see at the airport or veterans seeing their loved ones after coming back from war. (I know, I have a very healthy imagination.) Impatient, I cursed 5pm traffic and watched the clock, predicting what Peeper would be up to at that moment.
Finally, I parked in front of our apartment. I gathered my bags and climbed the stairs to our front door. I stepped inside.
“Who’s that?” I heard Eric say to Peeper and I poked my head around the corner. I grinned, ready for Peeper to swan dive out of Eric’s arms and into mine.
My daughter glanced at me—then looked away, pointing at the fridge. “Pear, pear,” she insisted. Apparently she was hungry.
For a moment, I sagged in disappointment. I’d been gone 29 hours, and Peeper hardly noticed my return. A moment later, pride replaced the let-down. We have raised an independent, strong and secure child—one who happened to be hankering for a Bartlett at the exact second I walked through the door.
After I’d deposited my luggage, I sat down with Eric and Peeper. We settled into our usual places at the table, and Peeper popped pieces of dinner into her mouth. Finn hovered beneath the high chair, poised to pounce on any dropped food. It was like any other night.
My homecoming looked nothing like what I had imagined, but what part of parenting does? After a trip away, routine felt so right.