The last month or so has seen Kim and I have to spend time apart from Mitch for both health and work reasons. These absences have thrown up a few challenges that we needed to overcome as two year olds tend to be confused when out of routine.
The first period apart was in fairness a bit of a stuff up as scheduling saw Kim spend a week away at a client. Ordinarily this wouldn’t have been a problem but I had been booked to speak at a conference in Durban during that week so also had a night away.
The second period saw Kim spend two weeks in hospital battling a bacterial chest infection. Luckily we had learned lessons and in the main this was a lot easier on Mitch, although not necessarily on me. I’m exhausted still.
So based on all of these challenges let me share with you what did and didn’t work for us. Hopefully some of what follows might help you going forward.
If at all possible avoid both of you travelling at the same time. This was the biggy in retrospect and something we couldn’t avoid but would make best efforts not to next time. Pure and simple mum leaving on Monday, dad leaving on Tuesday and Mitch going to Grannies for the night, being put to bed at home by granny on Wednesday and being woken by dad on Thursday with mum still not around was understandably rather unsettling for our Fuzzball. Needless to say come Thursday night/Friday morning the little guy was all over the place and I was nailing a few whiskeys to cope. As I said if you can avoid it do so.
Be careful with Skype/Facetime. During the business trip we made an effort for Mitch to Facetime Kim each night and morning so he could still see and talk to mum. The jury is very much out if this was such a good idea as he was certainly confused by it and not his happy self afterwards. During Kims stay in hospital we decided not to Facetime and he only visited her on the second weekend she was there. The result? A noticeably happier child. Coincidence? Maybe but we’d be hesitant to FaceTime again and feel that sometimes gone = gone is a better scenario.
Get a routine going quickly. Yes the R word I know it’s a total cliche and one that I was never keen on but it works. Walk the dog in the morning with them? Do it. Bathtime as per usual? Yes. Leave for work and come home the same time? Absolutely. It just calms things down.
Turn off the TV. This was another big difference between the trips helped by us canceling DSTV so I didn’t have it on in the background. It meant I could spend time engaging with Mitch with 100% focus. This in retrospect has also meant that we have developed a deeper bond. As with the routine I certainly think that this made for a happier Mitch as he knew that dad was there for him.
Keep them at home. In the first period the poor guy was carted all over the place and really didn’t know whether he was coming or going. However in the second period it was only during the second weekend that he went to the grandparents and that was only because I picked up a chest infection and we were worried about him getting it. Again routine, comfort, normality. It repeats itself but as the converted I believe it works now.
Finally for the parents get some pictures. For fathers day Kim got both of us some pull out picture accordions from Studio 22 in Cape Town. These cost R99 and being 75x75cm can be put in a work bag or handbag and left on the hotel bedside table. Seriously a great idea and one that we cherish now as it always keeps us close in a small way.
So those are the lessons learned. Are there more to learn? Probably. Are they full proof? Maybe but they seemed to work for us but give them a try and see how you go.
Until next month.