The first summer I attended the University of Ottawa, my husband, Rick and my daughter, Claire, stayed home in Newfoundland. Claire was just three years old and she and Rick spent some time with Rick's parents in Corner Brook. I spoke with them often but the pay phone made it difficult to get in touch with me as often as they would have liked. We talked with Claire about where I was and when I was coming home, but she was too young to understand the timeline or circumstances involved.
On the return trip home, I flew into Gander and Rick and Claire were at the airport. It was so good to be home and on the drive to Buchans, I sat in the back seat next to Claire.
It was a beautiful summer day in early August and Claire wore a little summer outfit. She was so cute, sitting in her car seat, talking as we drove the two hours to home.
We were almost home, on the straight stretch before the last hill into Buchans. Claire started hitting me and she was very upset. Rick, driving the car, said, "Claire, mommy's been away and now she's back and you're hitting her. That's not very nice."
Understanding what was going on, I reassured Rick that everything was alright. I said,"Claire, you missed Mommy, didn't you?" She did not reply.
Later Rick and I talked about the incident and I talked to Claire about where I had been and how I was back now. For the next month, Claire needed to be reassured that I was there, so everything she needed, I had to do or get for her.
For example, we visited Mount Pearl to see my parents later that month, and Claire would not let anyone else open the door for her. My father did not understand why Claire did not let him open the door when he was there eith her. Rather Mommy had to come from another part of the house to help her. Dad, whose mother died when he was a teenager, could understand why Claire was upset when I explained it to him.
Gradually, over that first month I was home, Claire's insecurity and anger subsided and she settled into life as it had been prior to my absence. The next summer, Rick and Claire came to Ottawa with me and we rented an apartment. It was a better solution for our daughter.
Young children let us know how they feel if we but listen and observe. Then we can help them deal with the stressful events in their lives as they learn what they are feeling and that the feelings are normal. It is amazing what you can learn from a three year old.