Absence of a Child

I can guarantee I cried while writing this.  I haven’t even finished the first sentence and I have ‘that’ feeling starting again.

This is a touchy subject but I felt compelled to write about it for two reasons; my personal experience and the abduction of Kienan Hebert.  From one extreme to another, to understand what a parent is going through when they are away from their child is hard to  comprehend under most circumstances, even as a parent yourself.

I can remember saying to a friend (about someone else), I couldn't imagine being a single parent, I don’t know how they do it.  It would be so tough.  Never in a million years would I have thought I’d end up as one.  And I was right, it is so tough. 

The initial split of a family puts you in an indescribable frame of mind, if anything it’s pure survival.  Going through the stages of getting your life to a stable place so you can breathe, let alone comprehend what just happened.  Once the reality sets in, you one day realize that your presence in your child’s life has been demoted to part time parent (in my case).  Custody is set for 50% and you will not be present in every day of your child's life like before.  It has been over a year and I’m still having a hard time accepting and grasping this reality. 

The initial schedule was 2 days with Mason, 2 days without and 3 days with him.  It was an agreed upon schedule because he was only 15 months old and being away from either parent would not have been an easy transition for any of us.  

As Mason got older we decided to change the rotation to a simple 7 on and 7 off which was less back and forth for Mason but still difficult emotionally for me.  I get 7 days with my Son which in itself is amazing yet exhausting.  Then 7 days away from him which I can honestly say the first few days away are spent relaxing after having a busy toddler and cause jealousy by my friends who are parents who long for a few days break! But after day 5 my relaxed demeanour takes a whole different form and with my clean house, comes an eerie silence.  A room full of toys, an empty toddler bed but no Mason.  I begin to mope, reminders of him are everywhere.  His Father and I try to make nightly phone calls for Mason to say goodnight but even that can be hard sometimes.  Mason may not want to talk or listening to his voice just makes me sadder he’s not around. 

I go through a mini depression, my appetite drops off and any child related anything (seeing a child outside or a commercial on tv) may induce tears.  Keeping busy helps but while on this restrictive budget until next fall, I can’t spend a lot of money going out so I opt to stay home and that’s the worst place for me to be. 

Seven long days and on the eighth, when Mason returns to me in the afternoon after school, my world is happy again and life is back to normal.  He is smothered in kisses when I see him and tears sometimes do fall.  Being around him again makes me whole.  Even Mason is a bit different on that first day.  He says ‘Mommy’ a lot, with no question following it.  I get more hugs and he is a bit more cuddly, while he’s still very young I know he misses me.  

One of the dreaded scheduling routines is summer holidays.  It is a touchy subject because as we both take extra time off to enjoy the weather and visit family, it means taking scheduled time away from the other parent.  Ultimately the total time spent with Mason is always 50/50, it’s the moving days around that can disrupt that 7 day balance and the time away from Mason increases. 

This year, due to two trips to Alberta, the time away from Mason increased to two weeks each.  I didn’t really comprehend how hard this was going to be until I went through it.  I had planned a week trip to Edmonton to visit a whole lot of friends and family and two weeks later Mason’s Dad planned a trip to Edm as well for a family wedding.  It was not fair to Mason to endure two separate road trips (flying is too costly) so we both drove.  A request was made to me to leave Mason with his Dad’s family while I came back to BC alone.  At first I had a few concerns; leave Mason in Alberta? Drive back alone? Keeping in mind that Masey’s Dad & Mom would be in BC and he’d be in AB.  Seemed odd. 

But after some thinking, when else would Mason have a chance to spend that much quality time with his family and I didn’t want to make him go through the two drives.  So I agreed. 

I would cut my day with Mason a day short and leave him with his Grandmother in Edmonton while I carried on to Calgary and then back to Vancouver.  This day was August 27th.  Let me tell you, leaving Mason was one of the hardest things I have done.  It had nothing to do with who he was left with.  Aside from my own family, he was in the best of care being looked after his Paternal Grandparents and visiting tons of extended family.  While separated by provinces, Mason’s done a lot of trips back and forth and had family visit BC and so he was quite comfortable being left with family he loves. 

The night I left Mason wasn't an easy one.  He didn’t understand that I was leaving him and he wouldn’t see me for over 2 weeks, but I sure knew.  I dreaded each hour that past and crept up to his bedtime.  I stayed to bathe him and put him to bed.  Unfortunately being over tired, over stimulated and seeing so much family, he wasn’t *ready* to go to bed and he fought me hard to sleep.  He wailed and repeated that he didn’t want to sleep.  Normally out of character for him.  I handled it pretty well and eventually Mason fell asleep cuddled up to me.  Then my tears came, I gave him tons of kisses on his little face knowing that it would be a while before I held him again. 

I prayed that my drive would be safe and that while in the care of his Dad’s family that he too, would be safe.  Finally I got myself back on the road and cried all the way to my destination.  The drive home was uneventful and if not for satellite radio, I probably would have cried all the way home to BC too! 

It is now September 10th and I have 3 more sleeps until Mason returns to me.  To this day he still is in Alberta and returns home on Monday.  I know I will be nervous until they both arrive safely in Vancouver.  A Mother truly does not stop worrying, ever. 

With this holiday arrangement, instead of having Mason for 1 week, I will have him for 13 days (to make up for the 17 days I went without him) and then return to our regular schedule.   Until then, I wait and look forward to the nightly calls so I can hear his sweet little voice, “Hi Mommy!” and eventually have him back in my arms. 

 What has made this last week especially hard is I have been closely following the news story of Kienan Hebert who was abducted out of his home in Sparwood BC.  An Amber Alert was issued and since then my Facebook wall has been consumed by updates about this missing 3 year old.  Before having Mason, I probably would have felt horrible and watched the story but now that I’m a parent with a child close in age, I *feel* different.  I have personalized this event because it could happen to me.  

My heart stops every time an update is posted and I pray that it’s titled ‘has been found safe’ but unfortunately we have not yet had an actual sighting of Kienan or his abductor.  There is no lack of information in the media, if anything, this Amber Alert system is quite successful in BC and the media is on this story providing updates on FB every couple of hours. 

Imagining what I would do in this situation is unbearable to think of. I’d honestly want to be put in a medically induced coma and wake me when my child was returned to me.  Oh the agony his parents must be going through (and having 7 other children to console as well as each other).  My heart aches for this family and I hope to God that Kienan is found sooner than later, unharmed.

From my personal experience to a tragic experience of another family, being away from your child for any amount of time is hard to handle.  It makes you appreciate the little time we have in this life and that the time we spend with our Children is with the utmost care and love.  My hugs after being reunited with Mason will be just a little bit tighter and my attention to him a lot longer. His presence in my life is a gift and one I will never take for granted. 

I look forward to having my baby back and I pray every night that Kienan is returned to his family who love him and miss him. 

For more information on Kienan’s abduction, you can follow the FB page: http://www.facebook.com/kienanherbert

and for official updates: http://www.facebook.com/GlobalBC

**Update - not even 24 hours after this post was written, Kienan was returned to his home safely.  I cannot describe how I feel right now other than I am overjoyed that his family has this sweet  little boy back and to thank his abductor for having a change of heart and returning Kienan to his family.  The outcome could have been tragic.**

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