"left-behind" guilt? I know there is "survivor guilt" and I completely understand that, but that is not quite what I am talking about. I am referring to the guilt one feels when they Skype their beloved for the first time and it finally hits the Skyper that he (or she, in this case) feels terrible for the entire situation?
Last night, yesterday...I don't know, I've lost track, at some point during the day we Skyped and instantly it hit me that he is stuck there for a year. Yes, it took a few minutes (days) to register. By all accounts (his), he seems fine and has everything that he needs...yet I still feel guilty that I am not there, sharing in the experience. I know I can't, well, won't (due to the kids), but that's not the point. Yet, I probably shouldn't feel this way, as he has indicated that all is well, and that his apartment is what he expected, if not better.
Granted, I have only seen a bit of the bedroom...which is plain, but ample and has more than enough storage for his few belongings (including the custom-designed laptop built for the year away). We have not had the official tour of the rest of the apartment, but given that Peter felt right at home at the unrenovated Oakwood...I think he's probably satisfied (to say the least) with the granite countertops and stainless steel fridge that he mentioned.
So why am I worried? Why do I feel guilty? Can anyone pinpoint and perhaps comment on why I should fret over someone who seems to be happy and healthy? Sure, he's a teeny bit sad to be away from home, but not overwhelmingly so (and it's to be expected). Since I couldn't figure it out, I thought the best solution would be to ignore it, take the kids out, and maybe I would get over it/forget about it. So, we went to the Natural History Museum. In DC. At the end of July. Do you know who we saw there?
Yep: the rest of America. We were all in the Natural History Museum together and boy, was it cozy for such a cavernous place. The kids, not surprisingly, did not notice. Thank goodness. Nicholas spent the entire time screaming "Die-soar, die-soar!", Caitlin wandered off on her own a bit (but returned in a reasonable amount of time), and Kelsey loved everything but the forensic discoveries. Too many skeletons (or "monsters", as Nicholas termed them) for her liking.
I can't say I absorbed much, but did get to overhear tourists bragging about seeing Obama's helicopters flying overhead (uh-huh), and absolutely adored the couple fighting in front of the elephant in the front hallway. No, let me rephrase that: the husband, for some unknown reason (guessing that general vacation happiness that everyone else was exuding) decided to dress down his wife in front of his kids, and anyone who was within a 10 foot radius got an earful. Seriously not cool, but they all eventually stomped off in grumpy agreement, so here's hoping it was just a bit too much together time.
More importantly, we had a DC first! I didn't think that was possible, but given that Nicholas has never lived here, and the girls were fairly young when we left: we rode the Smithsonian Carousel. It was technically closed, but the operator opened it back up for another go not long after we arrived. I guess the cadres of disappointed parents and overtired toddlers melting down appealed to his softer side, and he let us all on for one go round. Nicholas was getting a bit cranky, but loved the wind in his hair and we managed to delay our foray into Friday afternoon DC rush hour traffic for just a bit longer.
It wasn't until we returned home and Nicholas fell asleep (before dinner, so tired and hungry) and then woke up 15 minutes later (on the wrong side of the bed, to say the least) that we had our first "I miss Daddy" meltdown. Forget the guilt I had, how do you remind a toddler that Daddy hasn't vanished off the face of the earth? We pulled up recent pics, talked about Daddy a bit, tried to have some dinner (think we drank our dinner...juice, folks, juice!), and even though it was a bit early for Pete to be up (according to our special clock) , we threw caution to the wind and rang up Peter on Skype.
He miraculously showed up on the screen, Nicholas talked a bit, blew Daddy kisses, and said good night. Not ideal, but thank God we have that. I'm thinking we also have to schedule story-time with Daddy...anything to make it feel like he's here. It also helped to print out a favorite picture of Daddy, Uncle John and Nicholas in "Unca Chon's annance". He wouldn't let go of it, though, and is finally snoozing soundly with the picture clutched tightly in his little fist. Thank you, Skype inventor, we owe you one!