It has always taken a well thought out plan to leave my house. There is no ordinary walking out the door and closing it behind you. It is much more like a secret escape- keys held tightly in hand to keep from jingling and giving you away, whispered goodbyes, walking softly on tip-toes, gently shutting and locking the door behind you, like a cat burglar might do. All to avoid allerting my seven year old to the departure.
We don't even let him see us put our shoes on, and especially not our jackets. If I am holding my purse, even just to pull out my cell phone or wallet, Jacob gets anxious and assumes I am leaving. He has gone so far as to seal the front door completely with masking tape, in his simple way of trying to prevent mommy or daddy from getting out.
Chris and I have used distraction (one of us takes Jacob outside so the other one can slip out) so many times that Jacob has become a little suspicious. Those times when Jacob catches on and is inconsolably upset, I will load him up in the van and drive him around the block a few times. He accepts that that was the plan all along and the reason mommy got her shoes on, and it is easier for me to make it out a few minutes later.
Trying to leave without attracting Jacob's attention, to avoid a wailing, thrashing tantrum, has taken more than it's fair share of time. It is like when your toddler has separation anxiety, only this child has not been a toddler for five years, and his reaction has grown along with his body. Extreme Toddler.
As you can imagine, this is a huge inconvenience for our family. Makes it very hard to stick to a schedule or leave at the spur of the moment.
But, even worse, is his reaction when he sees a suitcase. This means long term leaving, and he knows it. In the past when I have been packing to go somewhere, I'll come in the room to find him pulling my stuff out of the bag and putting it away. He'll even drag the luggage back to the storage closet, as if this will stop me from leaving him.
It is actually quite adorable, quite irritating, and quite sad all at the same time. Who doesn't feel good when a child desperately wants to be with them? Who doesn't go a little crazy when a child won't let them go? Who doesn't want their child to be happy and tear-free?
This weekend I am going to Seattle with a group of friends. We are meeting to carpool at a location an hour from my house. The arrangement made is that the woman who will be watching Jacob that day will drive me there and drop me off, then return home with my van so that Chris can have it while I m gone. He can't be without a vehicle, and getting me to the meeting place during the work day was tricky to figure out.
What this boils down to is this: Jacob will see the suitcase in the car. He will see that the sitter is riding with us. Then we will stop and I will quickly get out and grab my bag, while hurrying so that he does not climb out after me, but still needing to give him a proper kiss goodbye because how can a mom leave without doing that?
Jacob will realize what is happening, he will try to bust out while the babysitter struggles to hold him in and keep his seat belt fastened. This is far from easy when you are in a confined space and you are not as young as you used to be and your opponent is very heavy, unusually strong, and fiercely determined.
She'll eventually drive off, I can almost guarantee, with Jacob screaming and kicking the back of her seat, and I'll be left watching them drive away, praying they make it home in one piece, hoping he'll forgive and forget before too long, and reconsidering my Girl's Weekend Out.
This is not the first time, and it won't be the last, and it isn't getting easier. I'm trying to imagine how I will ever manage to leave my home when he is 15 and as big as me and blocking the doorway. Not a pleasant picture. Somethings gotta give.
There are so many positive changes in Jacob's behavior and communication right now that it seems silly to be complaining about anything. Although he still isn't speaking, I am rejoicing every single day as he understands more and more of what we say to him. But I have to wonder, will I ever get a smile of understanding when I say, "Goodbye, I love you, I'll be back soon."