She flicks a tear from her cheek, her nervous laugh a cover for unexpected emotion. Pattu reaches out, her fingers lacing themselves through mine. Ammu is on my lap, her neck nestled in the crook of my neck and shoulder. She nuzzles, her cheeks wet with tears.
I am overwhelmed. By the tears. By the emotions.
“I will miss you when you are gone.”
Tomorrow I leave to Columbus, OH for an adoption retreat organized by Second Nurture. The week leading to it has been insightful in many ways. The last time I left behind my family to go off on a jaunt by myself was when they were four. Laddu was not even a speck in my imagination. Saathi held the fort admirably and the Ammu and Pattu did not grasp the concept of time, the length of it or how my presence in the house impacted them. They were content to wave and all too happy to see me when I was back.
This time, they are eight, my trip is shorter but the realization that I will be away has been crashing in waves. They hug me at random. They cry. They mope. They mutter under their breath. They let me know in no uncertain terms that they do not approve of my plans. I should feel guilty. I should feel vindicated. I should feel validated. Yet, the feeling I feel the most is happiness. I am excited at the prospect of a break. I am happy to know I am loved. I am truly thrilled to be missed.
In all my life, there have been very few occasions when I have been surprised. Yesterday probably tops the list. Pattu held out a sheet of paper, her face painfully shy as she did so. I flipped it open and felt my heart burst. For all the times I have wished they would be more expressive. For all the times I have wondered if my monologues were being absorbed. For all the times when I have wondered if I have this parenting thing down.
Somedays, you do win the parenting lottery. So, this mama is off clutching a pink letter and rolling her cabin bag and sporting a huge smile.