Since my husband travels for work almost half the month, when he goes away it's no big deal.
But when I go away, it becomes a bit of a production. A soap opera really. Except instead of 91 year old actresses whose faces are tighter than young children wailing about my departure, they are actually young children.
And they are very very good at what they do.
My early morning flight meant good-byes were done at bedtime, with my two middle children gleefully silenced by my offers of prizes (beads! boas! booze!).
My oldest, however, became overwhelmed by tears during my ritual pep talk that involves asking her to help Daddy and how cool it is to be the big sister and that I won't be gone for long which usually gets me a look that says "BULLSHIT MOTHER" at which point she continues weeping until I offer her prizes too.
Lately, her relationship with my husband has been a bit strained, some of it due to typical six-year-old angst (which I hope is not an indication of how things will be when she's a teenager because that is just cruel) and also because my husband can be a bit challenging.
"He's mean," she explained, which is really her way of saying "stressed" and "frazzled" - something that often happens when he's alone with the kids (usually just three) for an extended period of time.
Like four hours.
But even when he's home for longer than a few days and I'm there with him, he often gets visibly frustrated which translates as short and impatient or to a 6-year-old, mean.
And I get it. I get annoyed and tired and frustrated because parenting is hard and parenting four kids is really hard and I'd probably long for the solitude of an airplane cockpit and a quiet hotel room. I'm often jealous of his schedule, particularly between the hours of 6pm and bedtime when all hell breaks loose.
I've also been tempted to call him every time I wake up to feed the baby but I fear karma would bit me sorely on the ass for that one.
I also do my best to disregard the fact that he will actually be enjoying the solitude of the airplane cockpit and a quiet hotel room very shortly and should just suck it up and slap a smile on his face).
I had to laugh a bit when she told me.
"But Mommy yells an awful lot. I'm much meaner than Daddy!" I reminded her.
And it's true. With all my husband's impatience, he rarely loses his temper like I do.
She thought for a minute and then responded.
"But...," she hesitated, "you say you're sorry."
I squeezed her and combed her hair with my fingers. I never really knew if my apologies actually meant anything, even though I made a point to say sorry when my behavior was wrong.
"Mommies make bad choices too" I tell them. "I'm so sorry, will you forgive me?"
By that time, they're usually on to something else, or consuming "Mommy was an asshole today" cupcakes, a recipe I've perfected over the last few months, and aside from a head nod or a "Yeah, sure," I never really know if they're really listening.
Well, apparently they are.
And even better, those sorries mean something.
That night my daughter gave me the most amazing gift: Freedom from the guilt and worry I've been carrying around for all the times I've lost my shit.
And confirmation that I am, in fact, the better parent.