I promised last week to write about the real and made up problems that people have. I have it all ready, but something happened in the past week that I wanted to share.
It was a Wednesday, late at night. I checked my email for the last time and found out that my editor wanted me to go to Greece to cover the elections there.
The last time I left Tal for more than a day was when he was 3 1/2, and it was also on an assignment -- by chance it was another debt-stricken country, Ireland. I remembered how I missed him on those five long days. I worked hard, but every minute not spent with economists, politicians, government officials or plain good Irish folk, I had to remind myself that I'm supposed to be enjoying my time on the emerald isle.
So, do I go to Greece or not?
For many parents, this question seems stupid. Of course go to Greece, they say. I have people I trust to watch over my son, I have a once-in-a-lifetime chance to visit a place when it was going through a historic transition. I was being given the precious gift of having some time of my own, of sleeping without hearing the distinctive breathing of a young child at night coming from the next room.
Some people, again, find it hard to understand my conflict. When I told a close friend (who has children) that I missed my son after not seeing him for half a day (and hence running into his room to greet him as I returned), she said, "I don't buy it."
But I really do miss him after being away for a few hours, and I rejoice when I meet him. I know of other parents who are like that. It's like those people who after ten, twenty, thirty years of marriage still behave as if they'd just fallen in love with their partners.
I decided to go.
I decided to go because it was against my nature, because I realized that it could be a good experience for me, not just professionally, and that it might even be good for Tal. He had to learn that I can go away for a little while and still come back.
I then did what was really in my nature: I prepared myself and Tal like crazy. I wrote him a social story. I can't thank the therapists who taught me about this valuable tool enough. Social stories are short stories that you can write yourself to explain, prepare and bridge over gaps that children with developmental problems might have. I used it since my son was 2 years old. I recommended to all my friends to do the same whenever their young children were going through a challenging transition, and some thanked me for it. At the age of 4 or so, Tal even started doing a crude version of these stories for himself. I will be glad to advice any parent about this wonderful tool.
(This is an example of how not to do a social story, but we loved it anyway)
After we read the story a few times, Tal seems much less upset about the idea I wouldn't be home for a couple of nights. Oh, yes, I planned my trip so I would spend only one night in Athens, and come back the next night on the midnight flight. I made a list of instructions, too.
The trip was amazing. I spent Sunday and Monday working like a maniac and barely slept in 48 hours. I learned a lot about Greece and the Greek people (I will be uploading a short crude video I made on the go and will post it in the comments section soon). I picked up some memories that I will always take with me.
On the other side of the Mediterranean, my son was having the time of his life, staying at my sister's house, playing with her children and her trusty babysitter. When I called him he was calm and happy, telling me about all the exciting things he was doing (jumping on the trampoline is a winner, every time).
I came home tired and happy that everything went well, and promised myself that I will never go anywhere again without my son.