Separation anxiety taken to a whole new level

The boys were cleaning their room, as I had asked. I was clearing the dinner dishes. I should have recognized the relative calm as the freakishly low tide just before a tsunami surges in.

I heard G, my firstborn twin, making his awkward way down the stairs, touching both feet on each step before descending. “Mom!” he shouted. “Mom! Phe is yeavin’! He is wunnin’ away!”

Sure enough, there was P on the steps with a bag of play food — two pretend pizzas and a foam orange. His feet were bare. He said he was leaving because I am always so mean. Apparently he’d resented the clean-up more than I’d realized.

I was calm. I told him I hoped he wouldn’t go, and I asked that he at least wait until tomorrow, since it was cold out. I opened the front door for him, and he stuck out his chubby hand. Feeling the northern Ohio chill, he decided he’d wait until tomorrow morning. I congratulated myself on having handled the situation so splendidly, and began hustling the kids up to bed.

Abruptly, P changed his mind. He grabbed his bag of play food and announced he was leaving, and that from now on he could be reached around the corner at his friend Timmy’s house. The other children commenced yelling and wailing. The chaos got the better of me, and I called his bluff.

“Fine. If you’re leaving tonight, it’s time to go,” I said. “Otherwise, you need to get upstairs and put on your jammies.”

“I’m yeavin’ tonight,” he said.

“All right. We’ll miss you,” I said, as I swung open the door.

As we stood on the threshold, 30 degree air flooding into the house, I felt a twinge of regret. I knew he wouldn’t leave, or if he did he wouldn’t go any further in his bare feet than the frigid sandstone sidewalk, but I shouldn’t have painted him into a corner.

“Won’t you please wait until tomorrow, at least?” I asked.

Grateful for an out, he agreed he would, and we headed upstairs where I found G huddled against the wall, wedged between the bed and the nightstand, sobbing. He was inconsolable. He truly believed P was going to leave. His grief was so fierce that I began to feel I might be sick.

While I tried to console G, P sat on his bed quietly wiping tears from his eyes. No babyish sobs or sniffles, just his hand across the bridge of his nose, banishing tears with a swipe of his thumb and forefinger. I whispered in G’s ear that I’d never really let P leave, and even if he left I’d go get him, but G didn’t respond except to continue howling. After a while he sobbed to his brother, “What will you eat? Where will you live?”

And P replied that he now planned to go live with his aunt, and she would take care of him. He wanted to live with her because she is never mean. He said he’d leave in the morning and run to her house.

Again seeing an opportunity to bring this to a close, I suggested that he wait until that weekend and make the four-hour car ride to her house with us. He was agreeable. G sobbed harder. “And den we will YEAVE him dere?”

“No, no,” I whispered in his ear. “No, I would never leave him.”

I started to sense that the twin factor rendered useless all of the preschool runaway strategies employed by my parents.

After a while P backed down and said he wouldn’t really stay at his aunt’s. I showered him with kisses and love, borne of my relief that this ordeal was at an end. I told G the good news, and patted the bed for him to come over and be tucked in.

“No, I’m sleepin’ on the floor because my heart is broken,” he said.

“But he’s going to stay with us,” I cried, desperate for this hour-long standoff to end.

“Half of my heart is healed, but the other half is still broken so I don’t want to sleep in bed with P,” he explained.

P began to cry anew, and once again threatened to leave. G started crying again. “Will you at least stay until I can make us ‘Best Buddies Forever’ goodie bags?” he begged. My heart shattered into a thousand pieces.

I cried through most of this exchange, myself. In G’s begging and in P’s quiet, determined sadness, I felt not only the heartache of today, but the separation they will one day endure, and the heartbreaks that will come when they are too big for me to hold them.

I convinced G to come lay in bed with me and P. I held them both, their heads leaned against each other like when they used to doze off nursing. P put his arm around G, and G rested his head on P’s chest and shoulder. “Are you still gonna yeave?” he asked.

“I don’t know,” P answered.

Jen is the married work-from-home mother of 7-year-old Miss A, 5-year-old boys G and P, and 3-year-old Haney Jane. She also blogs at Diagnosis: Urine.

11 thoughts on “Separation anxiety taken to a whole new level

  1. Poor things, the both of them!

    My Jessica tried to spend the night at a neighbour’s a few months ago, just because it was fun. There wasn’t nearly the same level of drama, but Melody did tell her, “It makes me sad if you don’t come home”, to no avail. Finally, we convinced Jessica to put the sleepover off until a weekend night, and the neighbour toddler ended up sleeping over at our house.
    .-= Sadia´s last blog ..Miscellanea =-.

  2. oh, good! night! I am sure I should be laughing, but I am crying over this. Probably because I hear how our boy is ALWAYS taking roll call of the people he loves and that he always starts with his sister.
    .-= Rachel´s last blog ..Bring It, 2010 =-.

  3. I read this on your blog and cried then and cried again now! It’s all very sweet and I can’t imagine how I’d handle it. The interesting thing is that at one time or another my triplet sisters and I would threaten to run away (or actually do it – down the street or hide in the house somewhere to scare our mom) – but always individually and I never remember any of us being worried about the runaway. And we are very close!
    .-= Mommy, Esq.´s last blog ..Krafty Kids =-.

  4. Oh my goodness. This just breaks my heart. My boys are too young for this yet..but I always have that fear in the back of my head of when this day will come. But I’m thinking more of when they are adults. I wonder how they will handle having to “leave” each other?
    .-= Erin´s last blog ..30 Day Shred ~ Day 1 =-.

  5. Oh, Jen! I am crying!

    When I was 8, I announced I was leaving because my younger sisters were irritating me. I pulled all of my clothes out of my dresser, stuffed them into bags and dragged them to the front door. My sisters were hysterical and my mom handled me the same way you handled G. I very clearly remember her asking me, “Jennifer, my love, where are you going to sleep?”
    To which, I replied, “In my bed. I’m bringing it with me.”
    “And what are you going to eat?”
    “I’m taking some granola bars and cereal from the cupboard!”

    A long story short, she asked me to wait to leave until the morning when my sisters were still asleep. They were crying so hard and begging me not to go, that I agreed to wait so they would not know I was going. By the next morning, the idea was completely gone from my head.

    I watch my b/g twins play together and see how attached they are. I often wonder, too, what they will do when they are separated. Except for about 12 total hours, they have always been within about 20 feet of one another. I’ve been worrying about it more and more in the past few months.
    .-= Jennifer U´s last blog ..How Santa Found Us =-.

  6. Jen -You have us all passing the tissue! What a sweet yet heartbreaking experience.

    Over the Christmas break we decided to take the kids out individually for quick runs to the store etc because it’s rare that the boys are separated. The first time we tried it we let Max know that he was going to store and started getting him ready. Alex didn’t really understand what was happening so he happily ran around helping us get Max’s socks, shoes and coats on no doubt thinking he’d be next. When Max left and Alex finally realized what was happening he started crying and threw himself in front of the door refusing to get up. Despite my efforts to console or distract him he just stayed by the door crying for his “bradah”. It was the saddest thing watching that little baby laying on the ground missing his twin. Later when Max came back they both ran, screaming with excitement, towards each other as though they’d been apart for weeks! It was definitely wonderful and terrible all it once.
    .-= Cristal´s last blog ..Because everyone else is doing it! =-.

  7. You know what, that was really heart-touching…

    when I was like 3 yrs old, my sister was born… I would never let anyone touch her, or come near her. I would draw a circle using a chalk-piece around her cradle and would stand guard. only our mother was allowed through, and sometimes dad too. “No one is to touch the baby!!”

    And if someone disobeyed, I used to fight that person, and after several unsuccessful attempts to push him/her out of the circle, I would start yelling and crying. Just imagine a 3 year old boy threatening his granny about staying out of a circle!

    But things do change… She has grown up now, and so have I.

    18 years after that circle saga, I’d still draw the same circle for her, but I guess she would walk out of it herself :(

  8. Pingback: The City Cradle – Lovely weekend

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