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We ate ice cream for dinner

Until now, I have chosen not to write about the nine days Lil E and I were apart during his vacation with his dad that was a part of the parenting agreement we signed several weeks ago. I made that choice because that separation was tough for me and because it went much more smoothly than I anticipated.

I kept myself busy at BlogHer and with my best friend and in trying desperately to catch up on sleep I've been losing for months now. I never did rest up, but I never do sleep well when Lil E is away, whether tucked in the suburbs in the toddler bed nestled up to his dad's bed in a new apartment or thousands of miles away in the Pacific Northwest. We spoke every day that we were apart, sometimes filling the phone line with long stories about how he went to the coast and questions about when I would come visit him on vacation. Other nights, he was too tired or weary or distracted and we rushed through our nightly prayer thanking God for Lightning McQueen and ice cream and Fireman Sam and all the people who love us and all the people we love.

When he came back, I braced myself.

He is a smart, intuitive, sensitive boy who gets things, really gets things. And
still, he is a three-year old processing some major life transitions.
Even in my excitement, I readied myself for tantrums and falling down
on the sidewalk in a collapse of unexpressable fury and the baby voice
that grates on my nerves. And then he walked in the door, wrapped
himself around me like a monkey, kissed me and patted my arm.

"Daddy says when you miss your home, you are homesick," he told me
calmly, sorting through the swag I set out for him. "I was homesick."

"I was Lil E-sick," I smiled back, squeezing him in my arms.

"I was Mommy-sick!" he giggled, squeezing back.

We've had our moments in the week since we unpacked his suitcase. He's
had trouble sleeping in his own bed, begging me not to leave him in it
alone. I've had trouble leaving him in it myself, turning down the
lights and closing the door but feeling pulled to stay with him until
he falls soundly asleep, breathing and dreaming in the worry-less way
preschoolers should.

He's been calmer, more polite, more affectionate. He seems soothed. For that, I have been breathing and dreaming deeper myself.

The days have ticked by and today, he sat patiently, laughing at a
show, eating his lunch and rocking slowly in his little rocking chair
while I was busy with a work conference call, paying bills and
recharging my cell phone. I looked over at him in the middle of all my
busy-ness, content and so used to our lives as they are now, and I
swelled up with that feeling that we are OK, he will be OK.

When the work day was over, I ignored his short nap and let him fill in
the remaining squares on his Good Behavior Chart. They'd been blank for
weeks, intended to be filled in before he left but left lonely while we
were both away. He placed the alphabet stickers in each of the three
empty squares and together, we spelled out the word the chart revealed.


"Ice!" he yelled out.

I nodded and pointed while he said the letters of the next word.


"Hmmm," he said, tapping his lip in one of my favorite gestures he does without thinking.

We sounded it out. He looked at me, eyebrows knitted.

We sounded it out again. Slower this time. His eyebrows raised.

"CREAM! CREAM!" he yelled. "ICE CREAM!"

And then that picture of contentment simmered up in my mind.

"I have an idea," I said, my own eyebrows raised. "It is a wild idea. A
very special treat. Something we will only do once in a while and
something we will enjoy because it is such a special treat."

"What? What?" His eyes were so wide.

"Let's have ice cream for dinner!"

He gasped and my heart melted. Ice cream for dinner. It's not a
Lightning McQueen car and it's not a big pile of pennies and it's not a
trip to the water park he sees on Sprout commercials four times before
breakfast. But it was more than enough. It was plenty.

I did the responsible thing by talking about how we normally try to eat
very healthy and how walking the six blocks to the Baskin Robbins was
good exercise. And then I said to hell with it -- who was I was explaining that all to, anyway? -- and we joked about how
we'd like whipped cream as our vegetable tonight and sprinkles as our
salad and a big scoop of vanilla as the meat.

We ordered whatever we each wanted -- a scoop of chocolate-peanut
butter and a scoop of chocolate for him, a scoop of chocolate-peanut
butter and a scoop of coffee for me, waffle cones for both of us and
big glasses of water as well -- and we ate until we were full enough to
be satisfied throwing the rest away.

We sang a song about having ice cream for dinner and I carried him home
on my back. It felt like those nine days away never happened and yet,
some really good stuff came out of that time. He clung to me, sticky
and full, and later, fell deep asleep, quickly and quiet.

We ate ice cream for dinner. At a messy, silly, loud, happy table for two.

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Reader Comments (2)

Ice cream for dinner? Awesome. Throwing "the rest" away? Unimaginable.
July 30, 2008 | Unregistered Commenterdaruma
Okay this is weird... we had ice cream for dinner the other night too; here's my post.

Weird! Definitely adding you to my blog roll.

August 6, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterMs. Single Mama

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