In 2010 Archie accompanied Reservoir Mum to America for one of her conferences while I home-bodied around with eighteen-month-old Tyson and three-year-old Lewis and then in 2014, when Lewis was seven, he got his chance at a one-on-one trip with Mum when she flew to present at a Barcelona FC conference and I stayed home to keep Archie in school, Tyson in kindergarten and three-year-old Maki in my shadow. 

In March 2015 RM flew to London for a conference and, in keeping with the tradition, it was Tyson’s turn to get some air time with Mum but after some discussion we decided there was just no way it could work. He was nowhere near ready.

Tyson had trouble sitting quietly for a three-minute toilet trip let alone a 36 hour flight involving two plane swaps and three different airports. He’d just started Primary School and we’d put so much effort into the previous year addressing issues around his Sensory Processing Order, to ensure he was capable of starting Prep, that it would have been madness to shatter his routine; to change time zones and eating patterns and start all over again. 

And so RM flew away – a little sadder than usual – for the first time without one or all of us with her. And I kept the fire burning back home. And the smoke that came from that fire, my friends, carried an oaky male stink. And I got a very clear insight into the incredibly difficult task of single parenting at the same time that I became very proficient at sexting and synchronising orgasms between time zones.

On May 22, 2015 – just last weekend – as a kind of a make-up trip for Tyson, RM flew him up to Sydney to visit her sister Diana and partner Ros and their two daughters Amelia and Lauren, and I stayed home with ten-year-old Archie, eight-year-old Lewis and three-year-old Maki for Friday night junior footy training and Saturday morning Tennis and Sunday morning football games.

Without RM around I was expecting some chaos and trouble getting to the various sporting activities and the in-laws had to be enlisted to ride in like the cavalry Sunday morning so that I could take Lewis to his under 9’s footy game and then leave at three quarter time to get Archie to his Under 10’s game, half an hour away, but the madness and the stress I was expecting was simply not there.

I know I’m a parenting veteran now with over ten years’ experience – I’ve acquired a certain set of skills and am no stranger to stroke-like panic and insanity – but the weekend, from the moment on Friday afternoon when I left RM and Tyson at the airport, was noticeably easier than usual.

TysThere were family dynamics influencing that for sure – Lewis had no wick to light, with the Tyson bomb a whole State away, and so didn’t even strike a match, and Maki’s bedtime routine was like a lilo-ride in a swimming pool because of the empty bed across from his, but as Saturday night rose up before me I was feeling calm and cool and on to my second vodka, about to watch Zoolander with Archie and Lewis, with Maki shortcutting the bedtime routine by lying comatose on the couch, and there was no way I could avoid the truth that I’ll make plain after I’ve said this…

Tyson, in case you’re reading this one day I just want to repeat something you’ll have heard a thousand times already – I love you with all my heart and I always will forever, forever, forever.

… the truth of the situation is that having a child with extra needs – even ones as mild as Tyson’s when compared to so many other children – makes life more complicated and increases your worry-time tenfold. It trips you over with doubt and guilt again and again, and builds on the grim possibility that lives in your gut, burning from time to time, to tell you that no matter what you do and no matter what you try, you may be chasing the thing you want so desperately – your child’s happiness – forever, forever, forever.

And so Maki was transported to bed and Zoolander was funnier than ever before with my kids old enough to watch it with me, and I had a few more vodkas and the kids had popcorn and RM texted some pictures of her and Tyson having a ball in Sydney and in the wake of Friday night’s uninterrupted sleep, and a full day without SPD, I missed them both even more than usual. And it was as I was was lolling about, super relaxed and glowed over like a rock star post-concert, that I had the idea to not only record myself miming to a 70s love ballad, but to also share it on Facebook as a way of publicly declaring my love for RM.

The idea seemed so great the more I had to drink and with Archie and Lewis slumbered down for the night, visions of Blue Steel and Magnum in their heads, I swaggered down the hall to the computer room, imagining that RM’s reaction to my miming love video could only be hyper-positive – she’d swoon and laugh all at once!

That certainty was still there as I shared the video on Facebook and it persisted right into Sunday morning during the junior football matches and only began to wane as my hangover lifted and then lunch time rolled around without even a hint of swoon or a muffled laugh and as I kicked into gear for the school week ahead and cleaned and cooked and sorted clothes the thought crossed my mind a few times that I should delete that love dedication video I’d poured my sensitive little heart into, just in case.

But by the time Archie, Lewis, Maki and I had boarded the Tarago at 5.30pm and set out to the airport to pick up RM and Tyson, with the excitement in seeing them again, and with my mind firmly planted on the Monday morning school rush, I had forgotten about it all together…

Continued in It’s Not Warm When She’s Away