Tag Archives: balancing work and family

Explaining Travel to Emma

I flew back to Aspen, Colorado yesterday, alone.  Explaining to Emma why I had to return so quickly was difficult.  First of all I don’t know how much she understands and since she cannot ask me questions the way her older, neuro-typical, brother, Nic does, I cannot know what goes through her mind.  So when I told both children ten days ago that I was going to have to go back to Aspen because of my store, Nic said, “NOOOOOO!  You only just came home!  That’s so unfair, Mom.  Why do you have to go back?”

Emma remained silent.  I explained that there were things I needed to take care of at the store, that it was part of the deal with owning one’s own business, it’s just what one has to do.  After awhile, Emma wandered away muttering, “Sleep, wake up, camp on the lake, sleep, wake up, get on airplane.”

Nic meanwhile was angry, then teary, then resigned.  “I know, honey.  It’s a drag.  But you, Daddy and Em will come out in August so it won’t be so long this time that we’re all apart.”

“No Mom.  It’s not a drag.  This sucks,” he said, before turning away from me, his arms crossed, to stare out the window.

“I’m so sorry, Nicky.”

And as sorry as I was that Nic was upset, I wondered what was going on through Emma’s mind.  Was she just accepting that this was how things were, did she have questions?  What was she feeling?

Impossible for me to know.

This past weekend I pulled out a calendar and went over it with Nic and Emma.  Pointing to various dates, I said, “Okay so this is when I have to leave.”

“Get on airplane, fly back to Aspen,” Emma said, looking at the box with the number 19 on it where my finger was positioned.

“Yeah.  That’s right Em.  That’s the day I have to go back.”

“Sleep, wake up, get on airplane,” she said.

“Just me, Em.  You guys are going to go to camp and stay in New York with Daddy,” I explained.  “Then look, on this day you, Daddy, Nic and Jackie are going to fly out to Aspen.  That’s in twelve days.  And here, this is when Joe comes out and Jackie has to go back, then here is when we all fly back to New York together.”  I looked at both of them.  “Okay?”

“I don’t want you to go again.  We’ve only had you for like three days,” Nic said.

“Two weeks.”  I put my arm around him.  “I know.  I know.”

“It’s not fair,” Nic said.

“Sleep, wake up, sleep wake up…”  Emma began, counting on her fingers how many sleep, wake ups it would be before they flew out to Aspen to meet me.  “Go to YMCA with just Mommy?”  Emma said after she had finished counting out 12 “sleep, wake ups”.

“No, Em.  But Daddy will take you.”

“Go to YMCA with just Daddy,” she repeated and then scooted away on her scooter.

Yesterday morning as I was gathering my things to go downstairs, Emma ran over to me and threw her arms around me.  “Bye Mommy!” She said, burying her face into me.

“I’m going to miss you so much, Em.”

“Miss you,” she said, before pulling away.

For more on Emma’s journey through a childhood of autism, go to:  www.EmmasHopeBook.com


In three more days I will be home.  Home with my two children, Nic and Emma, my husband, Richard and our black cat, Merlin.  Everyone but Emma and Merlin understand that I’ve been away for so long because of work.  I guess I should rephrase that – I don’t actually know whether Emma understands I’ve been away because of work.  Perhaps the reason why I’ve been gone so long is meaningless to her, she just knows I’m not there.  But on Friday when she returns home, I will be waiting for her with open arms.  I don’t like being away this long.  I don’t like having so many miles between me and my family.

When I spoke to Emma on Sunday she said, “No, you cannot spit.  If you spit Mommy will leave.”

“Oh Em, you didn’t spit.  I didn’t leave because of anything you did,” I said.

“There is no spitting!”  Emma shouted into the phone.

“Okay Em.  I’m really glad to be speaking with you, tell me about your day.”

“No you cannot spit.  There is no spitting or Mommy leaves.”

“Sweetie, tell me about your day.  What did you do today?”

“No spitting.  Bye Mommy,” she said before casually putting the phone down and walking away.

Sometimes one waits then, hoping the chaos that constitutes our life in New York city isn’t so much that everyone forgets about the phone and the person on the other end.  Sometimes one has no other choice than to eventually hang up.  Once, after hanging up, I tried to call back only to receive a rarely heard busy signal.

But this time after a few moments Richard returned.  “Do you think she thinks I’m gone because I’m angry with her?”  I asked.

“No.  I heard her, I don’t know what that was about,” he tried to reassure me.

Being away is like entering an alternate universe.  It’s familiar, a bit like seeing an old friend from high school.  It’s easy to fall back into a kind of routine, but my children and husband are always there in my head.  I am here to work, so I do.  But I still have time to socialize with friends, Sunday I even took the entire day off and went for a much needed long, long walk with a friend.  I can say yes when someone asks me to have a coffee with them.  My life is completely different here from my life in New York.  In many ways it’s wonderful, calm, relaxing, yet I’ve been weepy ever since I arrived.  Being able to have feelings and have the time to look at them, talk about them, it’s all a luxury really.  One needs the time and space to indulge them.  So I’ve been blogging about some of those things – the existential quest that most of us feel at certain times in our life, the searching.  That too is something that needs time, a certain silence to be able to fully indulge.

I have no answers, I continue to search though.

For more on my family and Emma’s journey through a childhood of autism go to:  www.EmmasHopeBook.com