Reunited. Reuniting with a family member can be extremely difficult, particularly on an emotional level. I, for instance, have been reunited with my 5 year old daughter yet again. This time around, our separation was 3 and ½ months. The separation was a difficult one in that I felt the strain on my emotional systems and felt my tolerance stretched in ways that I did not think possible. There is a certain type of pain and emotional discomfort that is associated with being separated from your closest family members; including your son or your daughter. The emotional discomfort is born out of an uncertainty – wondering whether things are Ok or not and somehow trusting that things are Ok even without your presence.
Yes, there is a worry. After all, how will the day-to-day routine be achieved if I am not there to help execute all of the tasks? There are so many uncertainties and so many variables to consider when it comes to daily living. Also, there are so many fears and perils to overcome on a day-to-day basis. At times it can be overwhelming. And it is the daily fears and perils that concern us the most as parents. Innate in us is the drive to survive and we want to make sure our offspring are thriving as much as possible on a daily basis. We want to see our children succeed and do well and be efficacious throughout their daily lives.
With separations and reuniting comes the fear of losing control of all of this. The longer the separations the more we fear we are losing control over the daily functioning of our children. Nothing could be worse. The thought that we have no control over how well our children are doing on a day-to-day basis is absolutely frightening. We begin to lose touch with our children, especially in an emotional way. This tears at the very fabric of our being – who we are as people. We begin to question ourselves and wonder if something is wrong us. How come we aren’t involved with our children’s lives anymore? Is it because we’re an unfit parent? Is it because we don’t have a job and don’t make enough money? Has society retaliated against us in an emotional way as some type of perverse punishment for behaving in a certain way?
These are thoughtful questions to consider as we think about and discuss separations and being reunited. There is a certain type of subdued joy that comes with being reunited. It’s a joy that lingers beneath the surface and is extremely hard to get to the surface. So much has happened during the separations and it makes it hard for the real feelings to emerge. Perhaps there is a fear that there will be an overflow of emotion so everything becomes subdued or held back. An excess of emotion can be extremely damaging if expressed in the wrong way and so we have to be careful of the waterfalls that build up inside of us.
But what do we mean by waterfalls? Is it just an avalanche of emotion? Or is it the convergence of great quantities of water that spill over an area of higher elevation to lower elevation? No. What we are talking about here, metaphorically, is the building up of intensity of emotion in a human being. The building up of intensity of emotion or convergence of water is equivalent to the natural phenomenon of a waterfall. The building up of intensity of emotion can be frightful, especially if not expressed in the right way. Enormous damage can be done to the individual and relationships if unleashed in the wrong way; much like the waterfall that can be very erosive to surrounding structures of land. And the intensity of emotion tends to be a function of how long the separations have been. Yes, there does come a time to be reunited but we can grow apprehensive as the time to be reunited draws near.
There are so many thoughts, expectations, hopes and dreams that circulate around in our head. We wonder who are children have become during the separation. We wonder how they’ve grown and who they’ve developed into. They’re not the same human being anymore and have likely taken on many new influences in their life. The anticipation can become unbearable. We drive to the airport to see them again for the very first time and they burst through the gates and hopefully into our arms with love and joy.
But it isn’t the same love and joy anymore is it? It’s just not the same. It’s not the same as when we used to hold the precious bundles of joys in our arms, caressing them and loving them until they fell asleep lovingly in our arms; purring like kittens into the later hours of dusk. The separations, physical distance and emotional distance have changed the dynamics of the relationship. Our loved ones have matured faster than we can possibly believe and have matured in ways that often leave us speechless.
For example, upon picking my daughter up from the airport last time she flew in (December 16th, 2014), I began to cry as we drove back toward grandma and grandpa’s house. She looked at me and said “you’re not going to give me the pouty face again are you?” I just kept on crying and she said “Wait, let me see it again”. It had amazed me how much my daughter had hardened in the last 3 and ½ months.
Perhaps the separation had been harder on her than I thought or maybe she had grown in some pretty unbelievable ways that I wasn’t aware of. Her feelings had become more mature and it felt as if she almost resented me for crying. Later on that evening as I got her ready for bed I said “Justine, I want talk”. She replied “What are you going to say to me Daddy?” She cut the conversation off even before it began. Maybe there was nothing to say. Maybe I wasn’t aware of how hard our divorce had been on her on how hard the separations had been on her. After all I was her Daddy and I do think that she loves me dearly. I was with her and taking care of her from a very young age until the age of 3.
Needless to say separations and reuniting are very hard and it taxes us emotionally especially as the separations grow long. We are stretched in remarkable ways and tested as to who we are as human beings. It brings out the best in us and the worst in us.
It’d be great to hear from you,
Matthew R. Polkinghorne