Actually, for a two year old, I heard it in quite a matter of fact way - 'Mummy, where's daddy?' - 'He's gone away on his big trip' - 'Oh'. He asked a lot though, I mean, within minutes of the last mention he'd ask again 'Mummy, where's daddy?'. Then after a while it was just mentioned at bedtime. Then just when he was a bit grouchy and daddy may have seemed a more palatable option that me. By the time 3 months had gone by, I barely heard it at all.
Then daddy came to visit last weekend, for the 3rd birthday celebrations. He was here for four days. Those four days have now brought with them a new wealth of queries related to the whereabouts of daddy. It must be confusing though, to be told again and again daddy is away on his big trip, he is living somewhere else for a long time, he will only be visiting us. He isn't coming home, just visiting, like Grandma and Grandpa visit. Obviously when the visits happen, a child would think 'Oh, look, daddy's home now, back to normal, horray!' - then the startling reality of leaving occurs all over again. I remember when I had a difficult day and both children were grouchy and I was ultra tired, I told my husband that he has left it too long to visit, he can't just come home every 4.5 months, he HAS to come at least every 2 months after the Christmas visit...but a little part of me, after last weekend, thinks that might be even more traumatic. At least after he had been gone such a long time, a new equilibrium had occurred, and we were all getting on with it. I really do still think every 4 months is too long in between, and 2 months or so is better...but I am just feeling for the kids, it must be confusing. And I know it has made them insecure.
There has also been some behavioural changes. My older son has become...just...more difficult. As well, at nursery for the couple of months before my husband left, he stopped talking. Really, he would say Nothing all day. I was approached by the staff saying if they didn't know better, that if they didn't know he COULD talk, they would be advising me to get developmental help for him. But we all knew he could talk, it's just that he chose not to. It got down to them recording daily on paper anything he did say, and in what circumstances he might say something...and noted that whenever approached directly he would not answer, ever. Those sheets of paper early on had very little on them. It was very worrying. He had always spoken well though, at home and at nursery, and had good sentences early on, he was ahead of the game in language development. I guess he was feeling anxious and insecure of the impending doom (?). After about three months (that's a long time!) he would say more, and even when the day came that daddy left, he continued improving. It must have been the stress around the getting ready to leave part, all the doubt. It does come down to insecurity, and confidence. The poor fellow, everything's all upside down as far as he's concerned. At least now he is talking up a storm and is all fine/normal now in that department.
This time after daddy left again, the crying about daddy has got worse, and is not so matter of fact. It has way more of a drama queen flair to it, with much whining and wailing involved. And I can't even answer him properly. He is crying 'Where's my daddy, get daaaaaaddyyyyyyyyy!!!!!!' and I say 'Daddy has had to go back on his big trip, I can't get him now, but we will see him soon...when the snow comes and it's Christmastime...' and he says ' Noooo I need daddy nowwwwwwwwwww!!!!'. What can I say? What else can I say? I have to just keep repeating that daddy loves us, he will be back to visit soon, and after his big trip and a few more visits he will be back home for good. I don't know how to explain things to him. It's pretty complex for a three year old; that daddy needs to abandon us so that he can make sure his surgical resume is good enough, so he might get a job 3 years from now. ???!!!
The toilet issues have also become a major problem. He has been toilet trained for nearly a year now, and had always been really good, with minimal accidents. Then in summer time (around the no-talking time) he did have loads more accidents, which we chalked up to sort of expected issues around change in the household and whatnot, that's what they say. In the last few weeks it has been TERRIBLE though, it's like he just can't be bothered anymore. It's like the 'noticing I need a wee' signal only occurs when the drips are already coming out, and he never makes it anymore. I know that with time they would be able to ignore to a degree the early needing-a-wee signals and gain control for holding and whatnot, but now he is either ignoring it until SO late so he constantly needs his underwear changing from drips and not making it, or just isn't noticing? It is frustrating to the maximum though. Why at two years old he would be dry all day, and at three years old he is creating entire loads of laundry in one day? Infuriating. I tried the rewards tactics again, from the initial training days. He wasn't interested. I have threatened to make him wear training pants or pull ups, which actually has improved things to some degree, he does NOT want to wear those...but even when he is theoretically 'trying' harder to keep his pants dry, it is constantly left too late. I have now moved on to taking some favourite toys away, which he will have returned on evidence of dry pants, or at least trying really hard to do so. Updates to follow on the lack of success, I am sure. I know that's not the right way to do it, but what is?
It's maddening because I know it's behavioural. He knows how to go, he's known the drill for a long time now. I know it is because he is insecure/needs attention/is sad because of no daddy/is sad because mummy is working now/ fill in any appropriate childhood classic trauma here. What am I supposed to do though? Let him pee his pants all day for another year because daddy is gone, mummy works, and there will be a new baby? How long do I play Mr. Nice Guy? I have been very let-it-go for months now, and it is only this past week I have gone bananas and am trying to get him to change with some drastic action. Blah who knows. I am trawling the internet for advice, but you know how that goes.
For a situation that is really quite matter-of-fact, I am not feeling very matter-of-fact about it. Neither are the kids.