Absence Grows Fondness?

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I took my oldest son to breakfast this morning. It is a regular occurrence for us to leave the house a little early one morning a week for a breakfast, in order to have some together-time. Today it was a little crazy for me to do that, because we just spent a loooooong holiday weekend together, and had lots of together-time; me, by myself, with my three all-under-the-age-of-seven sons. And now I am at the office, by myself, relieved, and, crazy as it sounds, missing them. Crazy.

You have heard it said, “Absence makes the heart grow fonder.” Why would that be? On some days, I just beg for absence (of course, I am an introvert, and that should signal something to me—but sometimes, I miss the signal). Internally, I am screaming “Get away from me!  You are driving me crazy!” I never say anything, though, and so slowly boil until I do blow up and the day ends in a good-ole-blow-the-roof-off-the-house-like-a-volcano-with-lava-spewing-on-everyone tirade. Makes for a lovely evening. We really feel close as a family on those nights.

When children get snippy with one another, often one child is called upon to take a time-out. They get to go sit by themselves for an “attitude adjustment” period. Or they must go take a nap (which, as an adult, sounds very appealing). Either way, they are called upon to separate themselves from the group for a period of time. This happens a lot in my house, and not always by the kids. Did I say a lot? A LOT. And so it was a loooooooong weekend, and here I sit at my desk, (dare I say this?) missing my kids. Unbelievable (something must be wrong with me).

Ok, so there are times in our lives when we behave like children. We get snippy because of various stresses, and our spouse and/or kids seem to further the irritation and we lash out and are in sore need of a time-out, for someone to send us to our room for an attitude adjustment period. It happens. Over time, the monotony of the day-in, day-out routine of our lives and relationships settles in and we take each other for granted. Things rarely change, and we are rarely challenged to see our families in a different light. We lose a bit of interest in one another and we simply exist. But then something happens, either we are separated for a period of time, or worse, a tragedy happens, and we instantly long for the days when life was boring and wish that we had relished those days more. And in those moments, something happens in us that rekindles the fondness and appreciation and love in our hearts for one another.

So I sit here at my desk, relishing my breakfast with my oldest, his little voice telling me about the kids that are walking by our table. He is eating something with powdered sugar and I immediately feel compassion for his teacher. I also think about his two brothers who won’t let us leave the house until we do our goodbye routine of kisses/hugs/high-fives/knuckle-bumps. Something has stirred within me that causes me to appreciate them anew. I reconsider their incredible uniqueness and what they mean to me. I fall in love with them all over again. And I can’t wait to see them. How is it that twenty-four hours ago I was ready to crawl in a hole, yet now I don’t know what my life would be like without them?  


I guess I should send myself to my room for an attitude adjustment more often.

Or a nap.

Paul Johnson is a professionally licensed marriage and family therapist and professionally licensed counselor in the state of Alabama. Please consider contacting LifePractical Counseling for your counseling or consultant needs. You may reach us at 205-807-6645.