My job requires me to travel frequently to the East Coast. When I leave, my wife would try to get my son, Jason, to understand that I’m going on a trip and will be back in a few days. He would say ‘bye’ to me after much prompting. Then he would go back to playing. During my absence, he never showed any signs of missing me. After I got back from the trip, I would always bring him a present – usually a stimmy toy. He would say a prompted ‘thank you’ but show no interest or happiness at my return.
Last month, I was getting ready to leave on yet another trip to New York. Jason, who is now 7, stopped playing, and watched as I packed the final items. When I said ‘bye’ to him, he looked at me, made really good eye contact, but didn’t say ‘bye’.
While I was gone, he had a couple of tantrums, did not sleep very well, and was fussy in general. “Maybe he’s missing you,” my wife said on the phone, but it seemed unlikely to both of us. When I got back, I got him a present – a shiny lights and sounds spinner. He took it and began playing with it. Then he walked away with his spinner and drifted off into his own world.
A few hours later, Jason had finished eating. My wife and I sat down to eat dinner, while Jason was playing with his balloon. As we were talking and eating, he came running across the room and landed on me. I was so startled, I almost got knocked over. Then he gave me a hug, looked into my eyes and smiled.
“Yes, daddy’s back,” said my wife, “you missed him, didn’t you.”
He smiled at her comment, then put his lips on my cheek (his way of giving a kiss), then smelled my hair.
“I missed you too Jason!” I said. It was the most delightfully unexpected gift I ever received.
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