If you read the more general Blog part of my site you may have seen the news that we are about to move to Australia.
As part of our preparation J spent a week visiting his new workplace. He wanted to check he would fit with the organisation. He wanted to ensure its culture matched both his style and values.
He wanted too to get a feel for the place, to assess whether we would fit in. Be happy,
The week was the first time that either of us has spent any extended period of time away from one another and the children.
J's trip lasted a week. For me it felt like a month. For our son and daughter, I suspect, somewhat longer.
We have, each, spent a night or so away from home in the past. Then the children seem not to notice greatly that we have gone. During the election campaign in 2010 I was away a little. J has spent nights away attending conferences and courses.
On those evenings we've continued our normal routine, helping the children to bed. Reading them a story, behaving as if it's one of the occasional evenings when one or other of us has been considerably late home as a consequence of work.
We've only ever spent one night away from the children. Back then, in fact, it was just our son. Election Night 2010. A night spent at the Lighthouse in Poole. A long night of counting a close result. Of nail-biting recounts and of eventual disappointment and relief.
So a whole week away for J was always going to be something of a challenge for us all. The fact that we didn't have very much time to prepare added to the concern.
The trip was arranged within three weeks. Coming during a week J had otherwise booked as holiday. We'd been preparing for the visit of Dutch family. Preparing the children for a week of days out. Sightseeing and exploring the countryside.
Quickly, out of necessity our talk changed to that of J being away. Of us functioning for a week without him. Of welcoming our visitors as a three.
Our son understood clearly. He has been an integral part of the conversation about J's consideration of the new job from an early stage. He has taken part in the decision making process of whether to move so far away. He has had the implications explained to him, even if, at the age of eight, he was unable to fully comprehend the enormity of the change we were considering.
Our daughter didn't. She didn't understand why Dad had to go away.
And on the first night without him she cried herself to sleep while I held her in bed asking for J.
The children spent the first couple of days within a few feet of me. Wherever I went, they went. The chatted to me through the bathroom door as I went about my ablutions. They wanted to be cuddled to sleep in the evening.
They palpably needed the sense of security and familiarity I physically brought. Their confidence seemingly shaken. Their need for attachment made tangible, solid.
Yet again proof, if we ever needed it, of the ephemeral, fragile nature of the security they feel.
We suspected this might happen. That insecurity would be the outcome of J's departure. We planned therefore for this with some diversions during the week ahead, hoping to divert their attention from the person missing from our family's ranks.
Diversions appear from strange directions sometimes. Sometimes things don't go to plan. On the second day of J's being away we found a diversion which would take all our minds off his absence.
The day before he left we held an early birthday party for our daughter. Knowing she would not be seeing many of her friends from nursery school again we chose to hold her fourth birthday party some weeks early so that we ensure she could enjoy the company of the friends she had made over the last two years.
We therefore, on our first evening alone, ate some of the leftover party food from the previous day.
All went well during our second day away. Until the evening.
Tired after a day spent playing outside the children went to bed more happily, more exhausted, than the night before. Retiring early myself I was woken soon after sleep had rolled over me by our son. Standing at the end of the bed. Telling me he felt sick.
I settled our son and drifted back to sleep. Only to be woken again.
Anyone who owns, or has ever owned, a dog will know the dreadful concertina heaving sound they make when they are about to vomit. That sound reached my ears. Emanating from our daughter's bedroom.
I got there just in time to find her sitting up. Making the noise. About to puke. Running with her held out, at arms length, in front of me I made the bathroom just as projectile vomit poured forth. Getting to the bathroom was good. Holding her so she faced me was not so wise.
Cleaning our daughter up. Wiping my chest down. Ensuring she was hydrated. Putting her into bed next to me, on the other side to where our son now slept. I collapsed exhausted into bed too. And just put the faint feeling of nausea I felt down to my reaction to the sickness I had just witnessed.
We all had salmonella poisoning for three days all told. A diversion for the three of us that made the time go so much more quickly.
We watched on an internet flight tracking sight J's plane leave Australia. Tracked it across the Indian Ocean to the Gulf and thence across Europe to home.
An adventure for him. And a trial for us all. J feeling most keenly his separation from us, one that even twice daily FaceTime calls couldn't dispel.
The greeting he received upon arriving home from our children showing him very clearly his devotion to them to be a mutual joy.
So, now J is home. He had a great trip. He loved the organisation. His new boss. His colleagues and most of all the place.
We face the future together and move to Australia as a family. Ensuring there are no more separations for us to endure.