Four weeks without two of our children who both went overseas on separate trips meant that several things were different for us at home. Firstly it was the longest stretch of time (by about three weeks) that any of our kids had been away from home on their own before and that idea took a bit of getting used to, and then the fact that the two of them were away at the same time added another dimension to it altogether. Suddenly we went from a family of five to a family of three for a month. Saying good-bye was fairly emotional but life demands that things be done and keeping busy meant that I didn’t have too much time to dwell on the fact that they were away.

Our house, which is usually filled with life’s noises, silliness, teasing, laughter and some days just the general mayhem of the daily routine, went strangely quieter for four weeks. It was an interesting change because one sometimes longs for a bit of peace and quiet but this was a different, almost subdued quiet at times and I prefer the quiet where they are still at home or close to home but just not noisy all the time. With child No 1 away, I would say child No 3 got teased about 75% less than what she usually gets teased, which made for a major quiet change. Poor child No 3 also felt her siblings’ absence as she was stuck with only her two parents and had to rely on our boring company for the month.

Another big change was with regards to cooking. On their first night away as I started cooking dinner I suddenly realised that I had no idea how to cook for less than five people. After a bit of an episode I started catering for just the three of us at home and simplified meals so that it could work in my favour but there still ended up being leftovers most nights!

Then there are the dogs, who always go jumping crazy when child No 1 picks up his car keys and puts on his shoes as they always assume that means a trip to the park where they can run free for a while with him and child No 3, who also felt the change very keenly. They focused all their attention on child No 3 very quickly but it didn’t take them very long to start watching me for signs of picking up car keys to go to the park. The cat on the other hand, only showed signs of confusion when we had Skype chats with child No 2 and she (the cat) could see and hear child No 2 but there was no actual child No 2 behind the computer screen!

A further difference was with regards to music. Child No 2 loves playing music or playing on the piano or her guitar, and we had none of that while she was away and I really missed the music. My husband also commented that the music had gone quiet since I don’t sit down and play the piano enough.

And then there was the general daily concern over their safety and wellbeing for 29 days. In this age where we rely so heavily on technology it was great to be able to communicate with them regularly and easily but it also meant that we worried straight away if we hadn’t heard from them. Child No 1 was especially good at replying when child No 3 messaged him, but not always as good when mom or dad did! With child No 2 getting back yesterday and child No 1 today I was much more emotional than I’d thought I’d be. I expected to feel happiness but instead felt happiness plus an unexpected flood of very emotional relief. My heart breaks for the families who have lost loved ones in recent air travel disasters and the unimaginable pain they are going through, and all I can say is “Thank you” that mine are safely back where they belong. The ABBA song “Thank you for the music” popped into my head out of the blue this morning and I thought: “Thank you for the music – it’s back. In more than one sense.”

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