Tonight’s custody exchange was the first time Jude was out of his car seat where he could watch the entire process. Rylan and Caed gave hugs goodbye to Jaimi, Jude and me; then stepped into their mother’s car and drove away.
After a long weekend of playing nonstop with his brothers from sun rise to sunset, I could see Jude’s confusion as his big brothers drove off. Jaimi strapped him into the car seat. Jude began to cry.
Jude cried for nearly ten minutes. He was so upset that Jaimi climbed into the back seat so that he wasn’t alone. He was inconsolable.
I stared ahead, listening to Jude’s frustration while choking back my own emotions, and thought about my first custody exchange. Rylan was four then, Caed hadn’t yet turned two. I hadn’t been allowed to see them for over a month and even then had to file for an emergency hearing with the courts. Rylan didn’t understand why he had to leave after his weekend with me. There weren’t adequate words to explain it then, just like there weren’t words to explain to Jude tonight that his brothers would be home soon, but they were going to sleep somewhere else this evening. Saying goodbye just didn’t make sense to anyone in either events.
We’ve suspected that saying goodbye to his brothers would eventually become difficult for Jude. Returning home to the deafening silence of a house sitting lifeless in its own disarray has always been difficult for us. But now there’s a toddler whose big brothers are just… gone. We didn’t expect it to affect him so soon.
We returned home and Jude settled. He ate and was happy. He spent lots of time in our arms. He was fine as the alternate reality set in and the house temporarily became a home for three – instead of five – again. We tucked him in and said goodnight, then curled up together in the glow of an old, forgettable movie.