It is interesting, the difference a year makes to the memory and analytical capacity of a very small child.
Last summer, 2007, André took the kids including Léon to visit his mother in France. At the time, I thought he was way too young to go without me (he was 23 months old) but Annie is nearly 80 and had been in hospital with heart problems so I agreed, on condition I could fly over and get him, should he become distressed. Given Marcel and Charlotte were also going, I figured he'd be reasonably ok and they let me know he seemed fairly happy with his family every night when they called. He was too young to understand phonecalls himself.
The holiday went ok but when he returned after just less than 2 weeks, he walked into the house, threw himself into my arms and hugged me tightly not letting go for what seemed like about half an hour. Eventually he plucked up the courage to let me go and hugged Thomas 5 minutes and my parents a minute each before again attaching himself to me. He had obviously been wondering if he was ever going to see me again. Relieved at his return, he was fine by the next day with no further repercussions. The normal custody pattern resumed that week without a hiccough.
This year, as I mentioned the other day, André again took them to visit his family. I spoke to them for a few minutes most days and every time I spoke to Pudge, I simply said: You'll be home with mummy and Thomas very soon. He understood happily and when he returned on Monday morning he ran in, hugged me 2 or 3 minutes then ran off and got books and toys to bring to me. Periodically, over the course of the day, he stopped and said I need a hug. This he did happily and he recounted the fun he had had with his Oma and French aunt.
Today however André was due to have the kids for his fortnightly Thursday overnight stay. He was to pick them up at 5-30pm. I got out Léon's sandals and he asked why I was putting them on. You are going for dinner with Papa, I replied. He went mad - No way! he screamed. I explained he'd be back for breakfast, that this was simply an overnight stay but he cried and held on to me screaming he didn't want to go away again. No matter how much I reassured him, he believed he was being taken away again for 2 weeks. While he likes the odd overnight away, he really is still too small for the holidays. I wish, when the custody pattern was being drawn up, someone had taken that into consideration. When your child is crying that he wants to stay with you, it is heartbreaking to make him go against his will.
I assume though when he returns tomorrow, he will realize we are back to the normal pattern when he sees André every other weekend and Thursday - a pattern he does enjoy, as long as it is not overstepped.