Every evening when I get home from work, my son and I have a rather odd tradition. He hears the garage door close downstairs and yells, from wherever he is in the house, “Daddy’s home!” And then I hear his little feet stomping down the stairs and through the living room as he tumbles up to me and throws his arms around my legs. I stoop to pick him up, setting my bags down in a corner.

And then he quietly burrows his head into my shoulder and whispers, “Daddy.”

“Yes, Gideon?” I say, waiting for what I know is coming.

“Me not miss you today.”

And I will rub my hand against his back and say, “I didn’t miss you either, little man,” and I’ll set him on the floor and he will charge off to find his sisters, with his arms pumping at his sides and his forehead bent forward into the wind.

We have been doing this for several months now. Dating back to late this past summer when I had to leave home for a week or so for work. He was fairly distraught about this, so I sat him down and explained exactly what was going to happen. I told him about the adventures he was going to go on while I was gone. And how it would only be a few sleeps before I came home. “I’ll be back before you even know it,” I had told him.

“Me will miss you,” he had said.

“But you won’t miss me that much,” I had told him. “Because I’m coming back. I won’t be gone forever.”

And I saw something sparkle deep behind his eyes and suddenly catch fire. “Oh!” he shouted as the revelation came to him. “Me know now what you mean!”

I squinted at him. “What do mean, you know what I mean?”

“Me know that me not miss you if you coming back!”

And after that he was fine. There was no need to miss me, because I would be coming home in the end. as long as he waited, he would see me again. You only miss things if they are gone forever. I nodded at this thought. Maybe the little man was right.

The other day, I was in a hurry to leave for work and I slipped up. “Bye Gideon,” I called to him on the couch where he was watching cartoons. “I’ll miss you.” Suddenly he burst into tears and chased after me, latching onto my leg. “No! You come back, right Daddy?” he cried. “You come back?”

I knelt down next to him on the laundry room floor and held his tiny shaking shoulders up against my own. “Yes, Gideon. I’m coming back. Don’t worry.”

His tears stopped with a whimper, “Okay, Daddy. Then me not miss you today.”

“I know, little man,” I told him. “I know. I won’t miss you either. I will never miss you.”

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