The empty house

Our house is usually a busy, bustling place, full of the sights and sounds of three young children aged six and under. Right now it feels empty and eerily quiet.

The house isn’t completely empty, as we still have Kara at home. Her voice and the force of her burgeoning personality are enough to fill the house by themselves. But there’s undeniably something missing. Two things, actually: Isaac and Toby, who are spending three nights at their grandparents’ house and leaving a gaping hole – and an empty bedroom – behind them.

Boys' empty bedroom
One room, no boys

Having kids stay away is nothing new for a lot of parents, but it’s a first for us. Heather and I have spent nights away from the children individually, but none of them have ever been separated from both of us overnight before. We have missed plenty of bedtimes between us in the past, but at least one of us has always been there the following morning when they wake up. But now Isaac and Toby will spend the next three nights sleeping in my parents’ spare bedroom, being fed and watered by them and going out on fun trips with Grandma, Grandpa and their Uncle Peter.

Did they miss us when we left them yesterday afternoon? No. They could barely muster themselves to say goodbye, so excited were they. And even when we Skyped them before bedtime, Toby was too busy watching Top Gear on TV to show his face at the webcam and say hi. (He did briefly wander into frame to see what was going on before spinning on his heel in disgust and marching straight back into the living room.)

Their absence was particularly noticeable this morning. No Isaac waking us up at 5:30am. No Toby cackling with laughter as he crashes his cars together in the playroom. None of the familiar noises of the kids interacting the way kids do – mostly sounds of play, sometimes disagreement – as we all try (and fail) to get ready to leave the house on time.

All this and more is part of the fabric of normal life in our house, the soundtrack to our lives. This morning, with the luxury of only a subdued Kara to attend to – her first question of the day; “Where’s Toby?” – has felt like watching a TV programme with the sound turned down.

Anyhow, the boys are off having a big adventure and a whale of a time. I’m happy for them, of course. But I’ll be just as happy when they’re back home on Thursday. Even as a naturally quiet person who appreciates a little peace, I’ve realised that I’ve become more than merely accustomed to having a house full of children and full of sound – I actively like it. Sometimes you don’t realise how important some things are until they’re not there.