Be impeccable with your word.
Don't take anything personally.
Don't make assumptions.
Always do your best.
-The Four Agreements
Greg introduced me to this Toltec wisdom years ago. He loaned my father a book about it and since then, you cannot have a conversation with my dad without hearing the utterance of at least one agreement. PERFECT stuff of granddad lessons alongside standing up to bullies and the fine art of finger pulling.
When Greg isn't traveling for work, we alternate nights tucking Ren in bed. One evening, it was my turn and Greg happened to arrive home from a journey in the middle of Ren's evening ritual. In the darkness, Ren asked for his daddy. I told him Greg had come home, but that he would see his Daddy in the morning because Daddy was going to go to sleep too.
This is our staple explanation to assure Ren we aren't abandoning him for mysterious grown-up all-nighters, and also to enforce that "nights are for sleeping, days are for playing." Of course, our household doesn't actually shut down at 8:00 p.m. every night. The adult-on-duty sits in our room next to Ren's until we're sure Ren is asleep and won't be woken by the stairs made of wood that actually scream.
I tuck Ren back in, sit on our bed in the next room, stare quietly at a book, the ceiling, the laundry basket I know I should be emptying but am afraid creaking floor boards will keep Ren from dozing. A few minutes later Ren calls out asking for another hug. Something is on his mind. He mentions his father and again, I assure him they will reunite in the morning. Ren settles. I go back to zombie sitting.
"Mommy! Mommy! Mommy! Mommy, I need you!" Another hug. Another reassurance.
"Good night my Bug. I'll see you in the morning."
"And Daddy too."
"Yes. Daddy too."
"Mommy... Daddy isn't in bed."
"Oh. Yes. You're right. Did he wake you up?"
"Daddy is downstairs. He's looking for a place to sleep."
I comfort our thoughtful little wonder by explain Daddy has a few things to do before he comes up to bed and tuck him in one last time. Sitting in our room, I listen to the monitor and wait for Ren's gravid breathing to signal my decent down the staircase that also serves as intimidation for provincial wildlife. As Greg and I greet, I tell him it's time to give Ren the truth as impeccably as possible for a 2-year-old brain. We can't have Ren thinking Daddy has to sleep in the neighbor's stable when he gets home after dark. There's plenty of places to sleep in our house, as long as no one moves once they lay down.