With all of Roman's issues we've dealt with, we were sure that he would be the most affected by Doug's hospitalization. Maybe because of how he and we have learned to process things, however, Roman did well! It was Charlie, who we first thought was taking things in and we were doing a good job with, who has suffered the most.
When Doug returned from the hospital Charlie was very excited, but within hours was gravitating toward me for everything. He got clingy, emotional, whiney & weepy. He would not go to Doug for anything, and sometimes would even deliberately skip over his Dad to ask me for things. The other night it all came to a head, when it was Doug's turn to put Charlie to bed. Char wanted nothing to do with him and started crying and having a tantrum over wanting me. As I finally calmed him down and agreed to put him to bed, out popped the fear that Charlie had been dealing with in his little 4 yro mind - "When is Daddy going to die?"
With some gentle questioning, it turns out that Charlie thought Doug was going to die in the hospital, and when Doug came home he figured it was just a matter of time before he DID die, so Charlie was not going to get cozy with his Dad. A 4yro's self-preservation, if you will; keep Daddy at a distance so I don't get hurt when he leaves again. We decided that it was immediately time for a family meeting to hash this all out, and with Roman present too. It was a good talk & Charlie has slowly warmed up to Doug, even cuddling with him yesterday.
The other thing we're noticing with Charlie is a real ramping up of fears. I kind of remember this with Roman at this age- for him, it was ghosts at bedtime. For Charlie, it's that plus more. He's afraid of "something" chasing him up the stairs, coming from his room, hiding in the laundry room, and occasionally I have to stand in the doorway while he goes to the bathroom, because "something" could come out of the bedrooms (no, the door is not enough).
Saturday we went to a small science center and there were taxidermied animals, as well as some dinosaur skeletons. Charlie practically freaked out, refusing to go into the rooms, grabbing our legs and hyperventilating. This one, we finally realized, was our fault - he had seen the movie "Night at the Museum" and thought the animals/bones were going to come to life. It took a lot of convincing him that the tablet wasn't there (you'd understand if you saw the movie) & pointing out it wasn't nighttime, before he would go near the dino skeletons. He never did go in the Galapagos room.
It's hard to keep my cool when these things pop up - No, I do not want to accompany him to the bathroom for the third time to protect him; and among other things, constantly reassuring him that the Joker & Batman don't live in our world. He does need to feel safe, though, so we keep at it.