I’m currently at 34,000 feet somewhere over the East Coast on my way to Orlando for the FARE Food Allergy Conference. It’s my first trip since we had the kids and I feel like it lends some credibility to the title that Steve put on the business cards he made me – “Professional Mom”.
This is a trip that I’ve been looking forward to for two months since I booked it. I did the math – we could afford it – and the timing was perfect – during Steve’s break from his graduate school classes. From the moment I clicked the button on the airfare, paid the registration fee, and booked the hotel room I’ve known it was the right thing to do. The sessions look like they have huge potential to be helpful, there’s going to be opportunity to network with other parents of kids with allergies, and with Will going into public school next year for preschool this seemed like the perfect time for me to attend.
But let’s be honest. I’m a stay-at-home mom of a 4-year-old and a 2-year-old. My husband is a full-time employee and basically a full-time student. We’ve got a busy schedule and a busy life and we do our best to balance all of it, but it’s chaos. It’s loving, beautiful chaos – but it’s still chaos.
I’ve mostly been looking forward to a weekend of solitude.
Sure, there will be lots of other people there – it’s a conference. There’s even a teen track and some people bring their families with them, so it’s not like I’ll be escaping children. But when someone utters the words “Mom, I need a boogie wipe,” those words will NOT be directed at me. I will not need to change a single diaper or remind someone to point their penis down while they’re peeing (my 4-year-old, not my husband). I won’t need to decide between the endless cycle of laundry or the pile of dirty dishes or the giant smiles asking me for a story.
When I have told other moms about this conference - this two-and-a-half day stretch of flying solo - there have been looks of wonder that appear on their faces. Gasps of awe and eyes wide with wonder at the very idea of getting away without their children have been witnessed. Jokes of playing hooky on the sessions and bringing a stack of books poolside have been cracked. Dreams and hopes that maybe one day they too can get away for an entire weekend have been born.
I picture myself standing on the steps of a local indoor playground giving my own “I Have a Dream” speech to a crowd of mothers of all kinds – free-range moms, attachment parenting moms, stay-at-home-moms, working moms, breastfeeding and bottle feeding moms. Moms of singles, moms of multiples, moms of sets of multiples, moms with super-involved spouses and moms with spouses who take a more hands-off approach and single moms who do it all themselves. Moms from all walks of life and manner of parenting who dream of flying high above the clouds sipping on Dr. Pepper and munching on Cheese-Nips without a child bucking a much-needed nap because they ARE FLYING ON AN AIRPLANE MOMMY AND OH MY GOODNESS THAT IS THE WING AND CLOUDS AND HELLO PERSON SITTING OVER THERE!!! LET ME WAVE TO YOU THREE ROWS BACK WHILE I STEP ON DADDY’S HEAD AND PUNCH MOMMY IN THE FACE!!!
I’ve been looking forward to the solitude.
Then today happened.
|Yeah... learning... yeah... that's what I'm doing...|
I had somehow managed to find a non-stop flight to the conference that didn’t take off until mid-afternoon, which meant that I could still get the kids to their preschool co-op and Steve could get a much-needed morning off. We went about the morning as we normally would, hopped in the car a few minutes early and headed home so that I could scarf down a sunbutter and jelly sandwich before heading to the airport.
As I sat there with my hands on the steering wheel, listening to the Billy Ray Cyrus version of “Real Gone” from the “Cars” movie, and driving along the same road we drive on every Friday… I got this knot in my chest. This longing, this feeling that someone was missing. I looked in the rearview mirror and saw my kids. I saw Will’s goofy smile grinning at me in the mirror and I saw Evie fighting sleep and looking out the window because she knew that lunch and a nap were on the horizon.
I missed my kids and I hadn’t even left yet.
Curse that heckler in the back for holding up a poster of my kids running through bubbles in the middle of my speech.
Look – my kids are a pain just like everyone else’s. My daughter can throw a mean temper tantrum and my son has discovered that occasionally being a punk is an option. The life of a parent is exhausting, it’s draining, it’s non-stop. Whether we work in an office full-time or stay-at-home full time: you’re ALWAYS a parent first. When the alarm sounds, all things drop and you go to the child. I can’t tell you the number of times that Steve has left work to help me with the kids at the doctor’s office (and once so that *I* could go find out if I needed stitches because I cut myself cooking dinner). You’re ALWAYS on, you’re ALWAYS hyper-aware – you’re ALWAYS tired. And so the prospect of getting away from that for a full 24-hours – or more – is QUITE attractive. Because rest.
Then you think of the hugs you won’t get at random moments, the laughter you won’t hear as they run through the kitchen pretending to be race cars, the smiles you won’t see, the tears you won’t taste as they lay on your face crying over who-knows-what, and the after-nap sweaty-head you won’t smell as they snuggle trying to fully wake up. And your heart aches.
Because while getting away is so important and sometimes necessary, those aren’t the things that make what being a parent is all about. It’s those runny-nosed, silly-smiled, wide-eyed, curious, wondrous, cuddly, ridiculous tiny humans whose lives you’ve been entrusted with. That’s what parenting is all about.
So while I fully plan on enjoying every moment of this conference and full weekend of grown-up time, I’m going to make sure I can see those goofballs on FaceTime every chance I get. Without them, I wouldn’t be on this plane right now heading to a conference to better my skills as a mom of a kid with food allergies. Sunday night I’ll get home, peek in at those sweet sleeping faces, readjust their blankets and favorite animals, and gently kiss their foreheads.
Then Monday morning when the peace ends and the chaos starts again to the battle cry of “MOMMY, I NEED A BOOGIE WIPE!” – I’ll be there with my Puffs Plus Lotion weaponry in hand, ready to jump right back in again.
Because that’s the kind of soldier God created me to be in the first place.