I was fortunate enough to be offered the trip of a lifetime by my wonderful brother and his husband for a 10-day break in South Africa to celebrate my birthday. This trip was just for me and the boys. No hubby or kids in sight. I had a very hard time being excited about the trip because I was so stressed out – I was leaving the day after Christmas so there was the Christmas mayhem to get through, would the kids be OK when I was gone? Would I pay dearly for my absence by my three-year-old mental patient once I got back? I told my hubby to drop me at departures drive-thru. I wasn’t going to go through any elongated good-byes. I cried. I looked at my children longingly. Smothered their faces with kisses. Kissed & hugged my hubby goodbye and watched them drive off. I swallowed the torrent of tears that threatened to flow. I checked in, breezed through security still wondering about my babies. Got to my gate with loads of time to spare and spotted a bar. I sat my arse down, ordered an insanely overpriced Margherita and suddenly, the world lifted off my shoulders. I forgot about the children. I forgot about my husband. I realized that for the first time in fourteen years, I didn’t have anyone else to think about or considerate but me. No children. No husband. Just ME! Suddenly, no one was there demanding my attention every 2 minutes. No one needed to hang off me. No one needed anything. It made me quite giddy.
My journey gave me a full day in London where I did the red bus tour and met up with some fabulous friends for a late lunch. I was noticing the freedom of movement. How easy it was to walk from A to B, how much less stressful it was to battle the crowds. By late afternoon, I made my way to Heathrow airport for the 12 hour flight to Cape Town, South Africa. I still fully wasn’t grasping what lay ahead of me though. I’d had a great day in London. Now onto another new place.
I talked with the marine biologist next to me about his kids and my kids, and how he wasn’t going to see them for a month. But I knew my time was limited and I felt a little twinge while talking about my children, wondering how they were doing. Daddy was taking care of them so I knew they would be just fine. And then I arrived. After almost two days of traveling, I arrived to a place that took my breath away. When I met my brother, the true excitement of what lay ahead hit me. Children? What children? Who has children?
What followed that week led to very interesting discussions and realizations about how I parent. What I do instinctively as a parent, and how parenting is viewed very, very differently elsewhere than in the United States. What I learned, frankly, is that it’s amazing any of us mothers in the US come out of it alive. More to come. . .