Last year, we sent the kids to their grandparents for two weeks out of necessity. As in: this move is NOT going to happen unless I get these kids out of here. I’d come to the end of my abilities to pack boxes and clean and move stuff with two summer-lovin’ children under foot, so we begged (I mean, it didn’t take much) the grandparents to find it in their hearts to save these poor children from their stressed-out parents.
They obliged. We moved. And we all lived happily ever after.
Then summer happened again, only this time there was not a pressing need to send the children away. But work schedules being what they are, Camp Nana and Papa as we’re calling it, has become our summer thing, and this year it again stretched almost two weeks because that’s what had to happen.
I’m writing this now while the house is still quiet and the kids are off visiting baseball’s greatest stadium (Wrigley Field, if you didn’t know) for the first time, but by the time you read this, we’ll all be together again in a van hugging the mountainous curves of Pennsylvania on our way back home.
I’ll admit: I felt selfish when I told people the kids were going away for two weeks. I mean, it’s not like I have another job and need someone to take care of them for me, and even though it’s hard sometimes and I’m exhausted, it’s not like I wasn’t going to survive summer if they didn’t go. I didn’t need them to go, but I wanted them to go, and I will tell you without hesitation that I look forward to days when my time is more flexible on a regular basis.
But I will also tell you that the idea of nearly two weeks without my kids terrified me. I had plans, no doubt, but I was worried that with so much time, I would end up doing none of the things I had planned.
That partially came true. My house is still messy in spots. I have not cleaned like I thought I would. I talked myself out of having a yard sale and took the stuff to Goodwill instead. (Because really, an introvert’s nightmare is inviting strangers to stop by your house all morning and dig through your unwanted stuff and maybe make conversation.) I barely kept the dishes clean, which happens during an average week in our house.
This vacation was not a total loss, though. Far from it.
Here are some things I learned:
Alone time is good but it can easily turn into loneliness. I enjoy solitude. And quiet. And with a husband who works a full-time job with sometimes odd hours, I got a lot of that. I read many books. I wrote. And eventually, I got lonely. He would come home from work and I’d talk his ear off for 20 minutes straight because I hadn’t uttered a single solitary word out loud all day. When my life is busy with kids all day, I don’t think I need anymore of people. But, as it turns out, I might be lonelier than I think. News flash: introverts need people, too. We just don’t always need them as much as extroverts.
- I have a lot of feelings. The first day without my kids, I was tired from a long day of driving and dealing with a lot of emotional thoughts. I cried for the better part of a day. I’m not usually a frequent crier because I don’t make regular space in my life to deal with my emotions, so when a major event triggers the tears, a flood of biblical proportions occurs. When I’d gotten past that day, I figured I was good to go. Then one night, Phil came home from work and I just cried without a reason, at least not one I could identify. I concluded that I had more time to think and feel and think about how I feel, which set me off again. I don’t think these are bad things, at all. I think it’s a sign that maybe I need to let myself sit with my feelings more instead of pushing them into a back closet because I don’t have time to deal with it.
- My mom is a superhero. I’m pretty sure this has been true my whole life, but I’m only now seeing the irrefutable evidence. Every day, she posted pictures to Facebook of all the fun things they were doing. Legoland with their uncle! Parade! Carnival! Splash pad! McDonald’s for every meal! Fireworks! Gardening! A trip to Wrigley Field! It wore me out just thinking about it. (And did I mention she doesn’t drink coffee? She MUST have a superpower called unlimited endurance.) I’ve slept in past 8 a.m. more days these last two weeks than I’ve probably done in the last six years. She makes it look easy, but then again, I am just getting the Facebook version. (No offense, Mom. You’re still a star in my book!)
- I’m not responsible for an unforgettable summer. When school ended, we had plans. We were going to do family things and go on adventures and make summer memorable. And now it’s halfway through July and we’re headed to the beach soon and we’ve barely come up for air since the first week school was out. Then I remembered all the fun things the kids have been doing with grandparents (see above) and the experiences Phil and I have had with and without them and our upcoming beach trip. And I realized: they’ve ALREADY had one heck of a memorable summer! So, thank you, grandparents all around, for making memories with our children so I don’t have to wear myself out entertaining them daily.
My kids have been my best teachers these last six years. Now I know their absence can serve as the same.
Have you ever been separated from your kids, spouse or parents for an extended period? What did that time teach you?