I just ate my weight in salami and cheese. What set me on course to this deli fueled binge? In less than two days, I am driving to L.A. to complete my first half marathon.
It is not the prospect of running thirteen miles that has me addictively eating to calm my nerves. I’m not looking forward to running that kind of distance, but it will be what it will be. I will finish, I won’t. Time has ran out for training any further, so I just have to pace myself and hope for the best.
My anxiety mounts because this will be my first trip away from my sons. I guess that is not a completely accurate statement. Liam has stayed overnight with my brother once, and with my mother-in-law once. However, Kellen has not been away from me for longer than a ten hour period. This trip will be three days.
My husband and I started planning this trip six months ago. He won his entry fee to the race from his work. That meant we would only have to pay for my fee. We can drive to L.A. in a few hours, and we have friends who live there, providing a free place to stay. It seemed like the perfect opportunity for an inexpensive, doable weekend getaway.
At the time of our planning, Kellen was about a year old. I quickly did the math and determined he would be coming up on nineteen months old when we left for the trip. I figured by nineteen months he would be walking, talking, and playing well with his brother. He would be done with the bottle, on a regular nap schedule, and sleeping through the night. Heck, he’d practically be ready to start taking care of himself. I probably need to add him to the chore list- do I have him mop the floors or clean the bathroom? That kid needs to start pulling his weight.
Ok, so he might not be ready to take on his own laundry, but he is pretty easy to care for as toddlers go. He can verbalize what he needs, and if his language is garbled, he knows to point or lead to the desired object. He sleeps well. He and his brother entertain each other with toys and games. He’s a happy go lucky kid. So why am I so stressed?
We have been practicing leaving the boys for periods of time at my in-laws house- they will be caring for the boys while we are way. If Liam could pack a suitcase and thumb a ride to Granny and Papa’s house, he’d move right in. Whenever I go to pick him up from their place, he is overjoyed to see me, but not because he has missed me. He thinks I am there to play. His not-so-secret hope is that we’ll all have a giant sleepover at Granny and Papa’s house and he’ll never have to return home. And why not? Papa makes his favorite pizza. Granny takes him to the park. He splashes around in their giant bathtub, playing with boats and getting water everywhere. He knows as long as he is there, their attention is focused on him. Doting grandparents are the most captive of audiences.
When I am not there, Kellen appears to have just as much fun as his brother. But the second he sees my face through the window by their door, the wailing begins. He screams “Mommy! Mommy!” and reaches his arms up to the glass, hoping I can somehow magically reach through the window and pick him up. The rest of the night, he will be whiny, clingy, and inconsolable. Granny assures me that he was fine while I was gone, and I do not doubt this for a second. But I hear his cries and gaze on his tear soaked face, and the guilt begins eating away at me.
In those moments, I no longer see him as a toddler. He is again my baby. I want to swaddle him, carry him close to my heart and rock him to sleep. I feel like the worst mother in the world for even contemplating leaving him for a weekend. How could I be so selfish?
I mentioned my concern to my husband, waiting for him to assuage my fears. He responded with “I’m worried too.” No! Do I need to prepare a written script? He is supposed to tell me how it will be fine, how Kellen will have a wonderful time while we are gone. This is one time where he is not supposed to concur.
“Do you think I should stay home?” I ask.
“We have to at least give him the opportunity to do well. If he can’t handle it, we’ll come home early.”
Sounds like a very reasonable plan. But the pit in my stomach is still there.
I have been reluctant about exposing Kellen to a great deal of change. When he was four months old, we travelled to Colorado to visit my family. Travelling with young children is at best a struggle, but I thought I was prepared to deal with any fallout. He alternated between vomiting and crying repeatedly the first night we were there. I deemed it an emotional reaction to the travel. After that, he settled down, but never did get into a pattern of good sleep. We did not travel with again until he was a year old.
The real fallout happened when we got home. Prior to the trip, he had just started sleeping through the night. Upon return, he did not sleep for more than three hours at a time for the next month. It was a huge and painful step backwards. I have no doubt that Kellen will survive three days without me. But will I pay a price for three days of solitude? Cross your fingers, toes, and anything else you have for us.
The final piece is, as much as I complain about the exhaustive job of being a mother, I will miss those little guys. It is hard to let go. Just today, Kellen slipped in going up the stairs on the slide, and took a pretty good hit on the chin. I made a mental note to let Granny and Papa know that he is still unsteady on the stairs, that he’ll need to be watched. They know this of course. Granny especially enjoys the boys so much, that she is never more than one or two feet away from them.
But that doesn’t mean I just throw away my cares and forget about my babies when they aren’t around. How many times will I think about what they are doing? Wonder if they are having a good time? Worry if they are eating enough and taking their naps? Countless I’m sure.
I also know that for the first time in three and a half years, I will be off duty. Somewhere beneath all that worry is a smidgeon of excitement. I hope it gets to rise to the surface.