Saturday, June 26, 2010

Flying Solo

“I licked my Mommy!” the boy in the seat behind me is yelling excitedly to the flight attendant.

“That’s nice,” she says as she squeezes down the narrow airplane aisle to mediate between passengers. The father across from me is asking someone to move so he can sit with his daughter, and the person is refusing. I avoid eye contact with the father, pull my novel up in front of me.

Two rows in front of me, a baby is screaming that repetitive cry that pierces the ear with its high pitch.

I am a fellow parent. I know the agony of taking children on planes. But I can’t deny the voice in my head screaming, “will you please shut that baby up?”

I am alone, on a business/personal trip to the other side of the country, and, admittedly, savouring the solitude. Though I wear a wedding ring that states my marital status, no one can tell I’m a mom, and I’m not telling.

In front of me, there’s this monitor with an array of movies and music options. Buttons, buttons, buttons. And all mine to press. I don’t have to share my console, don’t have to watch kid shows, don’t have to keep one earphone off in case I’m needed. I’m not needed.

A layover in Toronto. I meander shops and sit at a wine bar to eat as I watch moms hauling babes in arms and strollers over their shoulders and listen to overtired kids tantrum and whine, then I just close my eyes. No need to bear witness, offer sympathetic smiles, or share French fries.

A parenting article I read recently haunts me, “If you don’t want to spend time with your kids, then why did you have them?” I love being with him but do I have to feel like Bad Mom of the Year that I also enjoy being without him? When I get to the point where I’ve burned my candle at both ends for so long that I seem to have lost track of what makes me glow, I’m no good to anyone.

An entire week stretches out before me like a fantasy. A couple of days to explore Charlottetown and write ALL ALONE, a three-day work conference certain to inspire me, and then two more days to discover the island with a dear friend. I can taste the indulgence of it all as I attempt to shelve my guilt.


7 days later

“I’m three-and-a-half!” the blonde pig-tailed girl in the seat behinds me says as I lean over to chat with her and pet her baby sister’s bald head.

Their mom looks up with an proactive apology. “She won’t be so cute when she’s crying, but I promise, once she falls asleep, it’ll be quiet.”

“Don’t worry about it! I’m a mom. I have a three-year-old too!” I laugh. This time, I wish I had a badge: I AM MAMA! “Let me know if you need any help,” I offer.

As I watch the film on the monitor in front of me, I take one earbud out and listen to the coos and whimpers of the baby behind, the bits of conversation between the mom to her daughters. It’s all I can do not to leap behind me and cuddle both of them to me. My body aches for my own little one.

The last seven days were even longer than I imagined. Guilt ate me, but I decided to devour each moment, so that my boys’ week without Mommy would be worth it.

It was an adjustment to be so self-centred, but that was the only option. I savoured my pre-baby pastime - meandering with no agenda or need to get anywhere at any time. In jewelry shops and used bookstores, I browsed for as long as I wanted. At night, I stayed up ridiculously late because I could sleep in (ha!). For lunch, I ate ice cream and found a park overlooking the ocean where I sat in the grass and read my novel for hours. Every now and then I would look around me, as if I was going to get busted or in case I was forgetting something, and I wasn’t.

Every night I called Hubby and Lucas. And Hubby would tell me they were doing great. And Lucas would say, “can you come home right away?” and I would say, “no, Sweetheart, I’m coming home on Friday” and he would say, “okay, bye.” I swallowed that hard, but didn’t waste time there, refocusing on maximizing every moment.

The conference was the best I’d ever attended, and when it ended, I was full of inspiration, career direction, and new friends/colleagues. And the forty-eight hours of blazing around PEI in a rental car with my dear friend was such an adventure of freedom and joy that I can’t even begin to describe here. Suffice it to say that now I am refreshed and renewed, my soul full, my spirit found again.

Sitting on the plane home now, I scroll through photos of my boys on my laptop, wanting nothing else. I set back my watch to home time, so I can calculate how many more hours until we land. I envision running through the arrival gate and picking up my little blond Lucas and swinging him around and kissing him until he squirms out of grasp, and then falling into Hubby’s strong embrace and kissing his soft cheeks and rough chin and sweet lips. It’s more likely they’ll just do a drive thru pickup and I’ll throw my suitcase in the trunk and jump in and give quick pecks. But it doesn’t matter. Mommy’s back now.


Corrina Hill said...

I love this post Liesl... I think I go back and forth between these two scenarios on a daily basis! Right now, I've burned the candle at both ends for too long (the parenting, working grad school thing as you can relate to!) and you've inspired me to find a way to get renewed. Thanks!

Karen Banes said...

Great post. Can relate to every word of it. Was filled with envy reading the beginning and empathy reading the end!

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