Planning the Trip
We had been looking forward to the cross-country trip for a couple of months. Our “anniversary trip” as my husband liked to call it, although our anniversary was four months prior. Our “alternative to Italy trip” as we had told our family and friends countless times. See, a few years ago we started throwing around the idea of going to Italy for our five year wedding anniversary. Five years seems like a longer time before kids come along. Then our first daughter was born after several months of trying. Then, more quickly than we could have expected, our feisty, goofy, and oh-so exhausting second daughter graced the earth just shy of our five year anniversary. Time flashed before our eyes and so did our hopes of making it to Italy. With two under two, the once-possibly Italy trip wasn’t even a discussion, but that was perfectly fine. Our hearts were full, we were plenty tired, and I was content embracing mom life in the comfort of my own home. Being with my girls was where I needed to be.
Fast-forward another year and my husband and I were growing antsy to get out and explore, dreaming of possibly finally taking that trip to Italy. As much as we love traveling to new places for the sheer adventure, a trip away would mean quality time to reconnect with one another. This was reason enough in my eyes. As any parent can attest, the constant interruptions and demands of parenting will have a dramatic effect on other relationships in your life, especially your marriage. With children draining your energy every hour of every day, it is an endless juggle of finding the right “balance” (whether or not that actually exists is TBD) to give your love and attention to the adults in your life too. Needless to say, my husband and I needed time away, just the two of us.
But after more seriously considering the details of a trip to Italy, like long travel time and expensive airfare, it was feeling less realistic again. Not to mention my increasingly growing mom-guilt towards the thought of being so far away from the two tiny humans that hold the biggest pieces of my heart.
After some back-and-forth, we came up with an alternative to Italy, which I’ve already alluded to. We booked flights to San Francisco. The plan was to spend a few days in Napa. Wine and food is one of the main reasons I’d love to visit Italy, and Napa clearly can hold it’s own in that front. Then we would lace up our hiking boots and spend time at Yosemite (who am I kidding, I don’t actually own hiking boots, but still I was looking forward to the outdoor adventure). We booked ourselves rooms at the cutest inns and mapped out vineyards and restaurants, making a handful of reservations at some of our top picks.
Sad to Leave
This trip couldn’t come soon enough. No Peppa Pig or dirty diapers or re-organizing the playroom five times a day. The few days leading up to our trip, the girls were especially challenging. But then it came. My mom and sister were in town, ready to take the reins and send us on our way. Yet, I felt off. I should have been excited, but I found sad tears streaming from my face as I finished packing the last few things in my suitcase. Worry crept in. Irrational fears swarmed my thoughts and I had a pit in my stomach imagining worst-case scenarios.
Thankfully our flight left in the early hours the next morning, so my mom was able to give us a ride while my sister was home with the kids, who were fast asleep. We never had to make a big deal about goodbyes or explain to my three year old why Mommy and Daddy were going to the airport and she couldn’t come. We usually have countdowns with her when something exciting is coming up, but we definitely weren’t going to start the countdown now. I didn’t think, “We’ll be back in SEVEN days” would go over well.
Letting Go of Worry
Once we arrived in California, it was easier to let go of the worries. There was a lot to see and do. It’s amazing how quickly I could adjust to the freedom of being physically kid-free, but the emotional connection isn’t quite so easy to separate. Of course, we FaceTimed a couple of times a day, and that always made me smile. But my heart ached to watch the videos my mom sent. I missed them so much. I found myself visualizing the country, and just how much space was between them and me. We were so far apart and my heart could feel it.
By the time our final day rolled around, my husband and I had eaten plenty of food, drank plenty of wine, hiked plenty of miles, and had full tanks of quality time stored up with each other. I wanted nothing more than to be home and hold my girls.
We arrived back to the Charleston airport with my mother-in-law waiting for us, and my three year old asleep in the back seat. She awoke to me getting in the car, confused as could be. She hardly said a word on the drive home, but occasionally whispered something to me and held my hand the entire way. Later she told me, “Mom don’t ever leave again, okay?”
I am convinced our 19 month old all but forgot about me during our week apart. The look she gave me when she first saw me in the driveway was the sweetest thing I have ever seen. A closed-mouth side smile, her signature dimple appearing on her chubby cheeks. If she could actually talk I bet she would have said, “Are you real?! …Oh yeah, I remember you. I thought I lost you, but I’m so glad you came back. I think I really like you.” For at least the first hour of being home, I would catch her staring at me with a straight face, trying to make sense of my presence. I’d flash her a big smile, and in return, she would do that same side-smile smirk all over again, happy, but not fully letting me into her good side. I had to prove myself. Before long, she had warmed up to me and was back to her normal silly self.
…And shortly after that, sibling fights had ensued, they were whining for snacks, pulling on my clothes for my attention, and demanding to watch a TV show.
My husband and I smiled at each other.
“Back to reality,” I said.