My son has been away with the kindergarten for two days now. Most of those who will be starting elementary school in fall went to a hostel in the Alps on Tuesday morning and will return today, Thursday, in the afternoon. It has been a really great time for me and my husband.
I’ve been looking forward to this for weeks now. It’s not that I actually wanted to get rid of my son, it’s just that I imagined an almost three day break from parenting to be quite delightful. And it was.
This time I managed to pack in advance and without stress, I think I’m getting better at this traveling thing. We ended up having to borrow the biggest suitcase my mother-in-law owns for his things. We got a list of things to pack, among them hiking boots, rubber boots, regular shoes, and house slippers. Three times everything and about as many towels as I would pack for the whole family. The list wasn’t unreasonable though, it just took care of possibilities like him getting wet or dirty every day.
When I sent him off on Tuesday I once again was struck by the tendency of modern society to make everything into a huge drama-filled event. Fortunately only one child started crying when entering the bus but there was a lot of forced smiling going on with the mothers. Instead of dropping my son of with his suitcase in tow, like I had imagined, I got to stand around for half an hour. When the bus finally disappeared around the corner I overheard several other mothers talking about how hard it was to let their precious children go away on their own for two nights. And I thought, “Huh?”
Of course it is weird to have him stay away from home without relatives but then I know he’ll have a blast. And while I do miss him I miss him much less than I thought I would. When all the other mothers went away wiping their eyes I put on my ipod and set the music to loud while thinking, “Yeah! I’m free!” There was a swing in my step and it hasn’t really left me since then.
I’m used to not having my son around all the time. He spends his day in kindergarten until 4 in the afternoon, and then he is at his grandmother’s three days a week. And on weekends he frequently sleeps at her place too. So I really didn’t think that I spend much time on caring for my son. Often I only see him shortly before bedtime, and in the mornings for breakfast. So I went on about my day on Tuesday as usual when suddenly after my last student left I realized that, no, I didn’t have to rush off to fetch my son. I could just stay at home, watch the Tour de France on TV and spin. Very relaxing.
In the evening I waited for my husband to finish work before having dinner. We spent a delightful meal talking and eating. Afterwards we did the kitchen and just when I thought, “Oh my, it’s bedtime.” I remembered that it wasn’t that day. Instead we went for a long walk and still had enough of the evening left to watch Torchwood in my case, and obscure bands on youtube in my husband’s. I went to bed at midnight, feeling slightly guilty for staying up late, and then I realized that I didn’t have to get up in the morning. No alarm clock! I just slept in until 8.30, and woke all rested and relaxed.
The next day again there was time for talking with my husband, eating lunch at a leisurely pace, watching a bit of Tour de France and spinning before teaching, and after work, instead of rushing off to fetch my son to put him to bed before having dinner myself I could just play the piano a bit before eating with my husband. (Wednesdays my son stays with his grandmother after kindergarten and I fetch him in time for him to go to bed. In order to get him to bed on time I postpone my own dinner until 8.30 or something. Usually I start getting hungry around 6.)
I got to watch two episodes of Torchwood this time, knitting away, I went to bed at twelve again, and again, I got up in the morning somewhere around 8.30 feeling fresh and well.
I have to say that I’m a bit shocked about the amount of time and energy I have when my son isn’t home. I didn’t know it was that much. I’m also quite shocked at how peaceful I feel without him. Yes, there is someone missing, and I really don’t want him to stay away, only I suddenly find that my life works better without him.
Of course I spent a lot of the past days musing about whether I am a heartless, and unfeeling person. I watched the other mothers when their children left the parking lot. They weren’t looking elated, they were sad. Or maybe they were just putting on an act, driving home in their cars afterwards, closing the doors to their homes, and pulling out the champagne, but I doubt it.
I find that I spend a lot of time thinking about why I don’t feel like people expect me to feel. Like the “they’re growing up so fast”-sentiment. That’s always uttered with a sense of loss. Like Beck did in one of her parenting posts. And I really believe that she – and all the others – are feeling it, and yes, I even can understand the urge to keep my child close, only most of me shrugs her shoulders and says, “So what?” Yes, he’s growing up, yes, he will be going away someday, and you know what? I love it.
I don’t want my son to stay at my side forever because, frankly, he’s got better things to do with his life. And I’ve got better things to do with my life too. Of course I want to stay in his life. It would be very, very sad to have a son who refuses to speak with me when he’s older. I hope that we’ll always love, respect, and cherish each other, and that we will seek each other’s company.
I didn’t quite know if I should write this post. Because in all this you have to keep in mind that if anyone came to take my son away from me I’d probably try to kill him. We’re speaking of my own flesh and blood, about a person I love more than my life. But still, having a break from being a parent feels nice once in a while.
Oh, and the best thing was when about two hours after the children had left I found two calls on my answering machine (we almost never answer the phone). First was a message from a fellow mother saying, “Oh, you’re not home, well since we agreed on calling each other when the children are safely at their destination…” (I didn’t agree on anything, I didn’t know I was supposed to sit next to my phone until someone told me my child had survived a 90 minute road trip.) The next message started with, “Hello, this is Verena from the kindergarten…” and my first thought was, “Oh God, something has happened!” because why would she call me otherwise? Well, she called to say that – the children had evidently survived the trip. Please, I don’t need an hourly update on my child’s status. Really. I’d like to hear from you if something went wrong. When I hear nothing I’ll just assume that he’s alright.
He’s probably having a great time. He’s surrounded by all his friends and teachers he loves, they have been hiking, and playing, and telling stories, and sleeping all in one room in their sleeping bags, and eating delicious food. And as everybody knows, the only thing better than having a nice vacation is coming back to a nice home again. He’ll be back in about three hours. Until then you’ll find me enjoying my time. And then I’ll give my son a great big hug.