Once, when my husband and I managed to escape for some grown up time after leaving our three kids with my parents, my husband realized that he’d left his cell phone at home. We decided not to go back for it since, as my husband noted, “If an emergency comes up that your dad can’t handle, then we’re %^&* out of luck, anyway.” (My father, as I’ve written earlier, has a home remedy for every occasion.)
Popular culture posits mothers as worrying about their children every minute of every day, especially when said children aren’t around to be personally supervised. And if they’re not worrying about them, then they’re simply missing them. Jordana Horn wrote so beautifully about how empty the house feels when her boys are away for a week visiting their dad that I still remember the post over a year later.
Which is why this is the part where I make what I would call a confession, except that I don’t feel any guilt over it: When my kids are out of sight, they are out of mind.
Well, not literally. I often use the hours that they’re in school to schedule their doctors’ appointments, fill out forms, do the grocery shopping for lunch-box friendly provisions, sew a missing button onto a dress, sign them up for an enrichment class, etc… So it’s not like I’ve forgotten they exist. I just don’t miss them. My house never feels too empty. Or too quiet. (It has also never, ever felt too clean. But, that’s a different story.)
It’s the same when they go on overnights with my parents, or off to summer camp. I revel in my time with even one less child (it’s amazing how much calmer everything is; I can’t explain the disproportionate effect), with just my husband, or all alone.
I don’t worry about them, either. And not only when they’re in the care of my dad, the former paramedic. I just assume everything is going to be fine, whether I am with them or not (my African-American husband has been known to chastise that it’s not very Jewish of me to think like that). I also know that my being on the premises is no guarantee of anything bad not happening. The worst injury any of my kids ever received was when I broke my middle child’s arm. And I was standing only a few inches away when my daughter barreled down the hallway, tripped, fell, and hit her forehead on the edge of an open closet door. The scar is still there, five years later. Oh, and I was also to blame for my oldest losing a part of his hearing.
So I can hardly cast stones when one of my sons falls in preschool and cracks his front tooth to the point of needing oral surgery, or when my other son decides to ride his scooter over a gutter (spoiler: the gutter won). I can’t even say that wouldn’t have happened if I’d been there, because, odds are, it would have.
I could, at this point, wax poetic about how critically important I believe it is for kids to learn to get along without Mommy and Daddy, to entertain themselves for long stretches of time and to feel confident in their own independence and autonomy. And I do believe in all those things. Very, very strongly.
But, that’s not why I periodically pack them up to spend a few weeks with Grandma and Grandpa in Brooklyn or for a pizza and movie afternoon with their beloved uncle. I do it because having three kids around is noisy and exhausting, and I deserve a break.
And while I am told that, on such occasions, I should miss my children terribly and be counting down the minutes until they are back in my presence, I just… don’t. I’m fine, they’re fine. What else matters?
Of course, there are those times when they are not fine. When they call before bedtime with an “I miss you, Mommy” message or from camp with a plaintive, “I got stung by a bee. I didn’t like it.”
At that point, I get on the phone and I reassure them that I’ll see them soon. That I love them and that I miss them, too.
Two out of three ain’t bad (sorry, Meat Loaf).