Your bags are packed. Your ‘How to Keep the Kids Alive While I’m Gone’ speech has been delivered. Your anxiety is building, but your excitement is building faster. You step out into the cool morning air, coffee in hand, and slip into your Uber. You’re headed out on a rare solo mission. And not the ‘Grocery Store By Myself’ kind of mission. An extended travel mission. It may be for work; it may be for play. But either way, it’s quite the rush. Why? Because today, my friend, you’re the Kid-Free Traveling Parent. And it goes without saying that your senses are ablaze with delight.
First up? The tantalizing taste of alone time. It initially hits your lips on that quiet ride to the airport. You know, the one that’s devoid of any milk-begging, potty-needing or ad nauseum question-asking. The strange sensation of solitude lingers throughout your entire travel experience: when you’re standing in the security line, as you’re idly watching fellow passengers board your flight, even while you stare blankly out of the cabin window at 35K feet. At first you don’t know what to do with it, swallowing the silence one small sip at a time. But somewhere along your journey, you catch yourself reminiscing about that time in college you made a music video with your roommates whilst wearing tye-dye bodysuits… and you suddenly realize you’ve been lost in thought. Your very own thoughts. And it’s glorious. Screw the sips, you’re gulping in the silence now.
Shortly thereafter, a shiver of excitement slides down your spine as you begin to envision your final destination: one, presumably, without children. Perhaps a king-sized bed awaits? A cocktail? A hearty order of room service? Maybe it’s a rich mahogany boardroom full of smart business people, eager to discuss something other than diaper changes and timeouts. Whatever the scenario may be, you start to buzz at the idea of spending a few days doing something aside from parenting your (sweet) hooligan children. It’s an alluring, unusual and flat-out refreshing notion.
You arrive. You dive in head-first to your exhilarating adult-oriented escape. Those senses still ablaze? Yes. Very much yes. Your taste buds erupt with flavor as you feast on foods that aren’t mac-n-cheese. Your skin beads with sweat, not from deadlifting toddlers and car-seats all day, but instead from indulging in a rare, uninterrupted workout. Your ears perk up as the long-lost voices of NPR, The Today Show and ESPN waft through the airwaves like old friends. Your baby blues glitter as you drink in abounding sights-for-sore-eyes — from an entire news article from start-to-finish, to the face of a friend you knew before you had kids, to crumb-free floors, a day’s agenda that doesn’t break for nap-time (unless you want it to), and even a glimpse of your reflection donning an outfit sans sneakers and spit-up. You basically feel awesome. Why? Because you are totally dominating the Kid-Free Traveling Parent game.
However, not long after this feeling of complete-and-utter awesomeness settles in, you begin to detect the slightest shift in this blissfully Kid-Free Travel world of yours. It doesn’t take much. A picture text from your spouse, boasting a ridiculously cute image of the kids inhaling their spaghetti around (and all over) the dinner table. A busy construction site spotted on the way to your meeting, full of toddlerific crane trucks, bull dozers and ‘diggers’. A mother-daughter duo out on what appears to be a spontaneous shopping spree… or, on second thought, maybe just a strangely satisfying errand run. Your heart flutters. And once it starts, you can’t seem to stop it. You gingerly step over a Finding Dory sticker on the sidewalk and all but giggle aloud. An elephant-shaped cloud drifts across the sky and it’s all you can do to resist Facetiming your kids that very instant. Things really come to a head when you feel overcome with warm fuzzies as you observe a family arguing over this-dessert-or-that-dessert and who-broke-the-crayons at a nearby restaurant table. That person who was just dominating the Kid-Free Traveling Parent thing? Eh, sayonara.
For the remainder of your trip, you do your best to keep your emotions at bay. You tell yourself you’ll be home soon and to ‘live in the moment’. You give a solid shot at ‘appreciating’ the rest of this precious ‘you time’. But when the time comes to check out of your hotel, you’re struck with an undeniable surge of anticipation. The now-familiar scent of the continental breakfast dances through your nostrils one last time as you bolt through the lobby’s revolving doors and onto the street. You strut through the airport terminal at an obnoxiously eager pace, compulsively checking your flight status to ensure everything is on time. Once aboard your plane, the final flavors of alone time — so deliciously sweet on your outbound journey — now taste stale… bland… unwanted. The same holds true as you climb into your Uber. This time, instead of relishing in these last few moments of peace-and-quiet, you launch into animated (and unprompted) chatter with your driver about the souvenirs you brought back for your kids and the ‘yummy dinner’ you’re planning to cook for the fam that night.
The car pulls up to your house. You bid an obligatory ‘thank you’ to the driver and make way for the front door, nearly forgetting your bags. You’re hastily striding towards the house when you happen to catch a glimpse of your family, laughing uncontrollably at who-knows-what, through the shiny glass window pane. Your whole soul bursts with uncontrollable warmth. You don’t know what the rest of the day holds. It may be a full of tantrums and messes; it may be full of kisses and snuggles. But either way, it’s quite the rush. Why? Because today, my friend, you’re done being the Kid-Free Traveling Parent. And it goes without saying that your senses are ablaze with delight.
sam(antha) cronin is a former-google-employee-turned-writer, #boymom of two and proud wifey to a professional soccer player… also named sam(uel). she blogs about parenting, dream-chasing and her misadventures trying to balance the two at www.seasonsofsam.com. she’s also good for an occasional 140-characters of quasi-wisdom on the twitter.