It's time for my annual escape; ski conference time. This year the Keystone symposia for diabetes is actually in Keystone itself, a lovely resort in Colorado. I started writing this post from united flight 144, and am finishing it up in my cosy studio beside a frozen lake. I eagerly anticipate this meeting, not just for the science and the skiing but for the five days of respite from the emotional and physial demands of motherhood that it affords me.
There is no true respite of course. It isn't possible, or even desirable to recreate a pre-parenthood self simply by getting 5 days of adult company and a room of ones own. I feel adrift when I go away, torn between enjoying being able to please only myself and missing home. I admire the new children's play corner at the airport, remembering its location for future reference, I smile at other peoples little ones on the plane and I spend far too much time agonizing over the gifts I will buy for my children. What item will perfectly convey how much I missed all the intangible little things about them, can assuage my guilt over leaving? I buy too many things, return some, second guess myself and become a dithering idiot over a set of playmobil people or a magnetic game. The items do have significance though, geekygirl remembers still which item came back from each trip. I still remember some of the souvenirs my dad brought back from his conference trips long ago.
We talk a lot about how much we love our kids, but not as much about how much they love us. Sometimes it scares me how very important I am to them. That lovely quotation "To the world you might be one person, but to one person you are the world" carries a weight of responsibility. Whenever I get on a plane alone a tiny, unbearable thought nags me. "What if I don't come back?" Of course my rational side realizes that mothers can't wrap themselves in cotton wool and never leave the house for fear they die and leave their small children motherless, but I'm not the devil may care person I was before; there is a reason I'll be skiing with a helmet on.
Geekyboy at almost three really understands this time that I'm going away. Last night he wanted me to hold him, snuggled in his towel and sing "Old McDonald" in front of our picture of the song, something I used to do nightly when he was less of a hefty armful, but that we haven't done for ages. Six verses and still he wanted more. The tantrum when I put him down was less about the songs and more his way of telling me that he doesn't want me to go, I think. I sometimes try to guess what the kids are feeling and give them the words to describe it. I asked him if he was worried about Mummy's trip and the saddest little face in the world nodded emphatically and said "Mummy, don't go, don't go".
Geekygirl is a passionate child, almost operatic in her emotional swings. Lately she likes to hold my face close to hers, hold my gaze with her blazing green eyes and say "look at me for ever, only me, and don't ever look at anything else". She's used to my traveling now, and seemed to be coping with my impending departure wel, excited about the rituals of a sticker chart to track the days I'm gone, the TV dinner with its side of microwaved chocolate pudding, and the present I'll bring when I return. She knew that I would be leaving early this morning, my taxi was ordered for 5.45am. Usually a sound sleeper, she woke when I crept up. I think she was on alert, much as I, also a habitual deep sleeper, awoke a couple of times last night from fitful dreams of being lost in conference resorts and running into out of context friends, anxious that I not sleep through the alarm. I had a few minutes before the taxi arrived so we sat together and cuddled for a while. She burst into such howls of despair when I had to go, the last thing I heard as I clicked the door closed. Selfishly, I had been hoping to slip out unnoticed.
The kids have their new addiction to Mary Poppins (which will yield a good two hours of peace for my hero in parenting partnership, Geekydaddy), a week of planned meals and well stocked cupboards and closets full of clean and acceptable clothes. I'll be back on Monday. They will all be fine. Right?