This one time I got on a plane all by myself and left my family behind for 3 whole days. It was just the one time because this has never happened in my entire parenting life. For the first time in about 6 years, my siblings and I got together in Columbus, Ohio for our sister’s wedding without any of our husband/wife/kid appendages, and it turns out I am actually still a person. I got to pack my own little suitcase, assess my own snack desires/need for the bathroom in the next hour, and act like a civilized human on a plane with other adults that felt like shit was really supposed to be going their way. In case you didn’t catch the pure heaven of this situation, consider this: when was the last time you only had to deal with YOUR OWN issues? I mean no excuses for husbands, no playing whose discipline “plan” is working best, whose kid hit who, who needs to say or do, or not say or not do something to whom, no explaining your family’s dynamics to aliens to your home, etc. Just you and the regular old comfortable bullshit your siblings and parents drag out of you every time, which you can predictable react to exactly like you always have: defensively, and with no desire to change. Beautiful.
The first glorious change I noticed was in the airport. I was actually able to shut down the cortisol-drenched survival part of my brain that takes over for family travel and focus on something awesome, like a latte with whipped cream. When you are in an airport with kids you only see the things you need: bathrooms, frozen yogurt shops, older couples that miss their grandchildren, trash cans, napkins, soft-hearted people traveling alone, empty seats against a wall, sympathy. You actually never really look at the other families. They can’t help you because you are both drowning people nobody feels like saving. The sad desperation is contagious and it’s best to keep your distance. Turns out families look exactly as haggard as they feel. Even the ones I know are crushing it- they have full snack bags, plus diversion activities, the division of labor seems fair, the kids are at least an hour away from a complete breakdown, the parents are dressed in out of the house clothes- even they have the zoo animal look: “Get me out of this hell.”
But when you’re alone! I had a 2-hour layover in Atlanta and I went to the bar and had a Manhattan because I saw it in a movie once. I’m sure I’m late to the game on this, but drinking in airports makes everything 300% more tolerable. I only had one and this helped me imagine my whole experience as a really fun game. Like, “Where is my gate? Let’s go find it!” Basically, after that point, it was me and the super together businessmen just high-fiving and being like, “ I always get the upgrade” and “I need to talk with this client” and “Let’s just get another drink that is just like a super dynamic alcohol with an ice ball and nothing a mom would drink in the Caribbean.” I was totally in disguise. I completely didn’t out myself when I said “Look at that sweetie weetie bear?!” to the fat baby while boarding the plane.
While we were in Columbus, we got to pretend we could still rally by going to a bar that advertised and delivered FREE BEER (??? it was a college town???) and no one had to put their kids to bed or answer texts from passive aggressive spouses about who wouldn’t go to sleep without who. And I’m pretty sure we got to sleep in until at least 8:45. It was profoundly awesome. Recently, we were all together again on the brink of going out and it looked like one of our kids was going to scam us out of fun. To stave off the disappointment, we had to just look at each other and say, “We gotta let this go, because we’ll always have Ohio. We’ll always have Ohio.”