If this were PostSecret, the online art project where people send in post cards with their secrets, I would design one with a giant airplane on one side with the following confession sprawled across the other side in big, red letters: whenever I travel without my kids, a little part of me thinks I might die on the trip.
Some of you may think I am. Especially if you are male. And especially if you are my husband, in whom I confided the other day to a look of utter bafflement.
His response to my confession: “Really? I’ve never had that thought. Not once.”
In fairness, however, maybe he should. He’s had several near-death experiences in the thirteen years we have been married, alone.
One time he was accidentally injected with ten times the dosage during an allergy treatment and went into anaphylactic shock. Another time he was washed out to sea when he saved a friend from drowning in a riptide in Hawaii. Last winter, he was run off the road by an eighteen-wheeler and wound up facing the wrong way on a two-lane highway.
A family friend was an ear-witness to the car accident and was so rattled, he insisted on convening a faux wake for my husband, a la Waking Ned Devine.
But I digress.
I know I’m not the only one who fears I might die when traveling without my kids. But I think it’s a uniquely female worry.
Erynn, the ringleader behind Tropic of Candycorn, agrees. In her article entitled Preparing Children Before You Travel, Erynn shares that she, too, worries, “what if I never see [my children] again [when I travel without them]?
I love to travel with my children, but from time to time, work, marriage or sanity necessitates an adult-only trip.
For years, I have run myself ragged preparing to leave town on such trips.
I painstakingly prepare schedules on excel spreadsheets with color-coding so everyone gets exactly where they need to be.
I do so much laundry I thwart the balance of clean to dirty clothes and drawers are overflowing.
I stock the pantry and refrigerator with everyone’s favorite foods.
I meal plan. I schedule play dates. I write medical permission notes. I leave dentist’s numbers. I sometimes make gifts for my children, more so when they were younger, to ease the reality of me being away.
Quite frankly, it’s all a little crazy.
I realized recently that it’s all because there is a little part of me that thinks I may die when I’m traveling. I need to leave everything just so – so my kids will know how much I love them if I never return.
It’s silly, really. They wouldn’t know any better from those elaborate trip preparations than they do from the day-to-day caregiving I provide how much I love and cherish them.
But I want to leave them sound before I go even still – and just in case. If, heaven forbid, they lose their mom, I want them to do it with clean underwear.
On some level, I believe that by crossing all my T’s and dotting all my I’s before I go, I am buying myself life insurance with the universe. I’m preventing my worst fear.
So far it has worked.
This weekend I leave my family for a week-long retreat for mothers. I am excited to go and know that I will come back to my family restored and in a better position to care for everyone’s needs, including my own.
But before I go, I will color code the schedules in Excel and overdo the laundry. I will still make my life insurance deal with the universe.
When I return, I will nuzzle into my husband and boys and be grateful I was able to return to them. Even if there is now a mountain of laundry to tackle again.
Reprinted with permission of the St. George News.