Friday, March 11, 2011

Caught Between the Beach and the Empty Nest

I've got a lot to do tonight.  Laundry, packing, last-minute shopping, all those things you do to get ready for a family vacation.  Tomorrow is the big day.

Only it's not our family that's vacationing.  Precocious Daughter is going on a Spring Break adventure.  But Beloved Spouse and I are not going with her.  We're staying home.  And I'm feeling a little left behind. 

Oh, who am I kidding? I'm freaking out.

PDaughter has been invited to spend Spring Break with one of her friends.  They're going to spend a few days in New Braunfels and a few days at the beach in Port Aransas.  Her friend came along on our family vacation last summer, and now her parents are generously returning the favor.  They're lovely people, and I thoroughly trust them to take good care of PDaughter and show her a wonderful time. 

Meanwhile, I'll be sitting here with a gaping hole in my heart where a baby girl used to be, wondering if every 20 minutes is too often to call - you know, just to see how things are going.

Let me be clear: this isn't the first time I've ever been separated from my little darling.  Far from it.  When she was about three, BelSpouse and I left her with my parents and went to Mexico.  A few years later, she and her paternal grandmother went to Disney World, just the two of them.  And I've been on plenty of business trips that kept me away for several days at a time.  This isn't a separation anxiety thing.

So what is the big heart-wrenching deal about this vacation?  I suppose part of it is that this will be the first time she's been in the care of someone whose blood we don't share, whose behavior we can't critique and second-guess with impunity.  PDaughter is becoming part of someone else's family for a week.  It's not as if they're adopting her - in fact, I'm sure they'll be quite relieved to relinquish her when it's over - but we're completely undoing the apron strings and letting her tether to someone else for the first time.  And the thing about those strings is that as soon as you untie them once, you can never knot them up quite as tightly again. The urge to put my child under glass and forbid her to grow up has come on unexpectedly strong this week.

Another part is simply that I'll miss her company.  PDaughter is smart and funny and (most of the time) a great person to be around.  Since she's not a teenager yet, she still enjoys being around me, too (again, most of the time).  So while it'll be nice for both us to get a break from the normal routine (i.e., my nagging, her eye-rolling), I'll miss reading our horoscopes together in the morning.  I get to take off my chauffeur's cap for a week, but when I go to the grocery store, she won't be there to navigate the shopping cart and fill it with contraband.  I'm wondering if that's such a great trade-off for a little peace and quiet.

Now, she'll be having a fine time while I'm gazing at my navel feeling sorry for myself.  I'm pretty sure she'll think of her parents once, maybe twice a day, mostly in the context of how much cooler her friend's mom and dad are than her own.  Wait, she'll think of me on Wednesday, too - seething that I'm watching "American Idol" without her.  She'd probably be happier if her father and I simply put ourselves in cryogenic stasis until she returned, the better to not have any life experiences of which she isn't a part.  Such are the priorities of a fifth-grader.

Meanwhile, I'll be thinking about how empty her bedroom seems, how quiet the house is, how I wish I could kiss her goodnight.  I'll resist that urge to call her 17 times a day - you know, just to say hello.  And when I do call her, of course I won't tell her any of these things.  That would be embarrassing.  That wouldn't be cool. 

After all, it's just a week's vacation.  It's not as if my little girl is never coming back. 



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