I’ve been having a really hard time leaving my kids lately. Not that it has ever been super easy for me– I have anxiety and almost ridiculous paranoia and frankly, I didn’t have kids so that I could spend time with other people. But this isn’t healthy, apparently (says Matthew) and I guess I’m supposed to be working on this. And it’s got me thinking about the first time I left Ella and how I kicked and screamed (really just cried) before going but ended up loving and needing the experience.
We were in Switzerland and Ella was 20 months old. We were coming up on the weekend and wanted something fun to do. We heard Lausanne was beautiful and since Matthew and I had taken French together, we thought it would be fun to be in a French speaking part of Switzerland. But I was having major anxiety about Ella. Let me set the scene for you a little bit: Switzerland is the quietest country in the world, maybe even in the universe, maybe even of all time. This is a great thing; it’s an orderly place with polite people and prompt trains and clean streets. All of this is perfect except that my 20 month old was none of those things. Loud, disorderly, and unpredictable. She was (and is) lovable and sweet and cute, of course, but you never knew which Ella you were going to get on a long train ride. And the travel from Zurich to Lausanne loomed over me like this dark cloud and our dreamy little weekend getaway was turning into a nightmare before it could even begin.
And then Matthew threw me a life line.
“Do you want to just go by yourself?”
I didn’t recognize it as a life line at first. It seemed like an impossible, pie in the sky idea. It also seemed wrong and selfish and I didn’t have a daughter to travel the world alone.
Despite all of these feelings, it was also very, very tempting.
A long train ride with nothing to do but listen to music and look out the window. I wouldn’t need treats or snacks or sticker books. I wouldn’t need to worry about the layout of the hotel room or finding ramps for the stroller or skipping nap time. I wouldn’t need to think countless steps ahead or try to predict the future. I could be quiet and orderly. I could just go.
So tearfully, I went.
I cried saying goodbye and almost the entire train ride through the countryside until I made it to Lausanne. Beautiful, French, quiet and clean Lausanne.
I felt a pang any time I saw parents with their kids but did my best to ignore them. And when I couldn’t, there was the perfect little toy store for souvenirs. I felt proud as I figured out the train routes and found my way around. I even took another little trip to this castle near Montreux, my confidence increasing, though not enough to go into the cellars alone.
I walked aimlessly around the town, eating gelato and crepes, before relaxing by the lake. Not particularly exciting stuff but I see enough action raising a toddler. The nothingness of Lausanne was exactly what I didn’t know I needed.
I love the way you say “I miss you” in French: Tu me manques. It directly translates to, “You are missing to me.” And Matthew and Ella were missing. I would have loved to get pictures of the three of us, pictures of Ella in some sweet outfit. I imagined her walking along the lake, the water bringing out the blue in her eyes. I wanted to get Matthew’s take on the pirate ship sailing tourists around and reminisce about the French class we took together. But it felt good to miss them. I had never gotten the chance before and I could test the age old saying, absence makes the heart grow fonder. It also makes you grateful and introspective. Of course it is better to be with family. But to be a better mother for our family, I needed that life line. Time alone in a beautiful city, thinking of the people I love and giving a little extra love to myself.
p.s. the most selfies I have ever taken on a trip. I don’t know what to do with myself when I don’t have kids to photograph!