Annice and her kids in Seattle (after being “rescued” by her husband).
I’ve had a lot of help in my life. I have a very dependable husband who fills in my various deficiencies quite nicely. I have a wonderful family and friends that pinch hit for me when I’m late, lost and overwhelmed. I have kids who intuit my (in)capacities and forgive my imperfections. When you’re surrounded by a net, it’s hard to remember what it feels like to stand alone.
Every summer we take a family trip with my parents. They rent a house; we beach it every day, head out to a county fair or two, cook, play board games and watch movies. It’s an easy week of four kids to four adults where we just show up and enjoy. And every winter, my mother-in-law takes us somewhere warm and exotic that leaves no time for complaining and insists my husband and I take a few nights to ourselves while she manages four kids with room service and a smile. I have been very, very lucky.
I have also been very, very clueless. This is the only way I can explain my decision to fly to Oregon and vacation with my four kids for five days with no additional help. It seemed manageable; my hubby would be waiting for us afterward in Seattle, where we would stay for a week as one incredibly well-adjusted (ahem) dual-parented family.
The day my solo journey began, I somehow forgot some things. Like, my hairbrush, my shampoo and conditioner and oh, anything whatsoever to entertain/feed my kids on the plane. Part of that I will blame on a 6:00 a.m. flight that required a 5:00 a.m. arrival and a 4:00 a.m. wake up. The second we sat down it was a cacophony of:
“Is there a movie?”
“She’s/he’s touching me!”
“Are we there yet?”
I will admit my family is given a lot of leeway from strangers. They dig/are horrified by the mohawks and are curious as to Fray’s origin and are amused by her moxie with her three brothers. I cash in on that a lot. This plane ride was no exception. I got away with “feeding” them gum and renting portable movie players (for an outlandish fee) while passengers smiled sympathetically at the frazzled, clueless mother travelling with her mini gang of thugs and a princess. This graciousness allowed me to pass out for a few hours and dream that I was Martha Stewart (and her only child is grown, right?)
The first serious hitch in our trip beyond the immediate Maslow hierarchy of needs came when our rental car pick-up turned out to be downtown and not at the airport as I had thought. Having to negotiate four kids, two suitcases and two backpacks onto a train in a strange city made me tear up a little – not gonna lie – but the tears of terror turned to joyful ones when we successfully hit that Hertz counter and nothing and no one got left on the train.
I don’t want to mislead you. This baby bird didn’t jump out of the nest and fearlessly freefall. I have family in Oregon (plus “Shark Week” babysat a few hours every night) and I had help with city navigation from my cousin until she left and Google maps took over. But I did successfully pick activities, outings and food that were well-received. The hardest part for me was serving as 24-hour negotiator of disagreements/driving/navigation and as WWF referee without having the company of another adult for sanity check-in. (“The kid’s being an asshole, right? It’s not just me, right?”)
So? Would I do it again? Yup – in a heartbeat. Next summer? New Mexico! (Locals, consider this ample warning!) As my kids get older it’s easier all around to do things (and they actually remember all the stuff you drag them to.) I like that I had the opportunity to show them a part of the country that was new to them. I tell my kids all the time the world is a big place and I’m happy to be their (albeit neurotic) escort as they realize – at least on occasion – mom might be right.