September 21, 2012
By Ekta R. Garg
Having children will challenge a person’s sense of self as well as any preconceived notions we might have about what we’ll do when said children come along. Basically, most of those preconceived notions get tossed out the window as we give birth and realize almost immediately that the children have their own agendas and their own ideas about what needs to get done.
Still, I always assumed I’d fall back on my own childhood as a blueprint for raising my own kids at least some of the time (considering that the “How to Raise Your Children” manual got lost somewhere between the birthing room and our house.) And it actually has worked out that way in a limited sense. But so much more of the experience of raising my own children differs drastically, simply because of a difference of location (I spent my entire childhood in the same small town on the east coast, and since we’ve had the kids we’ve moved twice,) of profession (my husband is a physician, whereas my dad is an engineer,) and even the century.
And this weekend proves to be an acid test in the same vein.
My husband has a business trip this weekend that also involves me, so we’ll be leaving the kids home with their grandfather for the first time ever. Oh, sure, the two of us have gone on dozens of date nights since both kids were born, but those have always been for just a matter of a few hours. And we usually have gotten dinner started or even fed the kids before leaving for a late meal for us. But we’ve certainly never left them overnight, and we’ve never left them overnight and gone out of state at the same time.
I grew up in a typical Indian household during the 1980s and 1990s, so that meant that my parents never hired babysitters to watch my sister and me. Wherever we went, we all went together. Once or twice when my dad’s office had formal dinners where kids weren’t allowed, my parents left us with their friends. I remember seeing my mom dress carefully in her saris and matching jewelry that she’d packed and brought with her from India when she came with my dad as a new bride so many years earlier.
But my parents and sister and I always traveled together. Mom and Dad never went on a trip without us kids. I don’t know if they ever wanted to, but they certainly never said they did and I think I could guess with some confidence that the idea of traveling without their children truly never occurred to them as an option.
Naturally I assumed the same would be true for my children. But sometimes life presents you with a situation that is brand new and has no personal precedence. So you make a choice, hold your breath, say a prayer, and pack your suitcase.
The girls know we’re going; we’ve had many conversations about our impending trip and how they’ll handle things with their grandpa’s help.
No matter how mature they become, at times like these I can’t help looking at them and remembering they’re only six and four. They’re my babies—and I’m leaving them for the weekend. Yes, they’re staying with a family member who loves them dearly, they’ll have all the food they could ever need, and I’ve arranged for a surprise or two to keep them engaged. I even opened a Skype account for myself (despite not even having a webcam—we’ll use the one on my husband’s tablet) so we can talk to Six and Four and check in with them. But…I’m leaving my babies for an entire weekend.
I suppose some people could look at this reaction and say I’m an over-protective mother. Maybe they’ll think I’m insecure or feel the need to control every situation so I know where my kids are and what they’re doing. Some might even argue that it’s possible I don’t trust anyone else to care for my children.
I’m their mother; they’re a part of me—literally. Before they entered the world, before anyone else met them, they had a physical connection to me. My husband is a wonderful, caring father who loves the kids as much as I do and wants only the best for them. But he never had a cord attaching him to these girls. And while it may sound cliché or over-emotional to state this, I have a bond with my girls that no one else in the world has ever had or ever will. Before they became anyone else’s daughter, granddaughter, niece, or cousin, they were my babies. And always will be.
So, naturally, I’m a little concerned about how the weekend will go. But I also know I have to do what’s right for everyone involved. Given the factors on hand we’ve made decisions about this weekend that will help it go as smoothly as possible, things as little as checking out “Charlie and Lola” DVDs from the library so they can spend all weekend speaking in British accents to telling the girls’ teachers the kids won’t be in school on Monday and getting (and finishing) homework ahead of time so Six and Four will be up to speed when they go back on Tuesday. I’ve cooked enough for an army, and the weather will be somewhat pleasant (although a little warm during the middle of the day) so they should have ample time to enjoy the outdoors.
But—will they be okay? Will they listen to their grandfather and behave for him? Will they cry much when we’re gone? Will they spend too much time watching TV? Will they fight a lot? Will they remember all of the things I’ve told them?
Wait a minute—these are starting to sound a lot like questions my parents probably asked themselves when I started high school. Or when I went to college. Or when I got married.
I suppose the parenting merry-go-round never really stops, does it?