March 5, 2012

So I went away for a week.  By myself.  For the first time since my kids have been born.  OK, I had been away for a night or two – a couple of times.  But in 8 years, I hadn’t had this span of time without anyone in my family nearby.  Like many other parents,  I hadn’t experienced not having the responsibility of cooking, cleaning, caregiving, as well as all the other tasks you inherit when your child has a disability, such as running around to appointments, making phonecalls, going through exercises, protecting a child’s glasses, advocating, worrying, worrying, worrying, etc.

It’s just not in me to just go away for a break or for a vacation– it would be too difficult and too much of an imposition for whomever I managed to find to watch my children, but this was for work, so I had to go.  Preparations were made weeks in advance– who would pick the kids up from school on this day or that day? What would they eat? What days would my husband have to take off? What playdates could be arranged?  When would grandparents have to step in?  On the days leading up to my departure, I started ensuring all their laundry and grocery shopping was done and writing everything down on the calendar to make life a little easier for Daddy, who was going to be holding down the fort. 

Pizza Day ~  Guitar Lesson ~ Pancake Day ~ School Dance-athon

 Fearing that our little guinea pig would perish while his primary food source was gone, I also wrote “Check Snowy!” on each and every calendar day that I was to be away. 

As I geared up to leave, I kept telling myself not to talk about Down syndrome constantly.  But really, what else is there to say? What stories do I now have aside from those about my children?  As I settled in and began meeting new people from across the country, I started to remember what I used to think and talk about.  I got excited about my career again. I began to see possibilities.  And I couldn’t help but comment–more than once– that my head was clearer than it had been in years.  Leaving all the daily worries and trivialities behind was so rejuvenating and refreshing.  Despite the hard work and lack of sleep involved in the experience of this particular program, I had more energy upon my return than I’d had in years.  What a gift.

There weren’t many opportunities to phone home while I was away as the schedule was jam-packed, but on the couple of occasions I got my daughter on the phone, I was actually kind of surprised at how well she was speaking.  “Hi Mommy. Love you,” she’d say, and I almost couldn’t tell if it was her or her older brother on the other end of the receiver.  My husband assured me that although the kids were asking where I was, they did not appear to be “scarred” by my absence.  And he didn’t seem to be either! One night I dreamed about my daughter, in her fleece sleepers, and I missed her, but I knew she was ok.

I arrived home to a clean house and found that the guinea pig had survived.  And so had everyone else.  They had thrived, in fact.  My husband thoroughly enjoyed his time with the kids, something he doesn’t always get enough of.  The kids had been happy and busy, and I noticed Rachel’s language had improved dramatically.  She was speaking far more clearly and actually stringing a number of words together into sentences.  She was also more independent.  Generally she’s kind of like a little accessory at home – a super-cute toddler clinging to one leg as I make dinner.  After I returned, she seemed content to be building towers with her Mega Blocks and amusing herself with her puzzles and books.  Amazing how a child changes in a week, I thought. 

And then I realized, she changed so much because I wasn’t there.  She had to work a little harder, stretch her wings a bit.  As a mother, you anticipate every desire a child has.  You see what they want before they can even articulate it; you solve their problems before they figure them out for themselves.  I was warned this would happen– they told me to have high expectations and force her to use sentences.  And I thought I did this, but clearly she’s capable of more. 

All of a sudden, it seems kind of silly that I rock my 30+ pound child to sleep every night. It seems silly she sleeps in a crib.  She’s fully capable of drinking from a cup although I always put a lid on it so it doesn’t spill.  She is able to do so much if only given the opportunity. 

With kindergarten looming this fall, I believe this trip came at the perfect time.  I have stopped accepting “Ba-Ba” when she wants her milk.  I’m not going to carry her around as much anymore because she can walk; and frankly my back can’t take it.  We’re in the market for a big-girl bed– but I might continue to rock her to sleep.  I still don’t like hearing her cry.

 If other mothers are out there reading this, I hope you will take heart and know that it doesn’t have to be you every day, all day.  There are caring relatives, wonderful teachers, siblings, and friends who nurture our children and help them grow.  Never has the phrase “It takes a village to raise a child”  held so much meaning. Thankfully I am surrounded by an amazing village; one that has given me the perspective to see how to move forward.  We are entering a new chapter in our daughter’s life; but because of this adventure, this time away, rather than being fearful, I truly can’t wait to see what’s on the next page.  


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Alison Hodd March 5, 2012 at 10:02 pm

Congratulations on your adventure away from home, Heather. Your writing never fails to touch me. Your blog is a generous gift.


Heather March 5, 2012 at 10:08 pm

Thank you so much – what a lovely comment!


Julie Contini April 4, 2012 at 2:38 pm

This is so wonderful! I am so happy for you Heather. I look forward to a time where I might be able to do the same…..I hope you continue to use this experience and don’t let it fade.


Heather April 4, 2012 at 3:39 pm

Thanks Julie… yes, it was such a treat… it has started to fade a bit, but with Rachel starting JK this fall, I hope to do some of the projects that have been in the wings! ;) The great thing is that it was good for everyone. Sometimes a mom needs to see that!


Cancel reply

Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: