Breaking Away

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  • Today, I’m packing up my boys and sending them out of town for a week for Spring Break, and, like mamas everywhere, I’m facing a universal dilemma: What will happen if their Nintendo DS runs out of battery power? And, God forbid, I didn’t send enough fruit snacks?

    It’s a new day for travel and travel expectations for kids. Passports and luggage designed to fit in the overhead bin on a plane are a must-have for this generation of kids.

    Road trips were more the norm for families when we were growing up, although, since my parents are Jamaican, my sister and I did begin traveling by air at an early age.

    That was before 9/11, of course, when you could bring fireworks, an industrial-sized bottle of lotion and keep your shoes on going through what was then considered “security” – and you got a real meal on the plane.

    But most summers were spent in the station wagon with not only my immediate family, but at any given time, cousins, grandmothers and friends could be piled in as well. My father’s goal was to visit all 50 states and most of the Canadian provinces. And we did. Those cross-country trips are the basis for some of my fondest memories.

    I remember one trip in particular when my first cousins, Kara and Susan, hit the road with us. I think we were in Kentucky, and I convinced them to leave the hotel and wander through the vacant field and jump a fence to check things out. The phrase “explore our environment” was born from that adventure, and I guess that is what I love so much about traveling. Exploring new places and learning about different people and cultures has always been a huge thrill for me.

    And I’m glad that I can do the same for my children. I just don’t know when it got to be so complicated.

    When it comes to my two, let’s just say it’s not my daddy’s family vacation.

    Not to imply that my daddy wouldn’t try to run it if he could. The last vacation we all took together, he sent out a mandate that no one would be able to check luggage for a one-week trip to Jamaica. Now, you’re dealing with three grown women and six kids, but Dad had a plan, and that included one bag of checked luggage for all of our liquids – and trust me, there comes a point in a woman’s life when there are some liquids you don’t want your daddy knowing about. But, as always, once my dad settles on a goal, it is going to be accomplished.

    If I take into account my boys’ game systems, the chargers, cell phone, etc., they’re rolling with enough technology to turn a TSA worker’s hair gray. That, compared to my She-Ra: Princess of Power backpack filled with candy, gum, lip gloss and a Word Search magazine.

    And of course, it all falls on me. Never mind the fact that my break begins as soon as their plane takes off, and I have to search for matching bras and panties, get a pedicure, wax and thread – don’t ask. Right now, my mind is on making sure their sword-bearing Star Wars characters won’t be confiscated and figuring out how long Lunchables can hold up off of ice if there’s a flight delay. It’s literally keeping me up all night.

    But my kids aren’t losing any sleep. Air travel for them is second nature. At ages six and eight, they have they’ve already flown alone four times, versus me having taken my first solo flight in college.

    My youngest has flown so much, he may not be able to land a plane, but he sure can tell you what to do in case of an emergency. He studied that laminated sheet of instructions so thoroughly, once it prompted a woman near him to say, “If something goes wrong, I’m following him.”

    Most of their friends are heading some where out of town for Spring Break too, which raises another question: What are they really breaking from? College kids taking a Spring Break makes a lot of sense, but I’m wondering whether first- and second-graders need a respite from addition and subtraction. On the other hand, their mamas sure do, and when I look at it that way, it makes a win-win situation.

    Back when fewer moms worked outside of the home, Spring Break was really a time for kids to bond – with rags, furniture polish, brooms and Windex. And it made perfect sense. Mom did the bulk of the cleaning all year long, and she had to look forward to a week of free labor. Today, a lot of mamas I know – married and single, me included – take the week of Spring Break to grab some much needed and deserved Mama-time for ourselves. Whether they are turning it into a girlfriends get away or rejuvenating their relationships with their men, the no-kid zone cones are up and in full effect. So, when we reunite with our little loved ones when Spring Break ends, we all appreciate each other a little more.

    Sometimes I meet moms who say they can’t imagine spending days, let alone a week or two, away from their children. I can’t even begin to wrap my brain around that one. Spending time away from each other makes me a better mom, and I think it makes my kids better too. I admit there are sometimes challenges to contend with. No one does everything exactly like you do, and that’s something you and your kids need to come to appreciate.

    There’s a chance of you missing out on them losing a tooth or, if you have girls, other landmark events as they get older. And sure, they make pick up some colorful language, a new dialect or even come back dressed in an outfit that makes you shudder. But all in all, we get a lesson in trusting others, letting go, and reclaiming our respective grooves. If only for a week.

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