Free At Last!

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R-rated DVDs. No curfew. And overnight company.

Yes, a lot of us will behave like teenagers going off to college when our kids leave for the summer. And like anxious teens, a lot of us will raise our expectations way too high, imagining ourselves having more time, more fun and more … um, everything … than humanly possible.

In my mind, in the 62.5 days (yeah, I’m keeping track) that my boys will be spending with their dad, I will be able to accomplish everything that I couldn’t while they were here: Complete a half-finished novel, write a screenplay, get a make over, complete my journey of self-discovery, organize my closet, take a “Mamas Gone Wild” vacation, meditate daily, rid my pantry of processed foods, learn another language and nap like champ. And that’s all in the first week.

By Week Two, reality sets in, and I recognize that I’m more motivated when my boys are with me than I am when they’re away. In fact, they haven’t left yet, and I miss them already. But missing them is a good thing for all of us.

Click here to hear Nikki Woods’ weekly “What in the Weekend?” report.

I am amazed when I meet parents who say that their children have never spent a night away from them, especially single moms. I get being protective about our kids, and I’m certainly not promoting the idea of putting your kids off on people on a weekly basis so you can check out the latest club. I also get that there are some people with no trustworthy relatives or friends to leave their children with. I have a very short list of people I allow my boys to spend the night with, and they are rarely away from me, unless they are spending the summer with their father.

But I do see the value in giving each other space. Kids need to know how to function away from their primary contacts – and vice versa.

My parents made sure that my sister and I spent plenty of time away from home, time that included everything from summer camps to time spent in Jamaica with family. And, of course, there were always family vacations that were strategically planned to make sure that by the time we were 18, we had visited all of the U.S. states and Canada. 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. 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 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. 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.”

Sometimes I meet moms who say they can’t imagine spending days, let alone a month 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.

So, raise your glass, and say it with me: “Free at last. Free at last. Thank God for Daddy; I’m free at last!”

P.S.: I’m missing my babies already! =)

Nikki Woods is senior producer of “The Tom Joyner Morning Show.” The author of “Easier Said Than Done,” the Dallas-based Woods is currently working on her second and third novels. You can friend her on Facebook or follow her on Twitter: @nikkiwoods.