Monday, June 8, 2009

The Beach Boy

I'm thinking about flying across the country by myself with my toddler. And I'm on the verge of an anxiety attack.

Upon hearing about Rob's friends' and co-workers' airplane-intensive vacations with children, I vowed never to do it. Even with a partner or friend along it sounded like no fun. Consoling a wailing small person at twenty-thousand feet isn't really my scene. And dealing with an ever-stronger running, jumping, climbing, kicking, grunting toddler? Sometimes I can barely manage that in my own living room.

But now, here I am, seriously considering lugging my little Neanderthal man to the East coast for a long weekend at the beach with my girlfriends. I know diapers and bedtime stories aren't really conducive to Girls' Nights Out, but we're not so much the Girls' Night Out types. We're more Girls' Night In: movies and junk food and snarky commentary mixed with passionate political debate. The Sisterhood of the Traveling Rants.

I have this fantasy running on constant loop in my mind that involves Westley and me having a fabulous time, playing together at the beach every day, him getting fussed over by his four honorary aunts, and the two of us cuddled together on a mattress at night. Westley would love it, my girlfriends would get to experience his wonderfulness, and I would have most of my favorite people in one place.
Practicing for the beach with mist from the garden hose.

But unfortunately, my fantasy keeps getting interrupted with giant racing-heart question marks. I try to imagine actually navigating the airport with a toddler...and luggage, and a carry-on bag and a diaper bag and a baby carrier and a stroller (because, let's face it, I'm going to want a secure and mobile place to put him down) and a car seat. And that's before we even get to the part with the six-hour flight.  Six hours, if we pop for the nonstop tickets. Which come to a literal grand total of over $1000 for the two of us.

My mother has offered to babysit if I decide to take the trip alone, and Westley has a great time with her, and I can hear some of you saying, "Are you crazy? Why on earth would you take him with you if you have the option to leave him with your mom?" My doctor even said, "You need a break" when I mentioned the trip.

It's true, I do need a break. But I also need to be with my boy. It's a developmental stage thing. We're in the middle of separation anxiety: mine. I used to be able to let my dad take Westley for a walk in the stroller without a second thought, but now I spend the whole time they're out thinking about Westley and feeling itchy with the mama-bear tingles. Is he okay? Of course he's okay, you idiot. he okay? It makes no rational sense, and I completely own that. But knowing that I didn't always feel this way--that sometimes I can be as clingy as Westley is--doesn't help me when I'm lying in bed at night missing him. Despite the fact that he's not even 20 feet away in the other room!
Don't go, Mommy!

So I'm really fucking stuck. I'm feeling lots of internal pressure to take Westley on vacation with me. My girlfriends are are anxious to meet him, and I can't seem to let go of my fantasy fun-with-Westley-at-the-beach scenario. Rob would welcome the opportunity to have the house to himself I know, and I'd feel like Superwoman if I actually managed to fly with a toddler with my sanity intact. The fact that Westley is still nursing is the weighty icing on the pressure cake. He really doesn't need to breastfeed any more, but going three-thousand miles away from home for five days wasn't exactly my plan in terms of weaning. And I'd really, really miss him. No amount of knowing he was fine would stop me from lying in bed at night imagining I heard him crying "Mama! Mama!" while I was trying to go to sleep.

Taking Westley on vacation with me sounds impossibly hard, but so does leaving him at home. What the hell am I going to do?  



Jessica said...

This is a tough one. I have shit to say to both:

RE: travel with a toddler. It is hard to travel with a toddler. It's about 100x more work than usual. More than just staying home with him during the day it's an intense, round the clock mothering experience. Your friends will hold and cuddle him, but you are it. You, you, and then more you. I always find that when I get home from travel with Hollis I am bone weary from the overwhelming need for vigilance (baby proofing the new place, sleep issues, etc).

And we've traveled A LOT. I think we've been on a plane 8 times roundtrip. You have a trump in your hand that he still nurses, though. You'll find the flight 10x easier because you can offer him that comfort. And definitely, DEFINITELY, do non-stop. It's worth every extra penny.

It's wonderful to be able to take him with you, but you're wise to be realistic about it. I think you'll be surprised at how adept you are at navigating all the crap of travel. A little research will help you pack for him and tell you what are must haves for airport travel (like a stroller, endless snacks, and a change of clothes for him).

I hope I haven't made it seem impossible, because it SO isn't. It's just challenging, but also oh so worth it. To see him in new surroundings with more people who love him on the spot, to see him seeing new things for the first time ever... it's priceless and awesome and wonderful. And when you come home, you tell Rob you MUST NAP and you fall into bed for a few hours and Westley goes on about his little baby day.

RE: going on the trip by yourself. I left Hollis once, for four days and it was really hard. I was weepy and sad for the first 24 hours, but I trusted my husband to step up and he did. Hollis ran around the house yelling, "Mama! Mama!" after they got back from the airport, and then he was fine. TOTALLY FINE. I know our kids are different people, but I'm confident that if Westley was left with someone he knew and loved while you were away he'd be just fine, too. And so would you... eventually.

I say this based on your writings and the bond that is between you two which is evident. Because he is strongly attached he will handle the separation with baby aplomb. Your return home will be met with the kind happiness he reserves only for others who say hello and goodbye like Daddy and Grandma. It's a precious thing to experience.

Anyway, I'm sorry for leaving such a long ass comment, but I thought I'd share my own experiences. Bottom line is you're right, it's a rock and a hard place. Both will be tough, both will be awesome.

sarah said...

I believe the technical term for this is a conundrum.

Cindy said...

I think, for me, the deal breaker would be that he was nursing still. I know I wouldn't want to have a forced weaning with my daughter. But, traveling with him will be difficult so it's a tough one. I'm thinking of traveling to Colorado with my 14 month old daughter. I'm kind of freaking out about that and I'm in San Diego, so it's only like 2 1/2 hours. Good luck!

hoppytoddle said...

Check out the GoGo Kidz. It made things MUCH easier. & good luck.