Thursday, September 5, 2013

The Guilt Trip of a Lifetime

"Every time you go away you take a piece of me with you." -Paul Young

"She's old enough," we said. That's how we justified it. She's old enough to be without us for a couple of weeks. Sure, she'll be aware that we're gone. She'll definitely miss us. But she'll be just fine. Most important, she'll still have a lot of fun. Without us.

There we are. Young and in love. Venice 2004.
(I still have that shirt.)
So My Director and I went ahead and followed through on a promise we made to each other on our honeymoon. Our favorite place on that whirlwind Italian odyssey was Venice. But we were there for just two days. "I wish we had more time here," we said at the time. So we promised each other we'd come back for our tenth anniversary. We even shook on it. Or pinky swore. I can't remember exactly. There was definitely a lot of wine involved.  Either way, it was clearly a binding agreement.

You never know where you're going to be ten years from now when you make promises like that with your spouse. Financially, physically, or professionally. You can never know. Peanut wasn't even a glint in our eyes when we made that promise to each other, and ourselves.  So as we sat on our couch shortly after New Year's this year, contemplating whether we should follow through, it was she who weighed mostly on our decision.

Every time I think about her, talk about her, choose to write about her, or do anything at all in fact, it is with Peanut in mind. And anytime I think, talk , write, or do, it dawns on me that she will be this age only once. I want to savor every last moment in time with her and of her. All through her life I've done this. Not so much lamenting. But enjoying. Documenting. Mentally, pictorially, and verbally. Beaming with pride and amazement. We recently watched some videos of her from when she was a baby. What a wonderfully magical yet simple time. How much joy she brought us. How truly blessed we are to have witnessed her discover this awesome world, and for us to rediscover it along with her. Reliving these memories didn't make me sad. It made me thankful. It also made me realize how many times I must have squealed a high-pitched, "yay!" during Peanut's babydom.

I am also thankful to have had those two weeks in Europe with My Director. From Venice we went on
Paris 2013. Still young. Still in love.
(I wear glasses now.)
to Geneva and then Paris. I like to think our marriage is strong, but I also believe all couples need time away. Alone. To reconnect, rekindle, and have an actual conversation during a meal without someone who is either complaining about their dinner or forgetting basic details of their day. All of that being said, I am sad to not have had those two weeks with Peanut. While in hindsight I do not think this trip was for her (a subject for another blog post), that doesn't mean we didn't think of her. Especially during down time and on travel days, we both found ourselves missing her a lot.

The one time we managed to connect via Skype a few days into our trip (communicating was much more difficult than we had anticipated), we could tell by the look on her face that she was so excited to see us. She was missing us, but putting up a strong front without us. That's my girl. She stayed with my sister and her family at what we called "Zia camp." (Zia is aunt in Italian.) Her second week was spent in Wildwood, NJ on vacation with my extended family. A vacation we normally attend. Besides that shaky Skype call that cut out after five minutes, her only true contact with us for two weeks was a daily letter we each wrote her, one for every day we were gone. We wrote them before we left. Some were funny. Some were informational. Some were sentimental. And some were accompanied by gifts inspired either by where in the world we were or she was. Turns out, this was a very good idea. Peanut loved her letter every day and looked forward to that little bit of interaction with us.

My sister said Peanut was very well-behaved. A pleasure. A true joy. This came as no surprise to us. She also adopted our policy of not saying no on vacation, so Peanut never had to wear what she didn't want to wear. Those dresses My Director packed for dinners out, for instance, stayed in the bag. (Peanut currently prefers an active chic look.)

Back-at-home-for-first-tim-together selfie
When we returned, Peanut looked so different from when we left her. Her hair was more blonde from the sun. She was tanned from her vacation. She looked older. Rarely one to be outwardly affectionate, she hugged us both very hard and buried her head into My Director's chest when we first saw her. And because she comes from a long line of guilt trippers, every time we asked her about her vacation she would say, "But you guys went on an adventure. I didn't get to go on an adventure." Way to lay it on thick, kid.

Later that weekend, Peanut and My Director baked a birthday cake for me. We had a belated celebration since we were in Paris on my actual birthday. Peanut knew exactly how she wanted to decorate it with icing in my favorite color - green. She wrote the names of my favorite sports teams on it and spelled "Happy Birthday Dad," too. When I blew out my candles, I told her I had made a good wish. In following tradition, I didn't tell her what I had wished for. But she was quick to tell us she also made a wish and that it was for "you to never break up our family again."
How cute is this cake she made for me?

Ouch, babe.

We had an amazing time in Europe. But I couldn't help but miss her, and I can't help but think of what I missed. And lament. She is at such a great age. An age of learning and understanding. Of critical thinking and reasoning. Of giggling and joking. Of exploring and discovering. And she's just so adorable. I feel this summer has come and gone like every other before it and all of the ones that are yet to be. Too quickly, yet jam-packed with great memories. We made the most of our time with Peanut. A lemonade stand. A dinosaur park. An amusement park. Camping in the backyard. But more often I feel her drifting away. Already.

At age six she has such a busy social life. Between after school activities and play dates, I could go days sometimes without quality Peanut time. There are days where I'll skip the gym to come home early if the weather is nice, only to find her at a friend's house or with a friend over at ours. It's our own little real-life "Cats in the Cradle." And then I lament some more. Then again, there are few sounds I enjoy more than Peanut and a friend giggling at each other in some far off corner of the house. Or even better, hearing her channel her mom's diplomacy and settle a difference of opinion without drama, making her guest feel at home.

As Peanut grows older I realize I want her involved in our once-in-a- lifetime memories from now on. Soon enough she will be making those memories on her own. Our choices cost me some of the best and most precious days of her lifetime. As much as we may try there is no getting them back. I realize this is a nice problem to have. That I am complaining about an otherwise awesome vacation with My Director. Still, no more leaving Peanut behind. I miss her too much. There will come a time where she'll leave us behind. I'll miss her then too. At least I won't have the guilt.

Oddly enough, last summer I wrote a post about being away from her for ONE NIGHT and missing her. You can read it HERE.

2 comments:

  1. Aww... she missed you guys a lot. I like being around my kids daily also. Each moment when they're young has the potential to turn into a milestone of some sort. And when you miss out on those moments you can't get them back. My husband and I are definitely embracing these years and putting more focus on having adventures as family.

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    Replies
    1. She did miss us. But I think anticipation is a good thing. Although, the lack of contact was an unanticipated drawback. That made missing her a lot worse.

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