There were a lot of things shuffling through my head by the time we headed home from Toronto yesterday. I'll admit that the time away was nice. It was nice to eat meals without worrying about what Jacob would eat or how fast (or, rather, slowly) he'd eat it. It was nice to have a drink without worrying about how it might impair my mothering abilities if Jacob woke up at 3am. It was nice to have time to relax, make as many stops as we needed to make, and walk around the city unencumbered by a stroller. When you spend most of your time taking other (possibly slightly irrational) people into consideration, it's sometimes nice to have a break and make decisions based on just two reasonable opinions. Most of my daily decisions aren't made in the way that benefits me the most--at least not directly--but what is the best for Jacob and what will cause the least amount of grief all around. It's more about preventative defense than proactive decision-making. It's less about seeking out random fun than it is about just keeping things together. Without a toddler in tow, you can be spontaneous without facing an imminent meltdown. Take the extra couple minutes to find cheaper parking--we'll survive hungry a little longer. Make this one extra stop--we don't have to get anyone in and out of a carseat, nor manage them while we're there. You get the idea. And more than anything else, we could just be "us" without worrying about who's handling the adorable but high-maintenance ball of energy that's usually attached to us at any given time.
That said, we missed him like crazy. I was just trying to enjoy the time away knowing that we'd be back in our usual roles soon enough, but by the end I was looking forward to seeing him. I called my parents' house in the midst of our morning stops to check in and update our timeline, and when my dad put Jacob on the phone, he immediately said, "Come here now", and then I guess he started to get a little weepy. Poor kid. He had been such a good little boy the whole time, but perhaps he was really starting to miss us a lot. And sure enough, once we got there, he turned into a crazy, hyper little boy. I can only imagine it was the excitement to have us back that did it. They often say that kids can have a perfectly lovely day at daycare, and then turn into absolute monsters at home in the evening because they bottle everything up and save their true emotions for when they're around people they trust. So while I wasn't thrilled that we got a loud, hyper, crazy child when we returned (rather than lots of hugs and kisses), I guess I still had to take it as a compliment. Somehow he was happy to see us and let it all out.
As I mentioned not too long ago, lately I've fantasized about taking a real vacation to somewhere lush and tropical without Jacob. I felt like I was ready and perhaps now was the time, since he's old enough, there isn't another on the way yet (though we'd like there to be sometime in the not-too-distant future), and we haven't done anything like that in a long time. I'll admit, though, that this little time away gave me some cold feet. I mean, sure, I'd love to have the time away from everything, experience something amazing, and really make myself miss it all, but based on Jacob's reaction, I'm not sure I can do it. Will it get better if we wait longer, for any of us? Or should we get him used to a scenario like this, just so he learns how to cope? I don't know. Presumably he'll get a greater grasp on his emotions in general as he gets older, but I just don't know how he might respond even later on. It did affirm that I would miss him and want to see his smiling face, which was good to keep my mommy guilt in check. But it was a tough balance of enjoying our time to focus on each other when we seemed to talk about or think about Jacob a lot of the time. I certainly don't want to turn into one of those couples whose kids grow up and leave home, and suddenly the couple realizes they have nothing in common because they didn't cultivate any other common interests apart from the kids. So while I could think about Jacob a lot, I tried to just appreciate the time we had together.
Interestingly, Craig may find out how a long absence pans out long before I will. He's currently in the process of trying to find a way to Prague, Czech Republic, for the World Indoor Lacrosse Championships. He's got plenty of good reasons to go, but so far none good enough for his trip to get funded. He won't go if he can't get the vast majority of the cost taken care of, but if he can, it'll mean 10 days away. I'm still coming to terms with that, as the urgency to go has ramped up only in the past few days, but it's a lot to think about. It's 10 days as a single parent, for one. It's also a long trip to a foreign country, which is always a concern. Heck, I get nervous when he goes to Boston or Philadelphia, let alone the West Coast or across an entire ocean. I've never traveled that far (neither has he) so I have very little knowledge to work off of in matters like this to convince myself that it's not a big deal and he'll be fine. And, of course, I'll admit that I am ridiculously jealous. I suppose I figured that we'd see Europe for the first time together. Now he might have this amazing adventure and I'll be sitting at home doing the same thing I do every single day...without the help and companionship that make it all a little more manageable. It's still not a sure thing, but it's certainly going to be on our minds for the next few weeks.
Being in Toronto once again reminded me of all the big dreams I had as a teenager, to live there in a fabulous condo overlooking the city and work somewhere awesome like the Hockey Hall of Fame. It's a great place for people-watching, and everyone seems to have a story. I love walking the busy streets, looking at the old buildings (and the new ones, for that matter), and dreaming of exploring all of the cool treasures the city has to offer. There probably isn't enough time or money to do it all justice, and Toronto is just one tiny corner of the world. While it's probably among the most accessible for us, even that seems to be a bit of a pipe dream. That's not even getting into the million other places I'd love to see, places I've heard about or seen via webcams, that will probably remain a dream for a very long time. I know I'm young and still have plenty of time, but I couldn't help but think on the way home....What happens when you have two distinctly different dreams in your world, and they can't both coexist? I've always dreamed of being married with kids, in a lovely house and a good job. But I've long dreamed of seeing the world, too. I guess since I've stepped into one dream the other one automatically goes on hold, but it's not always that easy to ignore. Don't worry, I'm not planning on running away like Rahna Reiko Rizzuto, the author of Hiroshima in the Morning, a book about how she left her family and took a decidedly non-traditional mother role when she decided the life wasn't really for her. But I won't lie, sometimes it's hard.
But when it all comes down to it, Jacob means everything to me. And knowing what I know now, I couldn't really change a thing. And so, home we came, ready to go back to our normal life after a couple days away. There's a certain simplicity about knowing where your home is, and being able to go back there and settle in seamlessly. I know I'm blessed to have experienced all I have. Parenthood involves a lot of give and take, but you can't really pick and choose. I know the path that I have chosen is a good one, but a peek now and then never hurts...it's a good reminder that there's more out there, and it can only get better to dream of seeing it with the people you love.