“I think I did really well, don’t you?”
That was the first thing I said to LG after sending M off on her week-long adventure — without me. With a quick hug and kiss at the balmy Lihue airport 10 days ago, she was on her way. And I was on mine.
LG nodded his head and smiled. I took a deep breath. This was it. My daughter was off with her friend’s grandparents to Hanalei Beach for five nights and six days.
If M was nervous, she sure hadn’t shown it. Twenty minutes ago, she’d jumped into her car and waved me off. Her mind seemed to be on her first destination: the pool! (I later found out that she jumped in with her friend, first thing, with their clothes on!).
As we headed in the opposite direction — to hike on the southern side of Kauai — I was proud. See, I’d kept my emotions in check. I hadn’t shed a tear. Everything was perfect: I was in Hawaii with a man whom I loved. We could do anything we wanted to: swim in the Pacific Ocean, eat fish tacos and drink beer, walk on the sand barefoot…. So, why did I feel so empty? Why couldn’t I just smile and get with the program?
LG reached out and held my hand. “Are you okay?”
I was fine, just fine. “Yeah! I’m great!”
But he could tell that I wasn’t. (Later, he’d use the word “sulky” to describe me.) Maybe I was just hungry; or tired; or hot. Maybe I needed some time to adjust to the climate. But I was in Hawaii! What the heck was wrong with me?
“I could tell that you missed M,” LG told me later. “But I was afraid that if I said something, you’d snap.”
The truth is: I felt anxious. But I was too darn ashamed to admit it. Clearly, my kid was fine with a week apart. Why couldn’t I just sit back, have a Mai Tai, and enjoy this island life?
LG didn’t hide how psyched he was: after dating for six months, we’d only had a handful of occasional kid-free nights together. And those were just 24-hour slots. Now we had six whole days!
As we headed down along the highway, LG asked what I wanted to do first. “I don’t know,” I said.
Humph. I always know what I want to do. If there’s one trait I’m proud of, it’s my decisiveness. Why couldn’t I just “woman up” and have fun? Admitting that I was “M sick” was just too embarrassing.
Looking back now — after a good cry that first day — I see what was happening. Almost a decade into single motherhood, being a mom was such a huge part of who I was. Ask me anything about my life, and the first thing you’ll hear is: “I’m a mom.”
But I didn’t know how to be ME anymore. Ridiculous, isn’t it? Please tell me you’ve had a similar identity crisis before. Even if it was just for two minutes.
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