“…my children are not truly mine. They don’t belong to me; they’ve simply been entrusted to me. They are a gift life gave to me, but one that I must one day give back to life. They must grow up and go away and that is as it should be.”
My mind is a big old scramble right now.
Queue the tears, right?
This excerpt is from The Passion of Parenting. It was the piece, from just before a certain weekend, in a certain year, that absolutely wrecked me as I was processing how, exactly, being divorced from the kids’ dad was going to ‘work.’ The kids were 1, 3 and 5 years old. I was a stay-at-home mom that had given up a great career to be ‘that mom.’ I had rarely spent a night away from them – only to give birth to their siblings! But part of what divorce means is shared custody….for better and for worse. (You get the joke, right?)
The Passion of Parenting genuinely touched me. It broke my heart and gave me hope simultaneously.
“Letting go is hard for me to do. I must let go, but my heart feels hollow. I can’t imagine me without them.”
That freaking hollow is just so relatable. To all of us, for whatever the circumstances: divorce, work, responsibilities, life, kids growing up – all of it.
I’ve only been at this parent thing for nine years now. But I’ve been at it for nine full years, the first six of which were non-stop day-in, day-out, no breaks and I liked it like that. And then I made a choice for my own life, one that effectively created this seemingly gigantic void where every other weekend I am physically without my kids, without my heart. And Thursday nights. And half of all holidays and vacations. And they are without their mom. And that?
I remember reading once that you get less than 1000 Saturdays before your kids leave for college, so use them well. I checked the math. It’s true.
That’s just not that many.
And I cut mine in half.
What the f&%# was I thinking???
Hollow is a word that I think describes well how that makes my heart feel.
And yet…I read that NYT piece and thought, ok…maybe this is an opportunity (or at least I better make it one).
First, make them count. Cliche, right? But when you can actually assign a numeric value to time – and you appreciate that there isn’t much of it – holy moly does it become exponentially more meaningful.
And then: own this crazy notion (from NYT author’s brilliant mother) that my kids don’t belong to me. Own that it is simply my job to do the absolute best I can while they are with me, and then to let them go. And DO IT.
Next: spend my hollow/off time so well that I am the absolute best person I can be both without them and when I am with them….and genuinely engage in being their mom – with the determination and focus I gain from whatever I do in the hollow.
And finally: APPRECIATE that I will get 500 practice tries at turning them out before I have to actually do it when they go to college or life or wherever they go. Maybe then, it won’t feel so hollow. (That’s just the optimist in me.)
The realist knows it’ll still suck.
So almost four years into this self imposed void of divorce and custody sharing, I’m trying. I genuinely make it count when I am with the kids and I also try to genuinely make it count when I’m not. Which is how I landed in Charleston, South Carolina and Nicaragua last month, for spring break, without the kids.
Ten Days without kids. Can you imagine? EVERYONE – like every single one of my girlfriends – has a DIFFERENT response to that idea, ranging from full-on horror to dream-come-true. The custody schedule says spring break every other year, last day of school through return to school and so I had a gigantic, first ever, 10-day-hollow-void to fill and so:
Romantic weekend getaway to Charleston, South Carolina, and a Girlfriends Adventure in Nicaragua.
And absolutely A-MAZING.
We stayed on the Peninsula and chose King Charles Inn for location and walkability. We ate, ate, and ate some more. SNOB was our first dinner and felt like a place that probably every local has celebrated a life event. It was super fun to see so many families, so many generations all enjoying one another. 167 Raw was my favorite late afternoon lunch/dinner. We sat at the bar which is a great spot where you too can be entertained by the awesome staff while eating delicious food! There was also a great patio area. We had an amazing brunch at HUSK which is a gorgeous setting and the food was really, really special-this was definitely the ‘foodie’ spot. Leon’s was J’s favorite fried chicken dinner because who doesn’t need fried chicken from the South? And we grabbed a quick lunch at Amen Street before taking-off.
We walked an amazing tour with a fantastic guide, which was really a great way to appreciate the history, architecture and to learn some fun local stories, and also to hear some hard to process ones from our nation’s past.
My very, very favorite discovery while walking the streets of Charleston was that so many of the beautiful historic homes on the Peninsula have a ‘false front door’ that faces the street. The actual front door is in the middle of the side of the home, on a long porch, usually with a beautiful garden, that typically faces away from the sun. And most of them, have rocking chairs. When the ‘false door is open’ neighbors come sit and chat. And often, folks with beautiful gardens in certain neighborhoods will open that door to allow the general public to tour their gardens! Even when the doors aren’t open, as you walk the streets, it’s just so fun to peak through these secret openings and to see the beautiful homes and gardens inside, families and friends sitting, rocking, laughing, and chatting. Covered porches+breezeways+correct positioning for shade+lots of garden space+rocking chairs=Hot Afternoon Perfection.
Also super fun to me is when design respects history, but adds fun modern touches. There were some fantastic oversized light fixtures on a sweet tiny home that were just gorgeous!!! I love when people play with proportion!
Oh…and super fun? Joggling Boards on those same romantic porches! Yup. They are a thing. In addition to being beautiful, and fun, and a having great history, there are also stories: that they count as exercise, that they’ll fix your back, and that if two lovebirds sit on either end they can joggle themselves until they meet in the middle and then smooch!
After our tour, and a snack, J took me back to this gorgeous dress boutique, Mason Hosker, just to try things on for fun. He picked the red one. And J is right, there’s nothing like a romantic getaway to ‘refresh’ the heart and soul, so thank you for this, you sweet man. It really was a totally amazing gift to share that weekend with you. And I love my new dress; it makes me feel special, genuinely.
On our arrival day in Managua, with our amazing driver (who speaks no English) and two amazing girlfriends (who like me, speak no Spanish), the help of google translate and a fantastic trip planner (thank you L for always making the most of everywhere we go!!!) we toured, in one long day: The Market, Cathedral, Park, and Port.
Heck yes, that’s a NINO Brand AVA dress on O
Then we drove to Leon, the oldest city in Central America and stayed in a beautiful old convent!
We walked miles and miles up and down every street in town.
And went to see every church. Because that’s just what one does in Nicaragua during Holy week. When mass let out of the Cathedral as we were sitting down to dinner in an outdoor cafe, we were absolutely silenced and overwhelmed with the awesomeness that was the entire mass procession, including a 10 foot Jesus statue, through the town square, full costume, somber trombone and drums, and the entire community. Beautiful. And humbling.
We went for a long run/walk at 5:30am and got to see kids going to school, adults going to work, all the ‘bustle.’ And then we stumbled into the sweetest cafe ever, before taking-off (same car, same great driver) for Mukul Resort on the Emerald Coast.
Managua was our city dose, Leon our history, and this was our play/relax/repeat time on this trip. Mukul is owned by the wealthiest family in Nicaragua, the Flor de Cana family. They have homes on the beachfront and as it’s rumored so too will the Go-Pro guy. It’s over-the-top, for sure. There are 37 private guest villas built into the cliffside and beautiful shared central spaces that are designed so perfectly to make you feel like you are in a family home. And the staff, who it was explained to us are the folks that once farmed that same land and now have medical care, education for their children, and a more promising economic future, absolutely treat all guests as if they are family. Ok, there were a few details in planning outings that might have been lost in translation, half our blame and among many #reasonsiregretnotspeakingspanish.
We took surf lessons daily, practiced yoga in a cliffside hut, went on an adventure hike, played some tennis, played in a golf outing on their brand new course, got the best sports massage I’ve ever had, and ate and drank the days and nights away. It was glorious. I would love to bring the whole family back here one day, for sure. A girl can dream, right?
On our way from Grenada back to Managua to make the trip home, we went to Masaya, you know, just to see an active volcano. It’s a whole ‘thing’. You wait in a car line, pay an entrance to the park, wait in another car line (this is the not so sexy part,) and then they let you in, 70 people at a time, for 15 minutes each. So this isn’t a romantic process…but SO, SO, SO worth it. This was the last thing we saw before making our trip home. Majestic. Larger than life. Wonderful.
L and O, I will treasure this trip forever and appreciate the two of you partnering to make a perfectly balanced experience for me!
I walked back in my own front door at 8:30am Monday morning, day 11, and at 8:42am school called to come get a sweet kid with pink-eye. And bam. Just like that, back to the mom grind; welcome home, right?
It was so, so, so sweet to pick the kids up from school after all that time away (aside from the #notquick trip to the pediatrician), and just to hug and love them. But it was also sweet to feel like a fuller, refreshed mom, with a larger life view for having just stepped out of my own for a little bit and having been reminded of what really matters through all of the beautiful people that we encountered on both trips.
Life is short. And beautiful. Away. And home.
Let’s gather our people, take a seat, relax, rock (in these), love, and just be.
ps: here’s the short list for quick reference:
Stay: King Charles Inn
Tour: Charleston Sole
Stay, Eat, Surf, Hike, Yoga, Tennis, Golf, Spa, Chill, Emerald Coast: Mukul
For a day trip: Masaya