Confessions Of A Traveling Parent

by Keenan McGrath
Originally Published: 

Leaving my family for a business trip is equal parts dread and excitement: I dread saying goodbye, waiting for the quivery lips and brimming eyes, timed almost perfectly to make me late walking out the door with a tear-stained collar and a carry-on full of guilt, but then I get on a plane.

I get on a plane, turn off my phone, put in my earplugs and *gasp* read a book! Like, a real book, without colorful illustrations or any information relating to the care and well-being of children. Upon disembarking, I head to a hotel, a glorious hotel, where I am the sole occupant of my room for an entire night. It doesn’t have to be a fancy hotel; I’m not that fussy. I don’t care if the bed has 200-thread count sheets as long as I am the only one in it. I don’t care if the AC rumbles or the toilet runs; I can sleep through any sound not made by a tiny human. And when I wake a full eight hours later in the center of a king-sized bed, not wedged between a snoring dog and a kid who kicks like Jackie Chan in his sleep, I will yawn and stretch and ignore the gym clothes dutifully packed in my suitcase to roll over and go back to sleep for an indulgent ninth hour.

When I finally arise, feeling the closest to human I have felt in half a decade, I shall turn on the television to the Today Show, and though I will wonder briefly about today’s adventures of Dora and her bilingual pals, I will catch up on actual world events and go into my day armed with more relevant knowledge than the Spanish translation of the word for cheetah (guepardo, by the way).

Of course, I will call the little imps before bed and make the appropriate grumblings about my grueling day of travel (maybe leaving out the part about the smooth flight and first class upgrade) and how urgently I want to get home to tuck them in and smell their sweet heads as I kiss them goodnight, but not before I go to a restaurant where I will dine either with other adults or in blissful isolation. No one will spill my drink. No one will pour the salt all over the table. No one will make spitballs out of straw wrappers. I will eat an entire meal without having to threaten anyone with the loss of an electronic device.

Later, I will recline on a bed that will not be pee-soaked in the morning by a midnight visitor with a leaky Pull-Up. I will wish briefly that I was home tonight, but then I will remember that would involve someone coming downstairs dying of thirst, and 10 minutes later needing a Band-Aid for a phantom injury, and 10 minutes later crying for a missing snuggie. Alas, I cannot solve those problems tonight, so instead I will drink a glass of wine and watch entire episodes of shows I know I’m recording on my DVR but may never get a chance to finish once I am back on Snuggie Patrol.

But after a night or two of gluttonous peace, the quiet sounds are boring and the bed feels too big, and I rush back home, proffering hugs, kisses and gifts hastily bought out of guilt in the airport. Back in the chaos of normalcy, I am overcome by the rush of love and excitement and am always very happy to be home.

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