This week I put my boys on a plane for New Zealand. It’s their annual trip to visit their Grandma, Auntie and Uncle. From here that’s a three hour flight. They’re away for a whole week. They were excited but a little nervous. I waved them off with an over-optimistic smile while my stomach lurched and rolled.
The house is silent. Apart from the tapping of computer keys in my husband’s office. The heat is oppressive and hangs in clumps, distant birds call reluctantly. No cries of ‘Mum! Where’s my red t-shirt with the dog on it?’. ‘Can we play on the Wii?’ ‘Will you read me a story?’ No one needs me. Those cries remain, echoing through my head, stripped violently from the airwaves. I can still hear them.
The husband doesn’t notice. Doesn’t say anything. He likes the peace. He misses them but he’s not pining.
Is this what it’s going to be like in five, eight, ten years time? Just us aging parents and a dog once loved by children. The bathroom floor clear of wet towels and swimmers. No squabbling. No endless chatter. Like now.
A mini-break by the sea. Listing on the sand, swimming in the ocean and the river. A perfectly grown-up dinner. Lying on the strange bed under a different fan. Breakfast then home to our empty house. Means we took advantage, didn’t waste our time as a couple while the boys were hundreds and hundreds of miles away. Best not think about distance. Day 3. Time rolls on but distance stays the same. For now.
We hear from the family, the boys are having fun. I’ve heard it said that when their kids are away parents feel younger, energised and free. Not me. I feel older. Are there extra lines on my dehydrated face or do I just have more time to stare at them? I had no idea when I yearned for a baby quite how my life would change. How terrified I could be of school camps and journeys they took in other people’s cars. It all started with my head lying on a sleeping baby’s chest. Checking he was still breathing. Who knew that the child that kept you awake with snorting and mewling could then become so quiet, just as you drifted off to sleep.
And the happiness I would feel as my bright eyed toddler negotiated around the furniture. Surely he was the most beautiful baby in the known world. Christmas faces glowing, grubby mud pie cheeks. Their first taste of ice cream. They haven’t even seen the snow yet as they clock up another school year in what appears to be a matter of months.
Bring home your dirty washing, your unaccompanied minor tags like Paddington Bear. Sing out of tune and tell stories in real time. And stay.