Friday, July 8, 2016

How I'm Different

Just boarded an airplane with tears in my eyes. Even as I soaked up the peace and the swift pace of my travel through airport security and boarding , I cried because I wanted to shout to every person I passed, every one that didn't notice me, "I have a baby! I'm a mom and my kid should be here, driving me (and many of you) completely crazy."

It was the first time I realized how differently people treat you, for better or worse, when you move through life with a baby. At the store, at a party, in the airport.

When he is with me, I seem to only notice the judgmental stares and frustrated sighs from people around me. I imagine their inner dialogues of disdain for my parenting and my child's behavior. I have a motherly, apologetic, you-know-how-it-is look in my back pocket to pull out for such occasions.

But now that I'm without him, I am realizing just how many smiles, laughs, hellos and compliments I am used to getting when I'm with him. My extroverted toddler performer says hi to everyone we see, dances with abandon and endears himself to many. He's much more likable than I am (at least when he's not throwing a tantrum in a loud and confined space). In the brief time we have been privileged to parent him, I have assigned myself with his likability and friendliness and thus, feel a part of me is missing (in many ways, it is) when I don't have him with me.

Having a baby changed me dramatically, but it also changed the way other people see and engage with me. With a kid, I am never invisible. Either smiled at and doted on or subject to annoying sighs and glances, everywhere we go together, people notice. When I'm alone, I am invisible. Or at least, I am an equal face in the masses.

Time away from him is a really good and healthy thing for me. (That's what I'm telling myself.) E is coming up on 22 months, and the longest I've spent apart from him up until now is 24 hours.

This time it is not by choice though. No, the night before our long-awaited family reunion trip to Chicago, a fever appeared and then the tell-tale bumps on his face, fingers and feet. It was bound to happen - half of his daycare class came down with the virus in the past week - but the timing was cruel. No chance he will recover in time to enjoy any of the trip and no telling how bad it will get before it gets better.

So now I am flying solo and trying to spend these four hours and next four days figuring out my identity as a person and a woman and a wife without my husband and a mother without my child (thankful to have one with me that can't escape!). You know, first day stuff. Wish me luck.

Bless you, Southwest Airlines for your no fee system and incredible customer service. I'm always disappointed when I fly with anyone else.

The baby behind me is screaming. I think I owe it to her mom to provide an unhelpful, but friendly smile and nod. I-know-how-it-is, comrade. I know. That's what being in the 'mom club' is all about, right?

P.S. I have a book. I read >1 page. What is life?!

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