A benign case of Stockholm syndrome? Some of what I’ve learned this summer.

Big Boys Week

We touched down on the outskirts of my hometown knowing that eager arms waited close by to ensnare the three of us in warm hugs. From within that circle of loving embrace, profuse excitement bubbled up as if we were a magic cauldron whose power only worked when none of the five was absent. After a short, familiar drive, we walked through the back door and settled in, and it was clear that no time had passed; this truly was a second home. Is a second home.

Mom, Dad, Jack, Ol, Tom and I always look forward to the annual summertime Big Boys Week in Louisiana. My parents relish unhurried time with the boys, especially in, but not because of, our absence. Pretty much every grandparent with whom I’ve ever spoken has said that the relationship (s)he can forge with his/her grandkids when the parental middlepeople aren’t around is wonderful and different from the one enjoyed when everyone’s together. I love watching my parents work as a team with the boys. They are so truly happy to be with them, delighted with their silliness and charm and interests.

And it’s completely mutual. The boys and my parents have always shared a particularly close connection, a real point of satisfaction and pride for us all, particularly in light of the geographic distance between Louisiana and DC as that makes visits more infrequent than we’d all like. But in all the important ways, the distance has never seemed to matter, and so the kids look forward to their Big Boys stay with such enthusiasm every year. They get to fish and swim and eat junk food and spend endless hours with people they love who sincerely want to spend endless hours right back with them. Who doesn’t win in this scenario?!

Naturally, Tom and I also go bonkers over the idea of Big Boys Week because it means having a protracted (and free!!) holiday to ourselves. Usually we go away for some of it, and part of me is desperately missing the Union Square Greenmarket right now because New York is our most common destination, but this time decided to stay put because, in short, we are deeply tired. I have gotten done this week many, many things I never have time for and have so enjoyed the hours I could spend accomplishing them. Jack’s room is now unrecognizable in a nicely non-hoarder way, and I bought him new sheets to celebrate all the ludicrous cleanliness happening in there. I spent some hours today setting up a fish tank in Ol’s room- he’s been asking, and since the dumb hermit crabs died, why not?

I really don’t think the kids miss me a lick while they’re in Louisiana. I’ve had to get used to that, but as Tom reminded me last night, “Em, they pretty much molest you at all times when you’re together, so why don’t you just enjoy a molestation-free week and know that it’ll start up again soon.” Point taken, and really, I should be and truly am very proud of how independent the kids are. They are usually completely open to new experiences and times away, and I think that’s a reflection of their security in our mother-child relationship and of their own senses of self-confidence.

Mom’s Experience of Big Boys Week

I, on the other hand, have missed them more this week than I usually do, seriously leading me to wonder if I’m suffering from some sort of benign form of Stockholm syndrome. I mean, honestly, sometimes when we’re apart, I don’t miss them at all, so what gives? Many a parent spends a decent amount of time day-dreaming about time off and space for self, and then, when we get it, we sometimes miss our tiny captors. It’s enough to make me feel like I’m slightly nuts, but I guess that’s maternal love for you. A few nights back, I would have given anything to sneak into the boys’ rooms and kiss their warm cheeks and slightly sweaty brows. To place my hand in theirs and feel their fingers curl gently, reflexively around mine. Instead, I put my ear plugs in and slept the night away which was pretty dreamy too, but still…

It’s been harder than usual to let down and relax this past week. Don’t get me wrong, I havedefinitely lazed about and savored every second of uninterrupted solitude and time with T and friends. But it’s been a sort of effort that, in my opinion, comes from my body having to relearn how to not be so “on” all.the.time. In the absence of constant and important responsibilities and the energy and adrenalin needed to power through and on behalf of those, my body is confused: “What is this thing called free time? What do you want me to do right now?” I didn’t feel this at BlogHer because that conference is a minute-to-minute ride in the best of ways. There, I’m on, but in a much different way than when at home.

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