Fail not for sorrow, falter not for sin,
But onward, upward, till the goal ye win.
- Francis Anne Kemble (1809-1893)
I did it. I cut the cord.
Five hours ago, I left Lil Mil with her grandparents and boarded a plane to New York City for five babyless days. Like pulling off a bandaid, leaving my 6 month old (who I’ve never been away from for more than 5 hours since she was born) for 5 days was a scary proposition. When it came time to do it, I hesitated. I dreamed up scenarios in which I wouldn’t have to do it at all. But, in the end, I ripped that sucker right off. And it hurt.
For about 5 seconds.
And then the reality set in: I HAVE FIVE DAYS TO MYSELF. And, just like that, the pain was gone.
+ + +
Do you remember the first time you left your baby for more than a day? Was it hard or easy or a little bit of both? Am I going to see you at BlogHer on Friday?
I am sitting at LAX, a sleeping child strapped to my chest, typing a blog post with one hand (the other is bloody from the umbrella stroller I have not yet learned to operate and am now terrified of closing).
This is not where I’m supposed to be right now.
I’m supposed to be on a plane, on my way to D.C. for a relaxing evening with Sister and Niece H. before our big international departure tomorrow afternoon. But thanks to an INSANELY CROWDED airport, hour long lines, and a computer system that won’t let you check bags in FOUR MINUTES after the 45 minute cut-off, I am here instead. Waiting for a flight that won’t take off for four hours, wondering HOW ON EARTH single parents do it.
Juggling a baby, a stroller, and two carry-ons (yes, I know, that was my first mistake, but I needed one for baby and one for book), is hard enough when you have four hands. It’s exponentially more difficult with only two.
So, in this moment, as I am doing my very best to embrace this unexpected and wholly unwelcome detour, I want to give a shout out to all the single ladies (and men) out there who do this on a regular basis (including you, Sis). I don’t know how you do it. And by “it,” I mean pee. No, seriously. I’m asking.
I’m not sure who the woman was.
She looked a little like me. Except that I would never wear sweatpants to the grocery store. Okay, I would. But only if they were clean. This woman didn’t have such a rule. This woman was wearing the same sweatpants she’d slept in, an a T-shirt her baby had barfed on. More than once, it seemed.
The woman’s baby, on the other hand, looked adorable. Clean. No trace of snot or spit-up or barf or poop. Giggling in a mint green onesie with the word laugh scribbled across the front. White pants.
Despite her slovenly appearance, the woman with the cute baby was smiling. Mostly at her baby, but at the world, too.
As she was swiping her credit card in the checkout line, the girl bagging this woman’s groceries peered down at the baby in the woman’s cart and smiled. The baby smiled back.
“What a happy baby!” The girl bagging groceries said. “And what cute white pants!
The woman smiled at her baby. “We’ve already had one explosive poop today,” she told the girl, ”so we’re hoping the white pants are safe.”
“Oh,” said the girl bagging groceries, with a polite, I-have-no-idea-how-to-respond-to-that nod.
And then the woman with the baby realized something: she had just, with a single sentence, turned a fashion compliment into a conversation about poop.
Who was that woman? I’ll never know, because in that moment, on a Saturday afternoon at Albertsons, she disappeared.
The woman who walked out of that grocery store two minutes later was just as disheveled, her sweatpants just as dirty, and her baby just as cute. But unlike the woman she’d been seconds before, this woman will not talk about poop with strangers.
I have to draw the line somewhere.