Last year, around this time, I took Ethan on our very first annual "special Mommy and Ethan trip". It was one of the best weekends I've ever had. Until this summer.
Once again, Ethan and I packed up the car and headed to Tennessee, this time to Sevierville to spend two nights at Wilderness at the Smokies, an indoor/outdoor water park resort. What great fun we had! Having Ethan all to myself for two whole days turned even the ride up into an adventure.
We made unplanned stops along the way. (Like this one, at Popcorn Haven, where they have over 100 flavors of popcorn!)
We also stopped at Cracker Barrel for a stretching and potty break when Ethan couldn't feel his bum anymore (and admittedly, neither could I). Numb behind and all, the drive up to Tennessee was one of the best parts about the trip. Something about actually being on the trip that I so looked forward to and having the whole weekend still stretched out in front us felt magical to me.
We played Twenty Questions, we played I Spy. Ethan watched a movie. We listened to music. We munched on our popcorn (Ethan chose "rainbow" and I chose "dill pickle"). He asked me if G-d made the dinosaurs. He asked me if G-d made the meteor (What meteor, Ethan? The meteor that killed the dinosaurs, Mommy.) He asked me if he has to ask G-d for patience or if G-d just knows to give him patience without being asked. I wracked my brain for good answers and prayed for easier questions and wondered why other moms get little boys that ask questions about boogers and laser guns.
When we drove up to our hotel, Ethan was as excited as I hoped he would be. The water park, from the angle we drove in at, looked extra-impressive and Ethan couldn't stop staring out the window of the lobby while I was checking in. His excitement and joy was completely contagious. And I loved being able to be focused enough on him to be able to not only pick up on it, but also to share it.
I love being a mother to two boys. And my love for each of them is boundless. But I feel like I spend a lot of my time in "management mode"...managing the situation, managing their stuff, managing their meals, managing our schedule...this weekend with Ethan was, for me, all about being in the moment rather than managing the moment. Of course, the fact that I was away from home and from my responsibilities made this oh so much easier to do...which is one of the main reasons that I elected to go on this trip every year with Ethan (and will do the same with Eli once he gets a little older).
I could focus JUST on Ethan...on his sweet smile, on the silly things that he said, on the way his small hands felt in mine, on the way he smelled after he's been in the sun. I could do what he wanted to do without trying to squeeze it in during Eli's nap time, or in between laundry loads, or before making dinner. I could slow down to keep his pace instead of dragging him by the arm to keep up with mine. I wasn't interrupted by anyone else in the middle of one of his stories. I had all the patience in the world for all of his questions.
We played in the water park for hours. I followed him around from slide to slide, from pool to pool. We played mini golf and floated on the lazy river. I let him open and close the sliding glass door as many times as he wanted. I obliged when he asked me to run down the hallway with him. We ate ice cream and sno-cones. And stayed up late playing Guess Who? and watching America's Funniest Videos. We rode the shuttle bus around the hotel even when we didn't need to be shuttled anywhere. For the ENTIRE weekend, I didn't have to hear myself say "Just a minute." Not even once. And you know, I liked myself a heck of a lot better. For a whole weekend I was the kind of mom I wish I could always, always be.
I had a pit in my stomach when it was time to go, surprised at how fast our special little weekend had come and gone. I wanted to stay in our little world there forever and play and eat junk and be free from our real life. But there's the key - that's not real life. As much as I want to let Ethan open and close sliding glass doors as much as he wants, the truth is that it was really loud and probably disruptive to the rooms next to us...especially at 10:30 at night. My job is to teach him manners so at some point, even if we lived at the Wilderness at the Smokies hotel (which he did ask if we could do) I would have to explain to him why he couldn't do that. We wouldn't be able to stay up late every night playing games and watching t.v. because he would still have to go to school at some point and eventually, we would have to eat a vegetable or two to maintain our health.
So while I won't beat myself up for not being a fun mom all the time, I did learn from this trip that I need to loosen up a bit on some of the rules, and more importantly, when I'm spending time with Ethan (and Eli, too), I need to do a much better job of not managing the moment, but being in the moment. And while I'm attempting to put that into practice, I'll also be counting down the days until next year's trip.