A quiet house with boys on vacation

My house and my life have been strangely quiet the last few days.

I keep looking at my watch, trying to remember from where and when I’m supposed to pick up my sons.

I’m not.

They are on vacation with my parents.

It’s their first time away from me and my husband for any significant period of time. OK, it’s five days, but it feels like a long time to us.

Especially when all I have to do is pull out the Play-Doh or crayons to keep my 4-year-old daughter busy for an hour while I water the garden. I keep looking over my shoulder waiting for an interruption that never comes.

Despite her declaration several days ago that if her brothers got to go up north with Nanny and Bumpa without her, she was going to “stinkin’ cry,” my daughter appears to be reveling in having me and her dad all to herself. She’s been incredibly well-behaved.

Which leaves me wondering what to do with myself.

I hardly recognize my life when it doesn’t involve driving to baseball games, breaking up fights, fixing broken toys, hollering at children to get in the bathtub, reminding them to make their beds and making dinner for a family of five. There’s no arguing over whether they should watch “Barney” or “iCarly.” There are no squabbling over what to have for lunch. There are no toys littering my backyard. There is only one little pair of shoes sitting outside the closet instead of in it.

It’s less chaotic, but oddly stressful to have my boys gone.

The first day was pretty hard. All packed and excited to begin their adventure with my parents, my boys gave me big hugs and smiles before they left.

About 8 hours later, near bedtime, my 7-year-old called me crying. He wanted me to drive 300 miles to come get him. I could have predicted his tears.

The only other time my kids have ever been away from me and my husband is when they were 1 and 3 and we went to Mexico for a long weekend. They stayed with my parents and really didn’t seem to mind the separation.

It’s been six years and in that time we haven’t been apart for more than a one-night sleepover at a friend’s house.

I know this is a good experience for my boys. I don’t doubt that it’s good for them to have a break from our hovering and for us to have a break from their chaos.

But that doesn’t mean it’s not just a little hard for all of us.

When my 7-year-old called crying, I reassured him we would be together in a few days. I told him I loved him and said, “Sweet dreams,” just like I do at bedtime at home. He seemed to recover and was a happy kid again by morning.

On the second night there was no tearful call. Instead they chattered away to me about how they went fishing, but didn’t catch anything, and how they were having fried chicken for dinner.

It seemed to me they had grown up a bit in the 48 hours since they left our driveway. I thought I would be sad that they didn’t miss me, but I wasn’t. I’m their mom.

They’re growing up.

And that’s the way it’s supposed to be.

• Mommy Talk is written by reporter Marci Laehr Tenuta. Her clomns can be found at http://www.journaltimes.com/mom

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