A Halloween away from my kids

For the first time in 27 years, I am spending Halloween alone, just me, no kids, no candy, no trick or treating, no bonfires, no sticky messes, no crying or fighting over candy bags, no face paints, no mess to clean. Just me alone in my apartment. A friend called me to check on me, and I couldn’t even express to her how I was feeling. Honestly, this entire month I have been just floating. Not really sure how I feel being away from my kids this long. I spent the first part of this year in Alabama from February to April, but I went home every weekend, or they came to me. This is the first time I have not seen them consecutively for 30-plus days.

If I am honest, which I plan to be, part of me feels good knowing they aren’t stuck in this tiny apartment with restrictions and cannot be entirely free. Part of me feels a sense of relief knowing at the end of a long, and I mean long, work day, I don’t have to also worry about coming home and being a mom. I can just grab something quick to eat and crash. Part of me feels so much grief, Trice is finally starting to talk, and I am missing it. I miss them eating smores and being a sticky mess. Seeing Trice eat his first smores through a phone was very hard. Then there is this entire side of me filled with so much guilt! I am their mommy. I am not there to make sure they are eating vegetables, to make sure they are doing school work, to make sure they aren’t overdoing the screen time, to make sure they are going to bed at a decent time, to make sure they are brushing their teeth every day, combing my girl’s hair, making sure the boys are putting on clean underwear, to help with first periods, to hug them when they are crying. To create ants on logs or Frankensteins out of vegetable trays. The truth is my husband can do all these things except explain the first period, but he is capable of all these things. In fact, he is doing all these things, maybe not limiting screen time as much, but most of these things. So why do I feel guilty? They aren’t being neglected.

The reality is my husband traveled during the last 3 years of his corporate career and the first year of opening our second location. I don’t remember him feeling guilty or at least expressing these feelings of guilt or worry. Without a shadow of a doubt, he knew the kids were okay and that I was taking care of them. I don’t remember feeling like he should be home. It’s just what we did. No one questioned it. No one asked him if it was hard being away from his wife and kids, no one asked him how he did it all, and no one commented about him needing to be home more. No one asked him who was doing the boy’s hair, no one asked him how he felt about missing Halloween, not that he ever missed Halloween, but you get the gist.

So, why do I feel so guilty? If I had to cut myself into a pie, I would say 60% of the pie would be guilt. The other 40% would be split between grief and relief. Why is my pie so full of guilt? I spent 18 years at home with my kids. My daughter has never been with anyone but me. One could say, I served my time, so what’s one month away? I don’t know. I don’t know how it will affect them in the future, if at all.

What I do know is my kids are OK. They didn’t miss the daily Halloween snacks I make yearly as much as I envisioned they would. They were just as happy baking smores and watching scary movies with daddy this year as they would have been if I had been there creating this elaborate day of events. Do they miss me, of course, but are they ok, yes!

The things I think my kids need, they really don’t need. They don’t need me for the things I am guilting myself over. My kids need stability, security, unconditional love, and nourishment. They need to know, without a shadow of a doubt, no matter if it’s me traveling or daddy traveling, they are ok and safe. Kids need security.

We tell ourselves they need all these extra things and that all the events, toys, trips, and other things we fill their lives and our time with are what they need, but they really don’t. You ever wonder how I kid with very little is so happy and turns out to be a great person? They had stability, security, and unconditional love. It wasn’t all the art projects or baking I did with my kids that gave them what they needed to survive through this time away from me. It was the unconditional love, the time of being present with them and not on my phone or doing other things, the cosleeping nights of holding them even when people said they needed to be in their own beds. It was the moment I let them yell and scream because they were upset about something that seemed trivial to me but significant to them. While other people told me they were being disrespectful.

As I watched my kids navigate their first Holiday without me, I saw strong, stable, healthy, happy kids. Kids that don’t actually need me physically present to feel me present. What I know now is that when I hold my kids in my arms again, I will turn off my phone even more and get down on the floor and play with them for 30 more minutes. I will read one more book, I will cosleep for as long as Eleven says, can I hold you. I will bake cookies not for the experience of baking cookies but for the moment to hear their stories and go into their world. I will sit on my teenager’s bed, talk about all the teenage stuff, and listen to who said what and did what. I will build more moments and fill their cups of unconditional love, stability, security, and nourishment up so that they will runneth over for the moments they can’t have me with them physically.

Happy Halloween!

And just for fun, here are some pictures from over the years!

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