Taipei Travels: On separation anxiety

A couple of years ago, the hubs proposed the idea that we would take an us-only trip for a change and leave the boys behind. Back then, the boys were both quite young, and the mere thought of leaving them on their own – granted with loving grandparents to care for them – made me tearful. The idea was swiftly passed on by… but earlier this year, as we reconsidered the option, we both felt that perhaps it was time to try, with the boys a bit older and our parents willing and able to help us look after them. This year, we celebrate 10 years of marriage too, so we thought it would be a fitting milestone trip to make as a couple – kind of like a “second honeymoon”!

Even though it was a mutual decision to leave the boys behind for our trip this round, and even though we had a few months to prepare them and ourselves for the separation, I did feel more and more anxious as the date of our trip drew nearer. I imagined the boys waking up at night and feeling sad because daddy and mummy weren’t around. I thought of all the ways my parents would (understandably) give in to their every whim and fancy while we were gone. I worried about them falling sick or getting into an accident, or worse still, something happening to us, and that we might never see them again.

Yes, I know, I am too melodramatic and imaginative for my own good. You know, my older boy is exactly like me in this regard. One week before our trip, he couldn’t get to sleep. When I asked him what he was thinking about, he tearfully told me, “Mummy, what if your plane crashes and then I won’t see you anymore?” And my heart broke a little, because I feel you, David, I feel you.

And me being me, I couldn’t just assure him 100% with a smile on my face that “Don’t worry, nothing will happen to us. Everything will be ok.” And him being him, that answer wouldn’t have reassured him much anyway.

Instead I told him that very very few planes crash, and that the pilots are all very skilful and know how to help the plane to land safely even if there’s a problem. And we talked about how God is with us all the time, even when we are waaaaay up high in the sky. And that God watches over his people and loves them very much, including our family. No matter what happens, He is always there. I didn’t want to promise him that nothing bad would ever happen, but I did want to reassure his little heart as best I could.

Meanwhile, his little brother didn’t seem to be affected at all by the news of our upcoming trip. On hindsight, we think he just didn’t understand exactly what we were telling them. And so, the morning that we left, he promptly burst into tears and clung to the hubby and didn’t want us to go. Poor little guy…thankfully, he was willing to be cuddled and hugged by his grandpa, and our last heart-breaking view of him was him sobbing into grandpa’s shirt as they took the escalator down to McDonalds for breakfast…

Call it serendipity or coincidence, or as I see it, a miracle, but the boys and my parents later ran into our church youth at McDonalds, and we later learnt from them via WhatsApp that they were up to their usual antics and running about as usual. It was SUCH a load off our hearts to know that, and we left with a happy and thankful heart. 🙂

I had honestly thought that I would miss the boys a lot during our trip, but you know, it really wasn’t as bad as I’d imagined. In fact, other than that tearful departure, and a few times during the trip when we saw something and exclaimed “David would love that!” or “If Daryl were here ah…”, we didn’t really think about them most of the day. And there were the nightly FaceTime sessions to look forward to, when our hearts were filled with joy as we saw their smiling faces on our small phone screen and heard their happy chatter about the awesome things they had done that day.

I guess it’s a little like the first day of school. The separation anxiety is very real, for parents (ok more so for me) and children, but once the first hurdle is crossed, it really does get a whole lot easier very quickly. And knowing that they were having such a great time with their grandparents also helped me overcome that mummy guilt I felt at not bringing them along with us for a fun time.

Being just us on holiday without the kids was truly a different experience. Our itinerary was full of pot holes and changes of plans, and we were rained out almost every day of the trip. But just being able to hold hands and take our time, to stop and go whenever we felt like it and not have to think about toilet stops and nap times, and to have FOUR NIGHTS OF UNINTERRUPTED SLEEP…

There were many moments when I missed their chatter. The hubs is an introvert by nature, and quite comfortable with silence. In a way, I had to re-learn to be comfortable with that silence once more. The first day, I kept trying to make conversation, because I suppose I was feeling the emptiness of their absence. But over the second day, I grew comfortable again with the spaces and silence between us, and the pockets of conversation we could enjoy about nothing in particular and everything that we saw. It was different, but special. In some way, it felt like our dating days all over again.

As our plane entered Singapore air space again on the flight home, I looked out of the window at the familiar landscape, and it truly felt like coming home in a new way. A special way. Knowing that two very precious little boys would be waiting for us at home, to welcome us back. The excitement and anticipation was so real, so tangible.

And as the hubs turned the lock in the front door, we heard their scampering little feet and shouts of “Daddy! Mummy!” The door opened, and two pyjama-clad tousled-hair fellows jumped into our arms – the most adorable jumping beans you ever did see. “Mummy!! I missed you so much!” – that was David. “Daddy!! See what Grandpa bought for me! See!” – that was Daryl. And coming up behind them, my parents, with big smiles on their tired faces and arms wide to welcome us home too.

Best. Homecoming. Ever.

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Stay tuned for more Taipei Travels posts, where I’ll share about the places we visited and some suggestions for you if you’re planning a holiday there anytime soon!

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