“It was SO much fun!!” they cried in a collective chorus as they greeted me. My daughters had just returned to my house after 12 days away with their dad, stepmom, and his extended family. I unabashedly let the tears fall down my face as I pulled them in for a tight three-way hug.
Knowing my chatty girls, I had prepared for uninterrupted time for them to tell me their tales. I knew if I wanted to get the details of the trip, I had to strike while they were hot and before they got to their friends on their phones. I had proudly planned ahead. We plopped down on the sofa together as they predictably started squabbling over who would tell something first.
There was swimming, golfing (more specifically getting to drive the golf cart), badminton in the dark, a haunted house adventure, fishing for hours, a heartfelt reading, and tears at their grandparents’ 50th wedding anniversary ceremony where they renewed their vows. There were inside jokes to be shared, funny family spats to be retold, and new favorite foods to be recounted.
They went on for a solid two hours. I barely got a bathroom break. They showed me videos of their fun, delighted in all of their story details, and seemed to never pause for a breath.
I had not planned for my feelings. I had not planned for the sadness to wash over me I as I fondly recalled being in that same fishing spot with their grandpa teaching me how to fish or being in the kitchen with their nana laughing at her stories. I missed this former family tradition in which I used to be included.
I gulped down jealousy as my girls talked about new experiences that I missed and detailed all the fun they had – without me. I set aside annoyances when they inadvertently told me a slight they had experienced from another family member – all normal occurrences after days spent in confined spaces with each other.
I could have been snarky. It would have been so easy to sneak in a snide comment or two. I could have been dismissive and said “that sounds great” and moved on with my day until I was reminded again that my contribution to them at this time was allowing them to live this rich vacation all over again. It simply wasn’t about me. It was about them absolutely ecstatic to see me and share everything. It was about me holding the space wide open in positivity to support their time and experiences with their dad and his family. It was about knowing that a precious privilege of parenting is being present in today’s moment despite being absent from any other.