I’m in Paris! For the first time in seven years! Without kids! With my mom and dad! And really sadly, without my hubby. How did this happen?!
It’s called the miracle of flight.
I kid. That’s a different kind of how.
Over a year ago my parents and their best friends booked a house in Italy for a week, and they had an extra bedroom, so they invited my sister Erin. They later invited me too, assuming I was an easy no, because HELLO, I had four kids under four. (But they were wrong – joke’s on them.)
I prayed and waited for an answer from the Lord about whether to take such a big trip when my kiddos were so little, and He answered resoundingly when Mike spontaneously told me that he was taking time off and he wanted me to go. He has traveled fairly extensively for work throughout most of our parenting years and he was ready to stay home with the kids and let me take an adventure.
I verbally committed to the trip, though I was filled with anxiety at the thought of over a week away from my babes, halfway around the world. Since we’ve had kids we’ve taken a weekend away once or twice a year, but the most we’ve ever been away is three nights last March for Mike’s work trip together. This was a big leap from that.
The best part about waiting for the trip was dreaming about it; if I was having a long day with the kids, or was feeling overwhelmed with the work of caring for them, I’d fill my mind with images of walking the streets of Cortona with a gelato and an approaching happy hour overlooking a vineyard.
I mean, come on.
Then…enter Joey, my sister’s first and forever love and the answer to the longest continual prayer of my life. When they got engaged after only four months, I didn’t hesitate to tell him he’d also won a trip to Italy. No part of me held back when I gave him that trip, because the blessing of his arrival in my sister’s life (and ours!) magnificently eclipsed one silly vacation.
I felt like not going on the trip didn’t actually diminish the joy it had already brought me for almost a year. The happy anticipation lifted me in harder moments, and not flying to Italy didn’t take that away. Of course I was bummed not to go, but I couldn’t feel sad when the reason I wasn’t going was because my sister was honeymooning. What could make me happier than that?
Fast forward to about a month ago, when my parents told me they were adding a leg to the trip. They were going to Paris first, a new place for them, and while Erin and Joey would be going too, they’d be staying somewhere separately and doing things alone, because honeymooning with your parents generally isn’t done.
Then my mom casually asked, as I could tell it was just occurring to her, why don’t you just come for that part of the trip? Come to Paris for six days and then fly home, and we’ll go on to Cortona.
I did Mom Brain, naturally. No, no, I couldn’t do that. It’s only a month from now! I have the kids! Mike has work. No, no, of course not. Thanks for offering, but it’s just impossible.
Except it wasn’t. Mike started saying, “I have the days off, we were already prepared for this…you should go.” Brief hesitation. “Man, I can’t believe you’ll be in Paris without me. I want to go!”
So I handed it over to the Lord and said, are You serious? I let this go — I’m really fine! I don’t need this!
But nothing got in the way. And then I checked airfare and it wasn’t obscene, but it wasn’t cheap either. And then one day I prayed and checked again, and it was $837. Roundtrip. And I looked at my mom and she said, “Why are you surprised when He answers your questions?”
I booked it.
Recently it occurred to me that August was the first month in five years and nine months that I have not been pregnant or breastfeeding or both at once. Five years and nine months without a single day that didn’t involve nursing or carrying a baby inside me. The time is staggering when I think of it in those terms.
I’ve been thinking about the timing of that and the timing of this trip, and it feels like a victory journey, a roar of accomplishment, a squeal of glee that Jesus sustained my body through the most intense demands ever placed on it. My body is solely mine for the first time in almost six years, and Paris feels like the right place to celebrate.
(Anyone who knows me also knows I’d be pregnant tomorrow if it were only up to me. But it’s not, so…pass the champagne!)
There’s also a tension I’m carrying because I don’t deserve this, this wild extravagance. I work hard as a mom, but I work no harder than all the moms shouldering the same responsibilities alongside me. So many moms work harder, have husbands on deployment, are themselves deployed, have children with special needs or more children than I have or very few resources to get by. When I’m given gifts like this I feel so unworthy and embarrassed.
But I know the Lord is sweet, and He’s generous, and while I don’t understand, I want to accept His gift with joy and gratitude. I’m hoping He’ll mold my embarrassment into a grateful humility that’s acceptable in His sight. It’s delightful to be reminded that I’m not in control, even of the fun — for me the trip was over and He was probably laughing like, oh daughter, just you wait. Because He loves to spoil His children; His love is spectacular.
My parents are like the Lord in that way; they spoil their children with abandon. My dad and mom have worked and saved their entire lives to be able to casually add a week in Paris and invite their kid along for the ride.
My meager offer in return is a scrupulously detailed itinierary to wow them with all Paris has to offer; times, costs, hours and notes crisply laid out in a spreadsheet for maximum efficiency. Whether it wows them or makes them beg me to stop, for the love of Rick Steves, stop, is yet to be determined.
One amusing part of this trip before it even began was the reaction-question I got, without exception, every time I shared where I was going (which wasn’t to many people; see above, my embarrassment).
Them: “Who’s going to watch the kids?”
Them: (Insert your favorite shock phrase here)
Them: “Mike’s babysitting?!”
Me: “No, he’s parenting.”
Good gravy, people, he’s their father. He’s highly capable. Mike is the type of dad where I can walk out the door without a word of instruction and he knows what to do.
To him, and to my in-loves watching the kiddos for today while he plays in a golf tournament (please tell me you saw that coming), I say thank you, thank you, thank you.
I mean, merci beaucoup! Man, I need to brush up.