I was invited to give a keynote speech at a large children’s disability conference in El Paso Texas. Cool. Far away. Very far. So last week I went. And Jack came with me, while Talia was cared for at home–keeping up her routine of school and activities.
Here’s what I learned by getting away: I learned how to speak in front of a crowd of 400 while a translator magically transformed my words into Spanish. I learned that moms and dads there experience the same parenting joys and struggles that we do here.
I learned (and remembered) that Jack and I play well together. In Santa Fe, we visited galleries and chatted with artists. I learned that margaritas taste more boozy and bitter than the fruity concoctions we get at home and that Flautos are like burrito spring rolls. While lounging in an outside hot tub filled with mineral waters flowing from underground, I learned to love a New Mexico town called “Truth or Consequences.”
Since it was low tourist-season, we alone owned the mountains as we hiked at 3 New Mexico national parks. We climbed around giant tent-shaped rocks, among remains of ancient Native American pueblos, and on huge dunes of white gypsum sand. There, with nothing but sun, mountains, and birds, my sense of the world stretched. I felt far beyond my days of work and parenting and advocacy and worrying about my daughter. Beyond days of clouds and winter grey. I got my perspective back.
And I learned that time apart from my daughter, rejuvenates not only me, but also her. I noticed it right when we got back. She smiled more. Hugged us sweetly. Spent time happily chatting about school, her friends, all the news. Like most teens, she loved having a week without us bugging her to brush her teeth, to pack her lunch, to empty the dishwasher.
She seems more confident. Surrounded by people who care about her, she knows she can have fun and thrive–even when we’re not right beside her.
I know– getting away is nearly impossible most of the time. But I learned last week that the time apart is a gift not only for me, not only for us as a couple, but also for our little girl. Really now–a young woman.