For kicks, I decided to take my kids (then aged 3 1/2 and 7 months) to Disneyland for a few days during December 2009. Sans hubby. You read that right. Sans hubby. Sans anybody. I wanted to see how close I could get to the edge of sanity without falling over...
For this trip, one of the weapons I had packed in my secret Super Mommy bag was my cell phone and the power of text messaging. I had told my dearest confidante and mentor about the trip and asked her for advice (doesn't hurt that she's an LCSW and has amazingly brilliant psychotherapy skillz... yeah, people, I used the "z"!). During the entire trip she sent encouraging texts, reminding me with each to enjoy my children thoroughly and to stay in the "here and now".
"Here and Now"..........? What is that? Is that a land here at Disneyland? A ride? A caffeine-infused, valium-spiked, zen-inducing drink?! (Please, oh, please let there be THAT here!)
Hm, how to find this mysterious Here-and-Nowland... I have to admit, though, I knew exactly the place she meant when she next texted: "Don't teach your children that going to Disneyland with Mommy is all about stress." In other words, don't turn the place where dreams come true into a living nightmare. (See, if they had the drink I wouldn't even have to worry about that!)
Here-and-Nowland was a place within myself. To get there, I had to let go of the structure, let go of the worries, let go of everything that kept me from enjoying the realities of that very moment. Yes, even if that moment included one child whining about not getting a Tinkerbell costume and the other crying his eyes out from over-stimulation.
The structure I needed to let go of consisted of timelines, strict schedules, and diets, essentially "the rules" of everyday life. The worries included lack of sleep and energy, cleanliness of the kids (they weren't going to be spotless creatures, that's for sure), wait times, and the constant threat I was going to slip off the edge of sanity's cliff and go tumbling into the great abyss below, never to fully recover or, worse still, return.
Hm.... wonder if they serve coffee in that abyss...
Other various worries preventing me from experiencing the full cinematic effects of Here-and-Nowland included the list of items I'd packed and how many of the necessities I'd forgotten, the intense paranoia of losing my daughter in the crowd of people due to her exhuberance and innate desire to move at nothing slower than top speed, the handling of my colicky infant son who weighed as much as a baby elephant and was strapped to my body by the Moby, and, on a deeper level, trying to teach my daughter how to maintain that fine line between discipline and permissable, healthy rebellion and keeping in check the fear that I would drive her completely in one direction (stoic, rigid and unfeeling heart) or the other (tattoos and odd bodily piercings!).
Add to this that I'd created a huge banner in my mind out of my mentor's advice, so as not to forget that there were other things more important than schedules, worries, and the harsh realities of, well... reality. The world wasn't going to end (I know, I know, it was news to me, too) if we didn't stick to a schedule, if we ate ice cream for lunch or if we weren't able to ride every single ride there and see everything that the cost of two 3-day park-hopper tickets demanded we see.
Suffice it to say, the three of us survived because I was able to just be in the moment. I was willing to let go of that which kept me from truly enjoying the real rides, characters, and magic of Here and Nowland - my kids. And by doing so, I was able to squash (if, for a minute) that fear that I was going to teach my children that Disneyland was all about stress. And by enjoying my children in the context of Here and Nowland, I was also able to show them that there is a balancing and healthy rebellion to be attained in life.
And the greatest idea I took away from this trip? Here and Nowland isn't a place at Disneyland. It's a place in me. And it's a place that it's imperatively important, I've found, to visit with my children at some point each day; to show them that life isn't all about laundry, dishes, and a spotless house... that life with Mommy isn't all about stress. Life is about enjoying each other in this moment - in the real Here and Nowland.
And if that's the souvenir I brought home from taking my kids to Disneyland sans anybody, I think I milked those 3-day park-hopper tickets for what they're worth.