In a box of old children’s books my sister gave me when my boys were little was a book I thought was incredibly stupid—until my then two-year-old son read it approximately four million times. It was called You Go Away and consisted of pictures of a mother (and maybe once a father) leaving—the room, the house, the school, and eventually on vacation—and then returning, with this sentence on every page: “You go away, you come back.” Apparently, the repetition is very comforting for a child worried that if his mother leaves, she might not return.
So why isn’t there a book like that for mothers?
I have the good fortune of being on a brief vacation with friends, but in the days leading up to it, days filled with making lists, buying food, roasting the world’s largest turkey breast, and reminding my husband and babysitter of things they know perfectly well, I really could have used a book repeating the line, “You go away, they survive.”
The first email I got from home, mere hours after arriving was from my younger son: “Hi Mom, guess what, I threw up four times.”
You go away, they get sick, they survive.
He’s better, and I just got this email: “Hi Mom, it’s 86 degrees and we had a MASSIVE water fight.”
You go away, they go wild, the house and garden survive.
Tomorrow my son’s tangram project (don’t ask) is due, and I’m wondering if, between vomiting and having a water fight, he remembered to finish it. I’m tempted to send a quick reminder, but I won’t. Completed project or not, he’ll survive.
It’s good for a mother to go away without her children, and not just because it’s completely luxurious to swim, read, nap, and repeat. It’s good to go away because sometimes the only way not to micro-manage our children’s lives is to physically remove ourselves. Books like You Go Away can be helpful, but the only way to teach our children to cope without us is to let them cope without us. Chances are, they’ll survive.