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Separation Anxiety

Published: Wednesday, April 16, 2014 11:23 a.m. CDT

I read that separation anxiety hits hard at this age. I just didn’t realize those articles meant for the parents.

I should be packing for my cross-country flight. But instead of covering my bed in a mountain of clothes, I am under the covers in a mountain of tears, wondering who prescribes Valium for separation anxiety. The pediatrician?

For the past 19 1/2 months, I have been able to tuck in my son at night and rock him when he wakes. The farthest I’ve ever been is down the hall. Next week, I will be 3,000 miles away, and the unlimited FaceTime minutes and two coupons for in-plane alcoholic beverages aren’t enough to quell my fears.

Friends claim that my separation anxiety will pass. They promise that the absence of maternal responsibilities will reignite an internal flame that I hadn’t even realized blew out.

Waiting for me, just a mere plane ride away, is a guaranteed evening of bottomless daiquiris, pantsless streaking and a mark on my permanent record after getting caught robbing a trophy store dressed head to toe as an intoxicated unicorn. They promise “a night of epic and mythological proportions.”

Interestingly, this promise of the pending perverted and profane has come from not my childless friends but rather other parents. A recent evening spent with fellow procreators led to a show and tell of battle wounds from postpartum partying.

“I got this one when I was in Mexico,” my friend said, rolling up her pant leg to show off a shin scar. “We stole a bottle of tequila from behind the bar, and the owner sent his guard dog after us. Jumped a fence, tripped on a curb, bit the pavement, got this cut. But the tequila bottle was unharmed.” High-fives went around the room, but I was puzzled.

“How ‘bout you?” my friend asked, oblivious to my bewilderment. “No husband. No kid. Kicking it with your old college friends for a week. What kind of shenanigans are you planning?”

“Probably drink too much,” I said. “Marry a hooker. Kidnap a baby. Steal a tiger.”

“You’re just reciting the plot from ‘The Hangover,’” my friend said, looking genuinely disappointed, and the room fell into an awkward silence.

It was an odd sensation. I, too, have battle scars of debauchery I love to show off. There is the one from when I fell off a lifeguard stand after a guy tried to kiss me. And the one from when I fell off a bus in Papua New Guinea. But since I got pregnant, the only battle scars I’ve acquired are stretch marks.

It’s not that I don’t miss elements of my freedom. I do. I almost never go out. (And when I do, I’m never stealing a bottle of tequila from a Mexican attack dog.) I barely see my friends or have time to call my family.

Or have time with just my husband. Or time with just myself. I’m very aware of just how lame I’ve become.

But it was expected. I’ve been preparing for the lame days of parenthood since before I was pregnant.

A month before we started trying to conceive, my husband surprised me with a reunion with my college friends in Las Vegas. Sin City was meant to live up to its name and provide us with four days of enough poor decisions, illegal activity and overall craziness to last me 18 years of domesticated responsibility.

Nineteen months into this whole parenting thing and the Vegas trip is still doing its job. I’m procrastinating from packing because instead of seeking “a night of epic and mythological proportions,” I’m obsessing about missing my kid.

Maybe I need to be a parent longer before I get the postpartum itch to do something reckless. It’s possible I’m still too new to the mommy game to seek out new battle wounds.

But the more I think about the stories my friends told of evenings spent escaping Mexican attack dogs the more I think this promised “night of epic and mythological proportions” probably has a strong emphasis on the mythological.

As for me, it’s time to start packing. I hope this time away from my baby will be as exciting and freeing as it is difficult and trying. I guess everyone, even moms, deserve a little something epic now and again.

Now, where did I put that unicorn costume?

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