There are a few things that must be done before any trip. But going on a trip without the kids requires planning for two trips in parallel universes.
There is the adult version: tickets, clothes, cell phone chargers and gum.
And there is the kid version: everything else in the f-ing universe.
It does not matter if you are leaving the kids for 12 hours or 12 days, the demands are essentially the same. I prepared by doing 8 loads of laundry, going to three grocery stores, stocking up on “fun” crafts at Michael's, ridding the pantry of spoiled food, removing sharp objects from reach, and refilling the toilet paper rolls.
But the essentials, the things I could turn to in a pinch from a few hundred miles away, the answer to any problem, the balm to any confusion: the list of emergency contact numbers. And a variety pack of sugary cereal.
“I have no idea where your other green sock is,” I could say to my eleven year old should she call in a panic, “but have you tried the Cocoa Krispies?”
As far as I am concerned there is not much that a good bowl of Frosted Flakes can’t make better. My oldest, in fact, seems to share my opinion. Even before I left town she took one tiny box from the pack and hid it in the back of the pantry.
“Just in case,” she said.
It is, after all, the prerogative of any big sister to hoard favorite snacks. The youngest had not yet seen the variety pack and would surely be left with the Corn Pops by the time the older one was already moving in on the Fruit Loops.
Knowing there was a selection of cereal in the house was a great comfort to me. Sure, there where other incidentals I might have focused on before leaving town: replacing the batteries in the carbon monoxide detectors, actually making a will, hiding my fifth grade diary. Anything that might be pertinent in the event of a “worse case scenario.”
But to be honest, between the emergency contact list and the fortified cereal, I felt good.
My husband wasted his time printing our boarding passes and making sure we had cash. I’m not sure if it’s a “guy thing” but we have very different ways of preparing for trips.
I will add that part of the power of the Kellogg Fun Pack, the official name for the collection of cavity-creating junk food I so lovingly left for my offspring, is that it’s not something we have on a regular basis.
As a concept, this makes sense. As with the overuse of antibiotics, casual and unnecessary consumption of Frosted Flakes—or Apple Jacks for that matter—diminishes the effectiveness.
In my own youth, anytime my parents went out on a date and left us in the hands of an irresponsible babysitter (most were in the 1980’s), we were allowed to have Hungry-Man TV dinners and Pepsi. We were also allowed to stay up late, watch The Love Boat and Fantasy Island and fall asleep in front of the TV.
Times have changed but packaged food with high sodium or sugar content is still the next best thing to mom and dad.
Truth be told, it wasn’t the kids who had anxiety about our leaving. But I knew my own anxiety could only be dealt with in two ways: practice, or acclimation by leaving them successfully enough times that I didn’t worry; or by preparation. Forget practice, it was too late for that, I had to double-down in the only way I knew how.
And so my husband and I headed out of the house and out of the state to join my friends at the 20th college reunion. The laundry was done. The house was clean. The car had gas. The mums had been watered. The fridge was stocked. The crafts were ready.
My parents were in charge and the kids would be fine.
I put my faith in the universe.
And in the all-soothing power of Frosted Flakes.
This is Part II of III on Homecoming. Thanks, as always, for reading.