The Bittersweet Baggage of Flying From the Nest

Have you ever taken a trip while secretly wishing you could stay right where you are?


Recently, I was standing in the security line at an airport on my way back to New York and was rather down in the mouth about going. I love to travel and I love to come home, but this time I found myself like so many others, hankering for “just one more day.”

The security agent informed me that my TSA Pre √ would not work on this trip because, for the second time during this trip and the third time this month, I had been “randomly selected” to be routed through regular security. Surprisingly, the airport was not teeming with people and I had time to spare, which made it easier to hear the same news yet again. That said, I had to inquire (I couldn’t, or rather didn’t, squash the impulse to ask) to the agent as to how often IS it normal to be randomly selected? He assured me not to worry; that I may get denied a few times, but I’ll get through more often than I won’t. For $100USD a pass, I would hope so.

“So far the opposite has been true, but I hope you’re right,” I replied in a tone that crossed between non-plussed and resigned, bordering on whiny. Not my finest moment. He seemed undeterred by my doubts and encouraged me to “stay positive.”

Ironically, I was much more forlorn about leaving my family and not having a day or two more to kick back than I was about the delay. His “stay positive” ethos was apropos for far more than my trek through regular security. I needed what one of my sisters, a mother of two, calls “an attitude adjustment.” The real source of my edginess? On that day, I would have rather stayed put than gotten on that plane and left my folks.

Staying positive is something I practice every day; like thoughtfulness and checking my ego at the door (which door I can’t quite say, since I’ve yet to find any door through which ego ought to pass). It’s a practice because positivity blossoms with repetition, just as any skill or even talent does.

My mom was the first to teach me the enormous value of staying positive. Most moms do that, don’t they? Even if they are complainers themselves, they instinctively know that the more a child thinks that things are good, the more that child will see the good in the way things are (and the less fuss they’ll continue to make☺). Whether it’s a skinned knee or a fight with a friend, they’ll ask you if you’re ok and then convincingly say, “You’re fine; you’ll be fine.” Then they’ll bring up another topic, just to prove that everything is, indeed, fine and we move on.

Moms are special creatures. They give so much support with many times, so little in return. Some of my professional practice includes expectant mothers and the level of accountability to which mothers hold themselves is unparalleled in my book. Perhaps it is due to the circumstances of motherhood, but nevertheless, it’s what I’ve found to be true. A man can be the most attentive and supportive partner, but he will never find himself in the position where he asks the question whether he miscarried because of anything he has knowingly or unknowingly done.

Moms have to be tough, open, resourceful and undeterred. The paradox of motherhood (and parenthood in general) is that moms give so much in order for their children to ultimately become independent –-and so their children will no longer need them to survive. And with a job as big as theirs, how much support do they receive? There’s tons of advice and tons of guilt and judgment, but how much reinforcement do they receive on a daily level? And what about after the kids are adults?

Even in the best of instances, as much as it may be a relief to know that all those choices actually did result in raising now independent adults, it’s also hard to let them live their lives on their own.

I never gave my mom the impression that I would stay close to her. She’s never asked me to do so (though she and my dad continually pitch my moving), and I suspect she’d prefer I was still just a short ride away. Over the years, we’ve been geographically near and far from each other and it’s taught us to cherish the time we have together.

And it’s always tough to say goodbye.

It would have felt so good to stay right where I was. At least, it would have felt so good for awhile. Eventually, reality kicks in and putting your life on hold; figuratively staying exactly where you are feels comfortable on one hand and on the other, just feels stuck.

I’ll always love returning to my folks and the end of the visit will always be bittersweet. Saying goodbye to people you love. Leaving what is known, safe and comfortable. And yet it’s not natural to stay. So I go. Because I have my own life. The life that thanks to them, I am independent enough to lead.

Have you ever taken a trip while secretly wishing you could stay right where you are?