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This Thanksgiving, I am thankful...for being tethered.

Posted by Dr. Claire McCarthy  November 21, 2012 04:27 PM

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As I write this, I am sitting in Logan Airport, waiting for my flight to Amsterdam--I will go from there to Paris, where my eldest daughter is spending a semester. I'm going there to spend Thanksgiving with her.

I'm going alone--the rest of the family is staying behind. It's going to be just me and my adult daughter together in Paris for five days. We haven't had five days alone together since her brother was born in 1992. She is a great person, fun and silly and easy to be with. I'm getting five days away from cooking and laundry and sibling rivalry and my beeper. Heaven.

And yet I'm feeling a little sad.

Like most other mothers (parents--don't want to be sexist)--I often feel like Gulliver in Gulliver's Travels, tethered down by a million little ropes tied by Lilliputians, the tiny little people he meets. Well, not Lilliputians. You know what I mean. There are so many things that are tied to me--so many things I spend every day of my life doing, keeping track of, planning for. There are so many people whose lives are inextricably tied to mine, in small ways and big ways. There are days when I wish that I could sit up like the big giant Gulliver and break free.

But today, as I packed and picked up Liam (7) and Natasha (11) from school and did errands for Elsa (15) and switched the laundry, I felt pangs of uncertainty. Was it a good idea for me to leave everyone? My husband and mother-in-law are very capable, but we were having technical problems with a website Elsa needs for an online course, and the scanner wasn't working, and I'm the tech parent. And then Liam started to come completely undone at my going. He curled up in a ball and started crying inconsolably.

I comforted him and came up with a plan B for the scanner and made Natasha promise to get the tangles out of her hair (which I always end up doing). I stuffed the last few things in my suitcase and off we went in my mother-in-law's car to the airport. All of a sudden I wanted to cry along with Liam. As we were leaving, Natasha said, "I put a card in your bag. Don't read it until you get to the airport."

Once I got to the gate, I took out the card. She'd pasted a picture of the Eiffel tower on one side, and on the other had written: "Dear Mom, Have a wonderful and joyful time in Paris! Tell Michaela I said hi! I am going to miss you a lot! I love you! Love, Tash. P.S.: I will take good care of my hair! :)"

It made me grin. And it made me think that being tethered, as hard as it is, is a really good thing. Because being tethered is really being anchored. It is being held and wanted. It is being connected and loved and part. It is what life is all about. It feels hard and exhausting sometimes, but it's what life is all about.

So off I go to Paris, following another tether, to another adventure. And then I will come happily home to the Lilliputians.

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About MD Mama

Claire McCarthy, M.D., is a pediatrician and Medical Communications Editor at Boston Children's Hospital . An assistant professor of pediatrics at Harvard Medical School and a senior editor for Harvard More »

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