The Selfish Gene

May 4, 2009

It’s not Richard Dawkins’s book I’m referring to here; it’s me. I must be the most selfish person I have ever met. I’m so selfish that I actually enjoy traveling alone, because it means I get to do just what I want, when I want, how I want. I might not want to be this selfish all the time – like most things, I expect you enjoy it most when it’s a rare privilege – but once in a way I really like it.

I’m getting remarkably immune to all the funny looks and comments you get when people see you alone in a holiday kind of context. Of course, Goa is an easy place to be alone in that way; specially the kind of upmarket resort that I’m stayed in. People will largely leave you alone, and keep their questions and opinions to themselves. It’s not as easy in many other places I can think of.

This was also an extremely luxurious trip, by my standards. If I wanted to travel without the family because I wanted to enjoy the whole travel experience, then this is not quite the way to do it. I’d have to have a backpack, a local bus, and about one-tenth the budget of this trip for that. Heading into the Himalayas is of course always tempting, but I didn’t really come up with this whole plan early enough for that. Maybe next time.

Although, I don’t think I could bear it. Being away from the kids for that long, I mean. It was more difficult than I thought it would be just leaving the house without them. I didn’t even go into their room to say bye when I left in the wee hours of Thursday morning, because I didn’t want to disturb them. Of course, I had told them beforehand that I’d be away for a few days and I’d be back soon, and I think they understood that. But all the time I was away, I kept hoping that they were ok with it. At the end of the first day, reports from Amit indicated that they were fine, not missing me at all. He thought I might be sad to hear that, but I was relieved and happy. I don’t think that if they don’t miss me it means they don’t love me or anything like that; I think that if they don’t miss me, it means they are comfortable, secure, and independent kids who don’t have any conscious scars from their vaguest memories of their earliest days. And that’s wonderful.

And Amit tells me that they wolfed down three helpings each at dinner, which is completely unheard of, so that’s good too.

Once I was actually in Goa, I didn’t feel guilty about not bringing the kids along It was very hot, and the sea was very rough. They’d have played in the sand for a bit, then wanted to go back. Without their normal activities and with a small subset of their toys, they’d have decided to look for innovative ways to keep themselves busy. That would have driven us mad, and we’d have spent most of our time shouting, “Don’t!” So if they’re home with Amit, in their safe and comfortable environment, and if they don’t mind my being away, this works better. I’m all for taking them out of their comfort zone every so often, but when they are subjected to significant discomfort in our pursuit of travel/pleasure, then I feel horribly guilty. This way seems just so much easier.

Though I miss them and think of them constantly, there are the simple pleasures of not having them around. Like…

After a year-and-a-half of parenting toddlers (don’t forget they were already over a year old at the start of that period), it is really strange to walk into a room, dump whatever you are carrying on any horizontal surface, and not have to rush around moving everything into child-proof hiding places.

And it’s also really nice to be able to sit down to a fancy meal outside the house (at home I often eat while they’re asleep) and actually get through it without once having to drop everything and wrestle with the health and hygiene aspects of two kids in an unfamiliar, public restroom.

Being able to sleep when I want, for as long as I want, without interruption. And likewise spending quality time in the bathroom without them kids banging on the door saying rude things like “Mama, sussu done?” and “Mama, big potty coming?”

And the ultimate in luxury: A big, soft double bed, neatly made and turned down by somebody paid and – more importantly – trained to do it, immaculate white sheets, and FOUR soft pillows all to myself! Ahhhhhhh

Yeah, I know – petty and completely selfish. That’s me… and I’m not ashamed of it.

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