It’s not often that I get the opportunity to travel, but this week I get my chance. On Thursday I’m leaving to go to Notre Dame and watch my little brother play hockey. No, he’s not my real little brother. I only have one brother, and he’s older than I am. Officially, his full nickname is “The little brother I never wanted.” But despite the negative connotation of the nickname I love him as much as I would were he actually my little brother.
I suppose a little back story is in order. My parents have housed hockey players for the past 5 years. In fact, that’s how I got interested in hockey in the first place. Knowing who the players on the ice are, and caring how well they play made a huge difference in my interest in the sport. Mom and dad always treat the players they take in like family while they’re here. They feel that as long as these boys have to be away from their families they might as well feel comfortable while they are with ours. While I don’t necessarily disagree with their stance, and would probably do the same were the boys living in my home, I wasn’t quite ready to commit myself to treating these boys like family. Treat them friendly, yes; politely, absolutely; but like family….no thanks I’ll pass.
That changed with one player. I’m not sure exactly how or when it happened. I am the type of person that likes to give people a hard time, and what I found with this guy was that he’d take my crap and give it right back to me. We developed a real bond over the two years he lived with my parents, and spent a lot of time talking hockey either in person or via text. He got to be so much like family that when he would go home over the summer break it was more like he was on vacation than it was like he’d gone home to his real family.
One of the saddest moments of my life was when my friend was traded to another team in the league. We’d grown so accusomted to having him as a part of our family that we couldn’t imagine life without him. But over time we learned to accept that he was living a few states away and the world wasn’t going to end. Last year my mom and I went on a trip to visit with him and watch him play hockey with his new team for her birthday, it was an amazing trip. This year he’s playing for a college even further away than before, so we’re excited to have him travel close enough that we can make the drive to go and see him. A lot of his real family will be there visiting as well, so it’s bound to be a lot of fun.
But before I can go and visit with my little brother, I’ve got to get the rest of my family prepared for me to be gone, and that’s a lot of work. Being as anal and organized as I am means that I am the official packer for our family. It doesn’t matter if Matt’s traveling on business, if Brendan’s going to a friend’s house for a sleepover, or if we’re moving…I do all the packing. Don’t get the wrong idea, I’m sure everyone else is capable of doing their own packing (well okay probably not Cameron or Kaylee yet) but they let me do it because…well…I wouldn’t have it any other way. Matt doesn’t fight it for two reasons. 1)Because it’s a lot of work and he really doesn’t want to do it anyhow and 2) because I’ve never forgotten to pack anything so he can’t really complain about the job I do.
Even though I’m the only one going on this trip, I will still end up packing for all 5 of us. That just gives Matt one less thing he has to worry about while I’m gone. All of the kids clothes will be packed into ziplock baggies and labeled with the child’s name and the date they’re supposed to wear that outfit. That way when he’s getting the kids ready for school on Friday he can just pull out the bags labeled Brendan Friday, Cameron Friday, and Kaylee Friday and he’ll have a full outfit down to the socks and underwear all in one place. He can hand each child their bag and they can basically get dressed on their own. I’ll also make sure Matt has enough clean clothes to get through the weekend as well so he doesn’t have to hunt and peck and potentially wash any clothes for himself. Again, it’s just to give him one less thing to worry about.
I’ve also got all the meals planned, and some of the food will be pre-cooked so it can just be warmed up the night of. I’ve got a list of what needs to be put into each of the kids backpacks for school on both Thursday and Friday, and a list of what homework Brendan should have on Thursday night. I’ve been working hard with Brendan on his reading for the past few days so he shouldn’t even have any of that to do while I’m gone either. Thankfully the house was just all cleaned up for Brendan’s birthday party this weekend, so a little light housecleaning is all I’ll need to do to get the house in order before I go as well.
I realize in reading this that it sounds like I have no confidence in Matt’s ability to handle any of this, and that couldn’t be further from the truth. Unfortunately I am a complete control freak, and these things are all my responsibility as the stay-at-home parent so it’s really hard for me to let go of that responsibility and hand it off to someone else. The things Matt would actually need reminded of would be what time the kids need dropped off and picked up from school and which day Brendan’s homework needs turned in. Those are things he doesn’t deal with since he’s at work by the time we leave for school and doesn’t get home until after they’re picked up. The rest of this stuff he could easily figure out on his own even if I normally take care of it.
Whatever the reason for doing it, it’s been a lot of work to get ready for this trip. And right now I’m feeling more than a little nervous about leaving the family to fend for themselves without me. But once I get on the road I’m sure all my worries will melt away. Especially when I’m sitting in the stands and watching my little brother playing college hockey with the big boys.