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Packing Up: Taking Home More Than Trinkets From Taiwan

We start our long journey home bright and early tomorrow morning. Almost three weeks ago, I sat in piles of laundry carefully deciding what to pack so we didn’t bring too much, and tonight we needed to borrow another suitcase to take home all the generous gifts from family and things we bought. (Did I mention how much shopping we’ve done? We went a little bit crazy!)
Besides the new stuff, I’m taking much more valuable things with me. Memories of a whole new side of the family who made it very clear how much they love and care for us. The knowledge that my baby has completely bonded with his grandparents, and that he will be in good hands when they come out this summer to help while I work full-time again. A fondness for a city I didn’t expect to like so much, and a certainty that we will be back and probably for a big chunk of time at some point (I have to learn Chinese somehow). But I will also take back some lessons learned about myself.
There was a part of me that struggled with my new identity as mother to this little boy before we left. I missed my freedom, my alone time, and worried it would be a long time before I’d get the chance to pursue the things I’m interested in again. Coming here put some things into perspective. Flipping through my husband’s life in the photo albums his parents have kept made me see how fast it all goes, and how relationships change. He posed happily and easily with his parents in the pictures when he was young, silly and carefree. With adolescence comes an awkwardness, a distance; you can literally see when a boy reaches an age where he no longer turns to his mother for comfort, and it made me want to cherish these days that my son still needs me.
And boy, does he need me. This trip also made me realize how significant being a mama is. Even though we were with people who love him dearly, I am the one who knows him best. I notice the signs he gives when he is in need of something. I know when he’s thirsty, tired, hungry, needs a diaper change, needs some space, wants to be walking and playing rather than being held, or just needs kisses and hugs from his mama. I know when to pull out his favorite book to keep him from going sideways in public. I know when I need to be his advocate and tell others when he needs to rest.
His Baba (Daddy in Chinese) is also essential and can give him things I can’t. He’s a much better rough-houser than I am, he makes better silly faces and sounds, and he’s the best “closer” when it comes to getting Little Man to finally go down to sleep. I think his role will become even more important as our son becomes older and looks to his father to see what it is to be a good man. His grandparents, cousins, friends, caretakers and teachers will all become more important at different stages in his life. But right now, it’s all about me. I saw that over and over on this trip when he was tired or nervous or trying something new, he needed me there for him.
I’m sure that need will pass much faster than I will be ready for. So I come back from this trip with a renewed sense that being a mama is the most important thing I can be doing right now. My husband and I will get to travel for ourselves again one day, I will get to spend more time pursuing my passions eventually, but for this relatively short period, I will enjoy being my baby’s number one.

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