Reality Check: There's No Place Like Home

Someone once said that you can never go home again. I hail from South Africa, where most of my family still lives. The last time I returned, I was childless but newly married and found the experience completely alienating. I was still my mother's child, but I was also a married woman '- an adult who didn't want her mother telling her what to do, but did very much need the babying that only a mom can provide. Everything had changed, and it seemed, sadly, that home was no longer home as I knew it.

Fast-forward eight years '- and four kids '- later...

I am once again in sunny South Africa, and I have to say the 30 hours of travel with four kids in tow was worth it. Because my childhood has returned. Even though I'm still a married lady and my parents have long since moved houses and towns, my kids allow me to observe my mom and dad in familiar territory '- with the same doting demeanor (minus the nagging) they exhibited when I was theirs to raise. I relished watching my kids interact with their grandparents, but I especially loved the way these moments transported me back to my youth.

My mother is the world's most fastidious housekeeper. Me '- not so much. If my kids eat on the run, I figure that's four more minutes for "me" time. I have become shockingly adept at looking the other way as a chocolate-faced cookie monster toddles by. My mom, on the other hand, has white slip-covered couches. Say no more. When I came home to find my son brazenly sitting on said white couch eating, gasp, an apple, I dove at him immediately. Glancing around guiltily to see if anyone else had witnessed this crime, I hustled him to a plate and a table. No matter how old you are or how far away from home you currently live, the idea of your mom catching your seven-year-old eating on her sacred couch is almost scarier than those same couch food busts when you were seven yourself.

I spent tender moments watching my mom style my little girls' long hair just like she had styled mine. I was grateful to see she's no longer using the "reminder tap" on the top of the head with the brush to keep them captive.

I smiled to see my dad, as Grandpa, treating his grandkids to all my favorite childhood adventures without making them "earn" it by doing their homework and cleaning their rooms first.

So, while having the kids along meant forgoing some of the joys of being on vacation, waking up before noon seems like a small price to pay for discovering that you truly can go home again. Just be sure to take a child '- or four '- with you.

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