We planned our one-week 10th anniversary trip to Sedona, Arizona months in advance, when the abstract idea of the getaway felt magical. As the date got closer, though, I began to feel the panic rise about the reality of leaving the kids. Was this really a good idea? A whole week? We had left them maybe 3-4 days max in our 9 years of parenting. But it’s a milestone anniversary, the kids are older, and most importantly, we had a willing grandparent to watch all three on her own. For a week. Cue panic: I don’t think I could do it, and they are MY children. Now on the other side of the trip, I’m here to persuade you to do it too.
The most luxurious part of childlessness is the morning routine. And on vacation when you are not getting up for work, it’s luxury times ten. We celebrated with hot cups of coffee IN BED while we leisurely watched Reason #5 and felt no rush to start our day. Once we felt good and caffeinated, the whole take-a-shower-get-dressed-eat-breakfast part was SO FAST without the child part. THIS is the way to start every day of a week away from the kids.
As we drove around Sedona our first day, making impulsive decisions about what to do next, I realized the magic of how the meaning of time changes without children. Oh my goodness – we can eat dinner when we are HUNGRY, not at the early bird time that allows for all the other parts of the routine to happen so we don’t miss the sleep window for the kids. Speaking of bedtime, our own bedtime did not have to be dictated by the inevitable early awakening the next morning. Time did not control us; we controlled time. I’ll say it again: magical.
I shouldn’t blame my children for being hooked into social media and email too much of my daily life, and I mostly don’t, but there are times I am scrolling my phone because I am held hostage by a child demanding I wait 10 minutes for him in the bathroom, or I’m so tired from waking up early with them that by the time I take them to the park, I pretend I’m “socializing” through Facebook voyeurism. A week away made me realize I use social media and checking email A LOT for boredom, and sometimes stress, and a lot of habit. Breaking that habit cleared extra mind noise that I definitely don’t need with all the regular life noise I already have.
When we missed our kids, or they missed us, we have this thing nowadays called FaceTime. It became a little double-edged because of their expectation we could be available any time, but when we actually said “not right now,” they were fine with that too. Also, seeing the kids arguing over the phone, talking over each other, and glazing over as we talked to them, injected some reality into our sentimentality, helping us get through the week with a little less “missing” (we missed them, but we were okay without them).
Yours might take a different form, but our indulgent laziness comes in the form of endless House Hunters and Chip and Joanna Gaines. We don’t have cable in real life, we love fantasizing about home improvement, and we like the comfort of predictable formulas. HGTV is our drug. And we mainlined it. All. Week.
The time and space away allows for perspective and contemplation. What do we think of the life we have crafted together? As we inhaled fresh red rock air surrounded by some of the most gorgeous scenery nature has to offer, we felt pretty proud of this life of ours. We have made a series of small and big choices over our decade as a married couple starting and completing our family, and they have led to where we are now. Do we wish we could knock out a wall in our kitchen, add a couple barn doors, and throw in some shiplab? Sure. Our life is not perfect, but the imperfections are ours, and we have everything that truly matters.
7. The Kids Are Alright
We could see for ourselves (see #4) – the kids were totally fine. They missed us, they were excited for us to come home, and they went to school everyday, ate three meals a day (at least), SLEPT EVERY NIGHT ALL NIGHT, and made it through life without us. Perhaps better without us (for a week – not recommending this as a long-term situation).
8. The Grandma Is Alright
To be completely honest, I was more worried about the brave (foolish?) grandparent volunteer than I was about the kids. My husband leaves me once a week to do the post-dinner bedtime routine and I barely get to the glass of rosé on the other side. How is this one woman going to take care of these three children by herself for a whole week – that’s a lot of morning and evening routines with not enough rosé. I don’t know if this was part of her gift to us, but she assured us daily that “the kids are doing GREAT!” There was even a glitter craft involved.
9. More than Ready
As our brains mushed from overdosing on HGTV, and we lost our edge in the lazy mornings, no-pressure evenings, and time stretching out like our own blank canvas, we felt ready. Ready to return to our crazy lives with the grueling schedule. Even though we filled our week with our favorite things -- sleeping in, hot coffee, hiking, art, wine and more wine, movies, later and later bedtimes, and restaurants without kids menus – there would be an emptiness to all of it if we didn’t have our kids waiting for us at home. It’s a loud and messy and busy life, but a very full and rich one.
10. The Reunion
The wine tastings, unfettered browsing through shops and art galleries, and hikes at an adult’s pace without worrying a child would crack her head open, were all lovely. But there was no feeling like coming home at midnight to pictures decorating our bed with “I missed you” and a heart of Hershey’s kisses in the middle. The best. The next day, our oldest daughter said she had felt like it was Christmas Eve the night before, she was so excited to see us the next morning. We had made it to Santa level.
Yes, our first full day back at work and school on Monday had its expected mood swings and meltdowns from all of us. The 4-year-old broke his good sleep streak Monday night. The reality of a week of untended tasks (so many emails . . . ) hit me like a semi-truck. But we were rested, revived, and had enough HGTV to last us at least a year. Because if there’s anything we learned from our week away from the kids, it’s that we are doing it again.