I used to be that parent. You know, the one who couldn’t peel herself away from her kid for anything: girls outings, solo shopping trips, dates with the husband, a walk along the trail. It was pretty extreme. Hell, I even made some pretty drastic (and scary) changes to my work schedule so that I could be nearer still. I had this irrational view that if I were around ALL THE TIME I’d be able to prevent anything bad ever happening to my baby, my family, me. Also, I think part of it was the masochist in me. I almost felt like I needed to go through the lows of incessant crying and sleeplessness and colic, loneliness and boredom and mountains of laundry in order to better appreciate those silver linings of sleeping baby giggles, milky breath kisses, dimpled fingers wrapped around my thumb, first words, first crawls, first freckles.
And then I had my second child, and I realized I didn’t have to be wound so tightly. Don’t get me wrong, I love my son ridiculously, and some may consider it to be an almost unhealthy amount. But it was somewhere around his first birthday, as sips of cow’s milk and nibbles of real foods and first steps and tiny little proclamations of indecipherable consonants came from his little puckered lips, that I had a breakthrough. It was then that Sam and I looked at each other from across the room and gave each other exactly the same complicated look: We did it! Our children are amazing! How did we create such wonderful kids? How are we so lucky? We are SOOO TIRED. AND OLD. AND ADULT.
And that’s when we made a pledge to each other to carve out some time for us. We painfully shelled out money for babysitters, revived a free babysitting swap with neighbors, and promised to exploit, er, rely on visiting relatives as much as possible. And it’s worked.
Sam’s parents came into town recently, and the timing couldn’t have been better. With Colman’s sickness/teething/sleep protests mixed with, well, the craziness of having children, we were drained. In need of a child detox. And that’s just what we got. We left the kids with their Grandma Margaret and Grex for the weekend, got in the car, and within three hours we were a real couple again, holding hands and exchanging coy smiles across a bar table. It feels good to have that break, even if ever so briefly, to do things you’d forgotten were possible, like reading an actual newspaper, eating a meal at a restaurant without spills and rants and tiny shards of food everywhere, hiking, sleeping uninterrupted. Not to mention looking at your husband, really looking, and seeing him for him. Not because he’s ‘dad’. But because he’s the one you love.