A couple of weekends ago, Cheri and I left town. We spent a long weekend a few hours away in Omaha, a beautiful city, if you are ever nearby.
We had a great time. We walked the pedestrian mall, explored the art museum and spent a day at the zoo.
We especially had a great time because we left our seven month old with my parents.
Yep, baby stayed away for
We had this long weekend planned out in advance, because we were equally agreed on two things. First, that we love to travel and if we could afford it, we would travel somewhere, and secondly, that babies do not make good travel companions. They are better at being homebodies.
I wasn’t surprised that as summer approached and people started discussing their plans, I caught more than one surprised glance. “No baby?” they would ask.
And you know what? Cheri and I are better parents for it.
Family Fun Night
The other day, we went to a Royals game, again sans-child.
Next to us was a family. Oldest son was about eight and had some interest in the game. Middle boy was probably five and had absolutely no interest in the game. He stared at the people behind them, kicked the railing, paced back and forth. I felt sorry for the kid. He acted as if Dad had never sat him down to watch a game, much less explain to him what is happening.
Toddler son was drinking milk from a sippy cup and when that ran out, it was refilled with Pepsi. (He might have preferred Coke, but it’s a Pepsi-only stadium.)
In my mind, I ask what is the point?
What is the point of dragging kids to events in which they have no interest? What is the point of toting kids along where they will do nothing but wiggle, complain and not even enjoy themselves? Do we as parents think we are making good memories or do we just crave the extra stress involved in this whole ritual?
I didn’t go to my first game until I was probably eight. My parents had a slight interest in baseball, but not so much that they expected to enjoy the game. (Besides, by the early nineties, the Royals were firmly entrenched in a losing legacy.) We got in, watched some baseball and left by the seventh inning before my six-year-old brother started complaining too much.
All I Want For Christmas Is a Magical Childhood
Parents, why do we put ourselves through all of this? Why do we take our kids to Disney World at age three? For all of the stress and money spent, they won’t even remember it. Why do we buy our children elaborate gifts for their first birthdays, when all they really want is the box?
I have an idea about that.
I think a lot of us parents are projecting onto our kids what we think we wanted in our childhood.
We look at our children as a chance to recapture some of our own childhood magic (or make up for a lousy childhood). So we plot these elaborate schemes, trips and events. But kids are kids. They are needy. They are wimpy. Parents, how much time do we spend lowering our expectations before we go through the trouble of all this?
Perhaps the most important question, parents: how many times do we sacrifice the wellbeing of our marriage in a quest to try to make our kids childhood “magical?”
Absence Makes The Heart…
This brings me back to our long weekend away.
My parents never took my brother and I to Disney World. And as for my kid, there are far more important experiences I have planned for him than a day at Disney.
What is important, really important is that Cheri and I stay married. Not just married, but healthily married. That is more important than enduring the stress of taking a baby in the car for three hours. That is more important than the headache of dragging the kid around to places he doesn’t need to be. Our marriage is more important than forcing my projected childhood experiences on him.
If my son’s mom and I do not make it, all the trips to Disney World won’t make up for it.
So, leaving my seven-month-old behind for a few days is about priorities. Leaving him behind makes his mom and me into better parents because good spouses make good parents. We leave to refocus on our marriage and we come back, refreshed and ready for the routine again.
I imagine we will leave him behind quite a few times over the next eighteen years. He won’t mind staying with Grandma and Grandpa for a weekend or his aunt and uncle. We trust them.
If you haven’t tried leaving your kids behind, I highly recommend it.