Friday, April 13, 2012

introducing babysitters and parents-only vacations

Just in time before Lilly turns four, Leighton and I had our first date last weekend while she was with a babysitter. This isn't to say we haven't had dates before, child swapping with friends, but not too many times; 10 times tops. And with family scattered across the US, we've had a total of 4 dates while either visiting or being visited by them, counting a yoga class and coffee too.

Needless to say, we would have liked more dates, but we are not martyrs for having opted out of them.

First, both Leighton and I have been opposed to any needless stress and crying, and for us, leaving our child anxious and possibly crying, even in the care of good friends or close relatives, has not been an option. Instead, we've waited till she was ready for separation.

Second, I nursed her to sleep at night till she was close to 3 and by the time I'd gotten my body out of our bed, it was usually too late for a date. Lilly was about one by the time we managed to haul ourselves out for a couple of late night beers (9:30 felt pretty late to us at the time). We are grateful to our friend who gave us this first date. And to another friend who helped us have our very first date six months before this: a quick lunch while she strolled Lilly around outside.

Spelling this out, I'm not looking for your sympathy (or perhaps a bit) or recognition (perhaps a bit of that too). I'm just providing back story for some bigger events to come.

So, around the time Lilly turned two, she had grown more attached to a few close friends of ours and their kids, and after that, early evening dates for us while she was with them at their houses became more practical. We've enjoyed them every time. But leaving your child with a babysitter to go out for an early drink and dinner was on a completely different plane. We felt so adult! Even just the simple experience of picking up the babysitter and dropping her off later: what a landmark!

Lilly's closing in on completing her first year of preschool and amazing developments have occurred. She can read. She can write. She has new friends. She likes the idea of a babysitter. And now is even excited about the prospect of a vacation just her this summer visiting her grandparents in Wyoming. That is, we'll out fly out to Denver and spend some time together the five of us there before Lilly and her grandparents head up to Wyoming while we enjoy a couple more nights in Denver. All by our two-selves.

Of course Leighton and I are both excited and nervous. I know she'll be brave and probably have a lot of fun too, but I also realize she'll be missing us, and especially at night. I know Leighton and I are bound to tie ourselves up into knots of worry, but I hope we'll be able to let some of that go too and enjoy ourselves and the growth this vacation will mark for her and us.

It will be a good preparation for my own travels this fall too, leaving Leighton and Lilly at home while I go traveling to give talks and readings in conjunction with the release of my book. My first trip will take place just a month after our family slash parents-only vacation, taking me all the way to Mexico City where I've never been before. A trip to Oslo follows only a week after that, with another cross Atlantic journey to Germany and England the following month.

So far I've spent a total of two nights away from Lilly, once the summer she turned one, and then again that following fall. At least this time around, I won't have to pump. At least this time around, she understands I'll be back. I should feel elated and free, and I do, at least a tiny bit. But separation like this is only a snapshot of the overall thing going on here with both her and I shedding the cocoon we've spun around our little family. Separation like this takes courage.

Yes, Of Course It Hurts --
Yes, of course it hurts when buds are breaking.
Why else would the springtime falter?
Why would all our ardent longing
bind itself in frozen, bitter pallor?
After all, the bud was covered all the winter.
What new thing is it that bursts and wears?
Yes, of course it hurts when buds are breaking,
hurts for that which grows

photo credit: date night in denver


  1. You are brave. We have had 1 overnight away from our girls, when we were visiting my parents and they kept the girls (at their house) while we went to a hotel in the same town. Our girls are 5 and 7 now (almost 6 and 8!). They have had sitters very minimally, friends watching them a # of times, and that one overnight. That's it. C and I have never had a solo vacation--not even a weekend. We have no one to leave them with. My parents have health problems and are less able these days; I know they would not volunteer to babysit for days while we left town. It's hard, isn't it! But I know how you feel, and what you've been through, because we have been similarly starved for dates and couple time! (Sitters are terribly expensive, too.) Oh--and congrats again on your book! That is so fantastic. You are also brave to travel alone like that. I am a very anxious traveler and my worst nightmare would be having to go abroad--or even across the country!--alone. I don't like airports, airplanes, taxis, or hotels! :(

  2.  Thanks, Shannon! I did a lot of traveling around by myself in my pre-coupled days, but now as a mom I feel completely different about it. How did your couple's night away go for you both, and the girls?

  3. Thanks, Shannon! I did a lot of traveling around by myself in my pre-coupled days, but now as a mom I feel completely different about it. How did your couple's night away go for you both, and the girls?

    Oh, and yes; I could definitely have added financial constraints as a third factor limiting dates, though a part of me feels like if it'd been a huge priority we'd have paid the price. But with me leaving St. Olaf College when Lilly was born and Leighton being in grad school her first two years of life, a lack of money certainly played a part of the picture (and still does!). Also we still haven't had anyone else put Lilly to bed. So we haven't had full blown "date nights" though technically someone could sit here while we went out (except I don't think she'd like waking up and not finding us around, but sleep is much sounder in the evening now; it's not like she's waking up to nurse!).

    I like the idea of child swapping because it's fun for the kids and not asking much of our friends. But it does limit the time frame.

    I look forward to when the kids can have sleepovers. And at one point, our kids will be invited to come along with friends on their vacation. Imagine that! Then you too can have your couple vacation! :)


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