This post could just have easily been titled “Surviving a MOMMY’s First Overnighter,” because I feel like this milestone was just as hard for me, if not more so! As many of you know, my husband and I just recently took our very first trip away from Cragbaby last week…and since our family never does anything halfway, we decided to spend it enjoying the sandstone of Red Rock Canyon, just 30 miles outside of Las Vegas! (Stay tuned for the trip recap in a couple of days…)
We did a lot of different things to prepare C for our time apart, some of which went a long way towards keeping us all sane. So based on our experience, here’s a few recommendations for a smooth separation.
1. TALK IT UP: Toddlers love their routines, and so I wanted to make sure C was prepared, and understood what was going to happen. About a week before our trip we started talking up the events. I told him that Mommy and Daddy were going to get on an airplane, and that he was going to ride in Gaga’s car and go to her house. We talked in a lot of detail about what he would do while we were apart, emphasizing all the fun things that were planned.
2. COUNT IT DOWN: At just over 2 and a half, C has a very rudimentary concept of time. I wanted him to be able to keep track of the order of events in a way that he could understand, so I made him a calendar. We wrote in what would happen each morning, afternoon, and night, and as each event happened, we crossed it off on the calendar. Telling C that Mommy was coming back on Monday morning meant nothing, but being able to cross things off leading up to Mommy’s return was like turning on a light bulb.
3. A TASTE OF HOME: A lot of people choose to have their caregiver stay at the child’s house during a time away, but I knew it would be a lot easier on my parents if C could stay at their house. They only live an hour and a half away, and he’s been to their house lots of times. However, we did bring a bunch of C’s “comfort items,” so he would still have some familiarity. I let C pack his own small bag of anything he wanted to take – books, pillow, a couple of toys, and oddly enough…dental floss?!?
But most notably, I let C take one of my t-shirts, an old, soft one, that C refers to as “fluffy” and “comfy” whenever I wear it. Apparently I’d stumbled upon a wonderful idea, because evidently C had it with him constantly, a la Linus on Charlie Brown! During bedtime stories he would clutch it and kiss it, and stroke his face with it. He never had a lovey before, but I may have to invest in a new t-shirt, because since we’ve been back he’s slept with it every night!
4. STAY CONNECTED: My mom and I sent pictures back and forth to each other via our phones so that we could see C, and he could see us. The 3 hour time difference made it easy for us to call every morning on our way into the canyon, although a couple of nights we were pushing it to get back in time for a bed time call. Since we didn’t get cell reception in the canyon, we had also sent a few video snippets of us saying “good night” and “I love you,” just in case C wanted to talk during the day, or heaven forbid if we missed a good night call. He really liked the videos and would often bring the phone to Gaga so that she could “call Mommy.”
5. RECONNECT: Ok so this one is for the moms and dads rather than the toddler…Several folks gave me this advice before I left, and I think it’s worthwhile to pass along. DON’T SPEND THE WHOLE TIME TALKING ABOUT YOUR KID(S)!!! For us, this wasn’t that hard, as much of our talk was strategizing for the next day’s climbs. But had our first overnighter been a relaxing, wine and dine type vacation, I could easily see conversation after conversation slipping back to C. Not that there’s anything wrong with talking about your kids, but the whole point of getting away is to reconnect with your spouse as your spouse, not as your child’s father/mother!
Though it wasn’t always easy, I think the trip was a success for all involved. Hubby and I truly enjoyed being able to spend so much time together, C had a blast at Gaga and Paw Paw’s house, and my parents were thrilled for the opportunity to spoil their sweet little grandson for 4 days! C only had one major meltdown, and I only cried once (and ironically it was on the same day…) Our reunion was sweet, although my last piece of advice would be to caution you not to expect too much fanfare from your toddler upon your return. I did get some hugs and a few kisses, but when I had to take a tube of chapstick away from him in the car on the way home from the airport, it only took about 10 seconds before he began shouting at me to “go away.” Then that afternoon we all snuggled into bed together to take a nap, and I awoke to C smiling, and rubbing his cheek on my cheek. Ah, the emotional rollercoaster of toddler-dom. 🙂
What “time away” traditions does your family have set in place?