Admittedly, I spend a significant amount of time wishing for a vacation sans kiddos. I often dream about my husband and me – or, honestly, just me – sitting on a beach, reading a book, listening to nothing but the waves. I fancy a dinner at a nice restaurant without iPads, grilled cheese sandwiches and spilled chocolate milk.
In the past year, I have actually taken two such trips; one with my best friends and one with my husband. I have found that there are several distinct stages a parent goes through when traveling without kids:
Stage One: The excitement
This trip cannot come soon enough! Alone time! Sleep! Sleeping in! Naps! More sleep! I get to do whatever I want to do for however long I want to do it. Oh, I can just picture it now: Me, alone, asleep. Me, alone, wine. Me, alone, a book. Me, alone. ALONE!
Stage Two: The packing
Finally, I can wear this nice dress and this fancy jewelry and these high heels because I won’t have a child throwing up on me/pulling at my earrings/in my arms. I can bring nail polish because I’ll be able to paint my nails without having a 4-year-old begging me to paint his toes, too (though, I do have fun doing that … STOP! No sadness, just pack). Don’t forget the ibuprofen. You will HATE yourself if you forget the ibuprofen.
Stage Three: The goodbyes
Make it quick. Really quick. Just a kiss on the forehead and run. Get out of the house and don’t look back. Get in the car and turn on a happy song and – oh, shit. Here come the tears. I can’t do it. I can’t leave them. What if something happens to them? What if something happens to me? Great, now I’m ugly crying in the terminal. What if that kiss goodbye is the last time I kiss them? Can I get a refund on my plane ticket? Snotty nose, red eyes. I don’t want to go. I don’t need alone time. I need to be with my kids! What was I thinking?
Stage Four: The arrival
Kids? What kids? I see a big, empty bed with my name on it. I see a lounge chair on the balcony just begging for my ass to be in it. I see a bottle of wine that says, “Come drink me with zero interruptions.” This was SUCH a good decision.
Stage Five: The vacation
Stage Six: The last day
I have to get my son a teddy bear and I have to get my daughter a snow globe. I will hike all over this damn city until I find the perfect souvenirs. I can just picture their little smiling faces when I hand them their presents. I can’t believe I didn’t realize how much I miss them. I want to be home now. Right now. No, I don’t want to squeeze in one more meal before we have to leave. Let’s just leave.
Stage Seven: The homecoming
My babies! Oh, my sweet angels! I missed you so much! Yes, all the hugs and all the cuddles. Sure, you can sleep in our bed tonight. Yes, I’ll carry you all over the grocery store. Of course, you can eat dinner in my lap. Let’s be inseparable for the rest of our lives!
Stage Eight: The next day
When can we go away again?