So the first week back from vacation was a little rough. It seemed like let down after let down. And it was quite a bummer since I had been relatively satisfied with my life before going, bringing into question the wisdom of going on vacation at all. But things have settled back down and life is now enriched so far beyond what it was B.V. It was the right decision.
God love the children but man, do they suck the you out of you. I’d rather have this problem then the other. In other words, I’d rather have selfishness dragged out of me by these little people then letting it grow as my insulation from discomfort grows; the fate which might have happened to me without them. But surely there’s a way to have the selfishness dragged out without the self being dragged out with it. As parents we need to hang onto who we are outside of our office of mommy and daddy for three main reasons.
One, yourself. Waking up one day after 20-30 years of parenting to the fact that you are a person(!)just like all those other people out there is no way to spend a life. That person would be much happier having experienced life and participated in it then to to have (exclusively) facilitated it for everyone around them. Facilitate, by all means, but participate also.
Two, your spouse. They married you, not “mommy”, not “daddy”. The marriage relationship no doubt grows and deepens in the great partnership that is Parenthood. But there is something more foundational then that bond. It is the bond of matrimony. It took me a full day to disentangle myself from my role as mother (the image of all those little hands grasping and pulling at me is what comes to mind) and to disassociate John from his role as daddy in order to get down to basics again: Him and me and God. I would also be sad to wake up in twenty or thirty years and realize that either this wonderful relationship was there all along and we could have been enjoying each other this whole time, or…God forbid…that it’s been at the bottom of the pile for so long that you can no longer find it.
Third, your children. Parents so decidedly set the tone in the home but all too often we actually give up that power to the hooligans because we are reacting to their antics rather than raising ourselves and the others above them. Since vacation John and I have been so much more connected to ourselves and each other that the kids frequent unpleasantness doesn’t have nearly the same power of transformation over the home as it had before. We set the tone again. And, being reasonable adults instead of pintsized-loons, the tone is much pleasanter. Go figger. In fact, those pintsized-loons deserve to grow up in a happy, pleasant, even – dare I say it? – joyful home, even when it seems that they are dead-set on sabotaging that plan.
Will this last? For a while. Will the hooligans take over again? Almost certainly. What then? Another vacation. Regular retreats enrich the life that we’ve chosen. I initially thought of this vacation as a once-in-a-lifetime experience and came soon to realize that it can’t be, it’s simply too important to treat as a luxury. Jamaica…well, Jamaica can be a luxury. But the retreat? The connecting to yourself, your spouse and God? I have tasted and have seen…there’s no going back now. There’s only one way to really enjoy those kids – to get away from them…sometimes!