New York, baby. Well no, actually. Despite the city that never sleeps seemingly being the perfect holiday destination for the little man who never sleeps, my wife and I decided to hand him over to the grandparents and make our recent trip to see friends and family a kid free break.
It’s a decision that will be met with applause by some parents and wrath by others. But I’m not here to talk about the rights and wrongs of what we did. Partly, because I’ve already done that in this post. And partly, because, as Elsa sang so eloquently, the past is in the past.
So what am I going to talk about? American politics? The New York dining scene? The pretty terrible picture of me standing outside the Empire State Building that is at the top of this article? My love for Duane Reade?* No, no, no and, sadly, no. I’m here to reveal five things my wife and I discovered during our recent long weekend away from our two-year-old that other parents who are planning a similar trip could potentially learn from. Things like…
Out of sight, out of mind
“Four nights away! You must have called your babysitters hundreds of times.”
Actually, it was more like two. I know this sounds bad, but before you scream “monster” and block me from all your social media feeds for the rest of time, please allow me to explain. We wanted to call before take off, when we landed, before we went to bed, each morning when we woke up and numerous other times throughout the day. But we didn’t, because, the first time we phoned, my wife’s parents said our son was doing really well and hadn’t mentioned us.
This hurt. Oh boy, it hurt. But once we’d had a chance to assess the situation, we realised, a) that given we were 7,000-odd miles away, the longer our son went without missing us, the better, b) that the more we called, the more we risked upsetting his equilibrium, and c) that the radio silence was clearly far harder on us than it was on him.
As a result, we decided to keep the vast majority of communication to texts and Whatsapps. And do you know what? It worked really well until the fourth night. Talking of which…
Four nights is one too many
Question: when it comes to a kid free break, how long is too long? Answer: four nights. I know this, because for the first three nights of our trip our son went on his merry way as if we had just nipped down the shops and were due back in ten minutes. Then, around 2pm on day four, he decided enough was enough and that he was going to cry and cry and cry for his mummy.
Cue an afternoon, evening and night of pain for the little man and his babysitters, 24 hours of worry for us, a firm agreement to never leave our son for four nights ever again, and a rather emotional final morning video call. Talking of which…
Do a test run before you video call
The plan was simple: make a video call; smile loads; convince bubby we still loved him; emphasise that we were coming home soon and then change the subject so his grandparents could put down the phone without prompting a meltdown. And it might have worked if… the hotel WiFi hadn’t kept cutting out every five seconds.
Sadly, I’m not joking. We began in our room. We progressed to the corridor. And then we ended up the lobby, but did the WiFi in any of these spots provide the coverage necessary to complete a satisfactory video call? Did they heck.
So what happened? What do you think happened? It was a complete car crash of people shouting “Hello, hello, heeelllllllllooooo,” saying “your picture has frozen”, and attempting to call each other back at the same time.
Still, at least it didn’t make the situation worse, right? Wrong. Our son ended the call in tears and extremely confused about our where we were, and we ended the call in tears and feeling extremely guilty. Talking of which…
You will guilt buy
We’d already bought our son a few pressies before the video call from hell, but after it? Move aside people of Manhattan, because these parents are on a mission. Jackets from Gap, swimming shorts from Old Navy, jumpers from H&M, you name it, we stuffed it on our basket and paid for it on plastic.
Did he really need any of these items? No. Am I looked forward to the bill? No. Did binge shopping momentarily make us feel better? Yes. Do I think other parents can learn from this? Yes. Heed my advice and add “£100 for guilt buying” to the budget of your next kid free break.
It’s going to be a tough week when you get back
Like all parents who nip off for a kid free weekend break, we hoped to arrive home to hugs, smiles and a seamless transition back into the old nap, dinner and bedtime patterns. And like all parents who nip off for a kid free weekend break, our wishes were granted. Ha, got you.
In reality, we were met by a clingy kid who refused to do anything without a whine and a fight due to a routine-slaying mix of anger and fear that he was going to be abandoned again. Fun times. Or more accurately, anything but fun times.
Yup, it’s my duty to warn all parents that the week after you get back from a kid free break will be challenging to say the least. But, hey, at least we weren’t trying to settle our son in at a new nursery or anything. Oh wait. That’s exactly what we were trying to do. D’oh, d’oh and treble d’oh.
I’ll spill all the beans on this separation anxiety roller coaster in a future post. But right now, it’s pick-up time and I’ve got to go. See you later alligators.
*Note to people who’ve never been to Manhattan: it’s a store, not a person.