My children will be leaving tomorrow to see their dad for a few days.
There will be anxiety and pressure.
There will be fun trips to places they rarely see.
There will be treats and late bedtimes.
There will be a transition home that I am trying to not to think about.
And let’s just be honest, there will be two parents, desperately in need of a break and time together, trying to make the most of their time.
I woke this morning thinking about what inevitably happens when we do this. Like my son’s routine, there are just some things you can count on around here when the kids are gone.
Here’s what happens when parents, on the edge, go wild.
15 Minutes After the Kids Leave:
I call Mick at work to tell him how the goodbye went. I feel sad. Mick feels helpless. I cry. Then I tell him to hurry up and finish work, so that we can order Thai food and watch Netflix.
30 Minutes After the Kids Leave:
I stumble back into the now very, very quiet house. The remnants of the trying to get two kids out the door and on a flight surround me. There are breakfast dishes and medicines all over the kitchen. Little boy undies are wadded up right in the middle of the living room floor. The bedrooms look like a bomb went off and the bathrooms are even worse. I look around, take it all in, then grab some ice cream and start watching House Hunters.
3 Hours After the Kids Leave:
My husband comes in the door and fights the urge to turn around and go back to work. In addition to the mess described earlier, he also sees his wife in jammie pants, drooling all over the couch cushions with an almost empty carton of ice cream melting next to her. He treads lightly, and when I wake, it is already dark outside.
5 Hours After the Kids Leave:
We order Thai food and binge watch Netflix.
14 hours After the Kids Leave:
After watching an entire season of our new show straight through, we finally go to bed – waaaaaaaaay to late. I whine about how tired I am, but then proceed to talk about all the characters and major plot points in the show until my husband very carefully and sweetly says, “You know I am falling asleep, Baby. I can’t pay attention anymore. I am sorry.” I stop talking, feeling sheepish, and fall asleep in about 3 minutes flat.
The Day After the Kids Leave:
After sleeping in a little, I get up and clean up yesterday’s mess. I am stunned at how quickly things go bad when I take an entire day off from tidying.
My husband wakes up a little bit later and no matter what, we have a horrible fight. It doesn’t matter when, it doesn’t matter what about – at some point the day after the kids leave, we will have a knock down drag out.
It is part of this, we have learned. The need to vent, decompress, say what we need to say, and then say some more. We argue loudly – no children around means we can really get into it. We stew. We each defend out point of view. We argue loudly some more.
Then, we soften. We put our walls down. We let the stress and strain of our life together melt away. We really start talking, and not just about whatever we were fighting about.
We eventually end up like newlyweds. “No I love you. No, I love you. Sweetems. Love Bug. Let’s never fight again.”
Then we eat leftover Thai food and binge watch more Netflix. We go to bed at least one hour before we did the night before. This makes us feel productive, even though it is still 3 hours past our usual bedtime. We sleep better than we have in months.
The Day Before the Children Return:
After a good night’s rest, I wake up with a to-do list already running through my mind. “It’s my last day!!! There is so much I want to do. I need to scrub the bathroom and write that book and call my friend and rearrange the closets!!! I better get to it.” Then my husband comes in, takes my hand and says, “This is your last day to relax.”
I smile at him and dismissively say, “Oh honey. These things just need to get done.” He shrugs and goes to relax and read. I run around for an hour, and then give up and join him.
At some point, we will go out for Mexican food. For sure. Without fail. We will have tacos on the day before the children return.
As the day wears on, I start to vacillate between depression, “My time is almost up!” and wistfulness, “Oh my goodness, I miss those boys so much it hurts!”
I clean their rooms and carefully make up their beds with fresh sheets. My husband fixes any technology issues on their devices. We both talk about how much we want them back.
The Day the Kids Return:
My husband and I are more connected than we have been in months. We both swagger a little, as we prep for our day. “We got this parenting thing. Why do we make it so hard? We can totally do this.” Within 48 hours, we will be back to our normal, “This is so hard. Oh my goodness, how to we do this? Whats wrong with us that we can’t figure out how to get two human beings to eat food. Why doesn’t he sleep? We are so bad at this.” But for now, we enjoy our condescending delusion.
He leaves for work and I leave for the airport. On the night that the kids return, there will be hugs, there will be kisses, and there will be endless accounts of all the things that happened on their trip.
And then, we will slowly but surely, get back to our normal.
I wouldn’t change a thing.
Shawna Wingert is a former training and development professional turned education specialist, and has homeschooled her two children for the last ten years.Shawna has written four books about homeschooling unique learners and has been featured in homeschooling discussions on Today.com, The Mighty, Simple Homeschool, My Little Poppies and Raising Lifelong Leaners.
You can find her online here at DifferentByDesignLearning.com.