Thursday, June 26, 2014

Loving Your Kids: At A Distance

I wish I could blame my month-long posting hiatus on my recent vacation, but alas, I can’t. 

I can, however, tell you that I learned some lesson while visiting Virginia for a cousin's wedding.  When you go on vacation without your kids, you do a couple things differently.

1)      You begin using your spouse’s name again, and what a nice feeling that is.  Instead of “Mom” she becomes a wife again.  The shift was almost immediate for me, and I don’t even thing I recognized it until about the third time I called her by her name.  It was both awesome and freeing, as if I had been transported back to a time before kids.
2)      You don’t realize how stressed you are until you leave it behind.  I’m such a better Dad the last two or three days and I credit the vacation.  I feel less stressed.  And yeah, I realize that is the reason for vacations, but still, worth noting.
3)      As much as I missed the hell out of my kids, I also missed them like  you miss scratching poison ivy.  Its such a visceral and fulfilling thing, scratching poison ivy, that you love it no matter how much the underlying issue bothers you.
4)      As much as you might dread returning to the structure and the crying and the diapers and the kid talk and the lack of personal time, the minute you walk in the door, you’ll realize how much you missed being Dad.

I want to return to #2 for a moment and its interplay with #3 and #4, because I think its something that is easy to miss.  It was hard leaving our kids behind.  It was the first time when we did it last year, it was this time, it probably will be next time, I imagine.  It was made more difficult by the fact that these are cousins I haven’t seen in 10 years or so, and who really wanted to see the kids.

Make no mistake - taking the triplets on trips is fun.  But taking the kids to Virginia is no kind of vacation.  It requires extra planning, extra packing and extra managing, to say nothing of the extra room we would need to book.  Between the extra planning, packing, and managing, it is more a chore than anything. 

And that is where point number 2 comes in.  Some stresses are immediate, like deadlines.  The Supreme Court is going to issue an opinion on the contraceptive mandate on Monday, so Monday is going to be one of those immediate stresses type of days for those of us who write about the litigation.

But other stresses are slow burners.  The petty kid fights, the strain of constantly being “on,” the need to always plan your next move so that one of the kids don’t explode – it all adds up.  The stress sneaks up on you.  Your shoulders tighten over the days; your outlook darkens over the weeks; your mood crashes over the months.  And pretty soon you aren’t the Dad you want to be anymore. 

Being away for four days – glorious days of mornings with no plans and days with nothing booked - washed the stress away. 

I’m more calm now, more in control now, more able to see my “happy place” when I need it now.  So while my kids may have missed me during those four days, they get a better Dad for the next month or two as a result.

And for the record, they hardly seemed to miss us at all. 

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