Lessons I Learned During a Kid-Free Vacation

In our nine years as parents, my husband and I have never taken more than 24 hours off from the job together. We already had nine years and countless adventures together pre-kids, so we figured we might as well spend lots of time with our daughters while they still liked us. (And since we’re starting to get some eye rolling if we so much as breathe in our daughters’ presence, the time when we become completely uncool to our kids is close at hand.)

And besides, we adore our daughters—so why not spend some time with them?

But when my mom retired last year, her very first request was to host the girls for a few days of “Nana Camp,” where they could get their craft on (my family’s craft genes skipped my generation), and my husband and I could get a little peace and quiet.

It wasn’t easy, though, for us to say goodbye—I had a big lump in my throat as I watched them walk away with my mom. I knew my girls were in good hands, and they’d barely notice that we were gone. But without them around, my house would be quiet. Too quiet.

I’m leaving in a few minutes to trek up to my old homestead to pick them up, but in the meantime, here’s what I learned in my 96 hours sans kids.

1. We haven’t become an old married couple—yet. We’re 15 years into our marriage, and more than 18 into our romance, and I was worried that without the kiddos around, we’d just sit and stare at each other, sip soup loudly and say things like, “I wonder what the girls are doing.” But when we’re alone, we’re still the same kids we were when we tied the knot—just a bit grayer around the edges. When we first got home without them, we were at a loss as to what to do with ourselves—we ended up just sitting around, watching World War Z and eating cheese. But the next night, we hit a local tapas bar and had a ball—and only mentioned the kids in that “we obviously can’t take the kids here” way. We still know how to have fun with each other, without the kiddos—and I have high hopes for a decade from now, when our kids are grown (if not exactly gone).

2. My kids are to blame for the way my house looks. Yeah, this wasn’t exactly breaking news, as it generally took three seconds after their arrival after school before their backpack contents were scattered about like giant paper bombs had exploded in our living room. And despite trying nearly every system to get our kids to clean up after themselves, we’re still figuring out how to get them to put their shoes (and their dolls’ shoes) in the right spot. Our cleaning lady came on the same day we left to take them to camp, and three days later, our house still looks like it did when she left. Maybe it’s the lack of clutter, or maybe it’s the lack of bickering, but our house feels so much more zen over the past few days. And I’d like it to stay that way—so my kiddos should expect a lot more haranguing to keep their messes contained.

3. My parents have gone soft. Once upon a time, I got grounded for a week for not playing tennis with my baby brother, and was never allowed to have soda or Lucky Charms. But apparently, they’ve now cultivated an atmosphere that’s more like Las Vegas for the 18-and-under set. There’s sugary cereal and the limits I normally place on my kiddos apparently don’t apply. I’m beginning to become concerned that my children will not want to come back to our house, where there are proper bedtimes and restrictions on video games. And I’m absolutely certain that my children think I lied when I tell them my stories of woe from growing up with their beloved Nana and Papa.

4. I wouldn’t change a thing. Yeah, living a kid-free life means a lot less stress, a lot more sleep, a lot less arguing and a lot more grownup fun. But I miss my girls terribly, and I can’t wait to have their hugs and chatter and noise back in our house again.

Tell us: Do you take kid-free breaks? How does it impact your relationship with your mate and your kiddos?

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