My husband and I just got back from four glorious days away. Alone. No kids. Just the two of us and glorious freedom. Freedom to get up when we wanted. To go to sleep when we wanted. To do whatever TF we wanted whenever TF we wanted. Did I mention it was freaking glorious?
Getting ready for a getaway – whether with kids or without – always involves an obnoxious amount of preparations. Laundry. Packing. Coordinating carpools and transportation to various activities. Making sure whoever is watching your kids has everything they need – including a detailed list of instructions on what is and is not allowed while they are in their care.
HAHAHAHA. Eye rolls forever.
You know what instructions we left before leaving our kids with their grandparents for four days?
HAVE FUN. That’s it.
Well, that’s not entirely true. We also told our kids to not be assholes, but other than that, HAVE FUN was the only thing on the list. And really, there was no list at all. It was more like a hurried reminder to “have fun!” as we literally ran out the door.
There were no reminders about the appropriate bedtime. No details about bathing schedules. No instructions to limit candy. In fact, it was Easter weekend so there would be mountains of candy. Quite literally.
Did we return to sugared-up little hellions who whined and complained when they were reminded to do their chores the next day? Sure. Did they sulk when they couldn’t have chocolate waffles dripping with syrup and dipped in sprinkles for breakfast? Yep. Were they overtired with zero recollection about basic hygiene? For sure.
Did they come back acting like little assholes? Maybe.
But truthfully, they were acting like assholes before their weekend at Camp Grandma and Chez Cousins. Because they are kids and KIDS ACT LIKE ASSHOLES.
Some parents justify their mile-long lists with complaints about how their kids behave worse when they come back from spending some time with their grandparents. And that might be true. But that’s a small price to pay for free childcare and time to foster a strong relationship with their extended family, and allowing their parents some much-needed time to recharge. A small price indeed.
Because what my kids get from spending time with their extended family – grandparents, aunts and uncles, cousins – without their parents around is absolutely invaluable. They learn to rely on, trust and respect adults other than their parents – something that will be increasingly more important as they get into the teen years. They get to be silly and wild and… you know, generally be a silly kid. They get to play with all sorts of annoying toys – like kazoos and Whoopie Cushions – that would annoy the hell out of me at home. They get to sneak off with their cousins to tell stories and make fun videos. They get to be spoiled and loved on – even if it does come in the form of cheap plastic toys and sugary foods and hours spent watching goofy YouTube videos.
So be it.
I’m painfully aware that not all grandparents are created equal. Some folks don’t have extended family who live nearby. Some grandparents are physically or emotionally unavailable. Some grandparents have medical conditions that prevent them from caring for someone else, much less a child. And some grandparents just don’t want to take on that responsibility.
But if your kids are fortunate enough to have grandparents around who are willing to show up for them, I have a few words of advice: Soak. It. Up.
And maybe let go of the rules and “dos/don’ts” lists and detailed instructions. (Other than car seats, of course.)
Sure, it’s annoying when your kids come home practically shaking with sugar withdrawal, carrying bags filled with more annoying toys than you know what to do with. But it’s worth it. Because these are the things your kids will remember. They’ll remember staying up until midnight hiding Easter eggs with their grandma. They will remember choreographing music videos with their cousins. They’ll remember eating so many lollipops that their tongue turned blue for days. They’ll remember feeling loved and free.
Their grandparents will benefit too. They’ll know that you trust them (they did do this parenting thing before, you know?) and appreciate them. They get time with those adorable little assholes – er, kids – of ours. They get to create a shit ton of amazing memories, listen to loads of hilarious stories, and love their grandkids in the way that only a grandparent can.
And we parents get time away. We get to reconnect with our spouse and remember what it was like before we were known as “Mom” and “Dad.” We get to enjoy time away from those little humans who drive us mad but we love so much it hurts with the comfort of knowing that they are with people who love them (almost) as much as we do. We get to freaking sleep. (Glorious, I tell you. Absolutely glorious.)
Which is why my list for the grandparents is this: Have fun. And thank you.
Oh, and don’t forget about the car seats.
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