Family time. I get it, it’s really important. I value it beyond measure. However, at 6 and 7 years old my kids can speak up for themselves when ordering in a restaurant, they can tell someone if they are hot or cold, and they can, in fact, just grab a sweater themselves. They can figure out their outfits for school in the morning, recite off their favorite breakfast foods, and tie their shoelaces. They know where I keep the extra toilet paper, and can read most school notices and tell the time.
All these were signs to me that it was finally time for us — me and hubby — to escape the routine, the structure, the endless thoughts and lists of laundry, dinner, floor cleanliness, and homework. My kids’ childhoods have been pretty idyllic up to now. Despite living in a place with ridiculously cheap daycare (that’s 7$/day canadian, natch!), my kids never went because between my teaching and their father sommelier-ing (?), we had the best schedule for the kids. Let me repeat that, for the kids.
I get them up, dressed, and breakfast-fed, and most days I drop them off at school. Their father picks kid A up at 10:45 and kid B at 11:30 for lunch (we live a few blocks from the school), cooks their lunch, walks them back. Then he picks them up at 3:30 after cooking (all from scratch, trained at a high-class French restaurant, yummy!) the second meal of the day. Poor dude doesn’t even get to eat that one as I come home soon after school and he leaves for the restaurant. Then I am all over the bath, homework, piano practice, re-heating dinner, story and bedtime. I get to housework and laundry at night after their bedtime, and hubby finishes whatever I don’t finish the next day.
So, it’s awesome for the kids. They get quality time with both parents, a short school day compared to all their friends in after-school care, a clean home, two home-cooked meals, and our focus on them … every… single… day.
But where are we in this picture? Hubby and me? We are a quick kiss in the morning as I leave, a lingering kiss in the driveway in the afternoon, and a sleepy discussion around midnight or later if I can stay up. And lots of texts and phone calls during the day, mostly practical with a handful of loving or sexting thrown in. Saturdays are sacrificed to the gods of swimming and judo classes. We truly catch up on Sundays, our one day that we spend as a family with no scheduled events, and often feel lucky that we connect that way because our schedule wouldn’t help any couple.
We fell in love in a crazy, consuming way in our early 30s, and started to have our babies right away in booms-booms that were only 15 months apart. It’s been unreal busy since then, but we still get along really well, we’re amazing friends, sex is great, and we agree on almost all the parenting/house decisions.
Although we aren’t in trouble in any way, we could be someday. We could get so busy that we drift, flirt with distractions, find other interests, start arguing, stop having sex and connecting. It could happen; we see it all the time among the parents of our kids’ friends. It would be sad and regrettable, but normal too, in a world where our daughter’s grade one teacher uses a smartphone app so she can send messages to both parents simultaneously because with so many split, blended, and complicated family structures, texting one parent is just not enough. And I don’t want that for us.
So we took off for three weeks. We left the kids with the grandparents, 10 pages of various instructions, schedules, doctor and dentist numbers, health cards and the keys to the house and car, and little packets for the kids to open along the way. We backpacked through Cuba, no reservations, off the beaten path with little Spanish but lots of pantomiming. No cell service, and Internet only every few days. We slept on a beach, and went skinny dipping much to the amusement of the wildlife officer who ran across us.
We ate 60 cent pizzas and drank 5 cent coffees from the side of the street. We drank rum from suspiciously un-labeled bottles while wandering the famous Malecon at midnight in Havana. Nothing but a bus departure or a check-out time got us out of bed when we didn’t want to get out. We went to museums that didn’t need a cartoon character to keep our attention. We went snorkelling and hiking. We napped in public parks. I hung out and read books and books while hubby fished. We made love whenever the mood struck us, and it struck us often, as stress, sleep deprivation, and schedules were no longer issues. We not only got out of our house, but we got out of our comfort zone and our common languages (I’m anglophone, hubby is francophone).
At 40, we traveled like we were 20 again. And we had time to talk. We missed the kids, and talked about them. Then we talked about us. Then we talked about anything.
It is here, with my seven-and-a-half-year-old daughter with the splash of freckles and animal obsession, and my six-year-old ghostbusters-fanatic son, that I draw the line. I refuse to lose my awesome relationship because we give so much to our family life. I don’t regret our choices, because I see how happy, healthy, smart and nice our kids have become.
But one day they will grow up and leave us, and giving them memories of walking in on hubby and me making out among piles of laundry or dirty dishes, or laughing so hard together that we start crying, is the best gift I can give them, because it’ll give them #relationshipgoals to aspire to in the future. Because I want the kids to have what I have … a family life and a grown-up relationship that I would sign up for again, in a heartbeat.