I remember leaving the house for the first time after becoming a mother. It was just me and the baby. I was carrying no less that 40 pounds of baby gadgets and “just in case” items. The diaper bag looked more like luggage for a long-term vacation than a quick trip to Target. We’d been gone for 20 minutes when the baby took a shit that went all the way up her back. It was then I realized that things would never be easy again. Or at least not anytime in the foreseeable future.
Fast forward a few years and another kid, and things are still complicated. We’ve graduated from up-the-back shits, but taking the two of them anywhere is just asking for trouble. My kids have exactly two modes of operation—loving siblings or challenging opponents on WWE SmackDown. Sharing seems to be a major catalyst for their ridiculous behavior, other times breathing the same air is enough to send one of them careening headlong into crazy town. There are some days the whining and crying is enough to make the most patient person board a plane with a one-way ticket. Not that I have ever thought about leaving my family for a solo trip to the Caribbean, where beautiful people serve me drinks on a beach. I’m only speaking hypothetically, of course.
One particularly horrible Saturday morning, the child-related chaos reached a fever-pitch before 9 a.m. Both my husband and I had a million things to do, but Ren and Stimpy wouldn’t stop arguing long enough to accomplish much of anything. When a winner couldn’t be determined in a game of Rock, Paper, Scissors, my husband and I decided we would each take one kid, so we’d be equally miserable. (Because, clearly, we’re adults.)
With my six-year-old in tow, I headed to the grocery store. On a good day, I hate grocery shopping, so taking an unruly child was sure to make this experience top notch. To my absolute surprise, my daughter was the chillest of chill throughout the entire trip. I would even go so far as to say she was helpful. She collected items from the shelf when asked and helped me load the groceries into the car when we were finished. We had a delightful conversation about her favorite videos on YouTube, and she didn’t act out even once. I couldn’t believe my luck, and couldn’t wait to get home and share this obvious miracle with my husband. But, before I had a chance to brag, he dropped miracle bomb number two the minute we walked in the door. “Dude. He was so good while you guys were gone.” He said.
Um, what? Our kids behaving? AT THE SAME TIME? What is this sorcery?!
Ok, it’s not really sorcery, and it probably shouldn’t have surprised us as much as it did. Kids are just little people, and sometimes people need time apart. Because our kids are still fairly young and not yet involved in their own activities they are almost always together, neither of them getting one on one attention from myself or my husband for longer than a few minutes. Splitting them up is my new favorite thing. It allows the kids to each have our undivided attention. They get a much-needed break from trying to kill each other, and we get a break from playing referee. It’s winning, all the way around.
Now, we do this nearly every weekend, even if just for a few hours, and it’s been amazing for all of us. It’s made me realize, I’m not actually raising wild pack animals, and has improved the kids’ behavior when they are together. Maybe that’s the whole “absence makes the heart grow fonder” thing. Whatever it is, I accept and will continue planned time apart until they move out.