If you’re going to be “religious” about one thing, let this be it.
I’ll never forget the first time my husband and I went away without the kids.
It was our five-year anniversary and we had two kids. Like most new parents, we were intense helicopters in the early years (probably still are), and it took a milestone such as this to leave our precious “gems” behind.
It’s hard to put into the words the anxiety we felt. More time was spent packing the kids’ individual outfits labeled for each day, than ensuring my own suitcase contained the basics for an uplifting getaway.
The email I sent my mother-in-law, who had raised seven children of her own, detailed what my angels did from the moment they woke to the moment they lay to rest, and probably exceeded the length of this article three-fold. Mind you, I wasn’t alone. My husband couldn’t get his head around the upcoming estrangement, to the point where our plans for after arrival in New York were nonexistent.
As we were dropped off at the airport, already distraught, we turned to each other, unsure of what to do with ourselves. This was unfamiliar territory. It was so long since it had been just us. What would we discuss when kids didn’t need to be fed, entertained or taken to the bathroom? Where were the sticker books, bought at exorbitant airport prices, to keep them busy? Who would we clean up after the giant cookies that had kept them quiet for all of three minutes? Five years into our marriage, we experienced a strange moment of awkwardness.
“Is that a new sheitel?” My husband asked, breaking the silence.
I had purchased it last year.
It soon became evident that our kids were just fine (or better) without us. Our calls home every five minutes were met with happy giggles and well wishes, to have a good time and relax, something neither of us are very good at.
Seven p.m. passed and we received a detailed account of how each of them had fallen asleep, flawlessly. “KK asked for mommy once.” ONCE? That’s it?! It dawned upon us that we had no choice but to tune out and try enjoy our time together.
Abruptly and quite adventurously my husband turned to me and said, “Let’s go out like REALLY late tonight.” “Yeah?!” I responded, trying to match the excitement in his voice. “Yeah, like at NINE.” There was yet another awkward pause until we both burst out laughing, realizing the mundane reality our lives had come to.
And so, our first getaway was a complete, expensive and utter. . . fail. Struggling to get into the groove, we attempted to relive our carefree, first days as newlyweds. We sang karaoke, (assisted by alcohol) and surrounded by Koreans. Which was actually a blast - until the next morning.
We mistakenly joined a line of homeless people to get free pizza at 3 a.m. We met up with an old friend from high school, and I tried to show I had A LOT to talk about besides my kids.
There was the super fancy hotel room toilet that we invited all our guests to look at because clearly we get out a lot and see really cool things all the time. There was the guy who offered to buy me a drink when my husband stepped away. He was over fifty and somewhat creepy. Regardless, I was flattered.
Walking down Fifth Avenue I recalled the excitement of buying new shoes in anticipation of another date. We passed a Toys “R” Us and held back the urge to spend most of our time choosing the right gifts to bring home.
We almost had a romantic moment walking amongst the beautiful Rockefeller lights. Until my guilt tainted it like a wine stain on a fresh Shabbos tablecloth. Things just didn't feel the same without a starry eyed toddler by my side.
There was a lot of talk about sleeping in, which was railroaded by a couple of upset stomachs. While alcohol helped us slightly unwind, we were still clearly missing a piece of the puzzle - quality time together.
Even when not touring New York without kids, planning the occasional getaway is not always possible, or even realistic. Yes, they are awesome and a worthy goal, but often aren’t enough to ensure that the enjoyable part of being in a relationship doesn’t get lost in the daily grind.
In our first year of marriage (an article in itself), a wise person lectured me on the importance of a setting aside a weekly Date Night. The rather strange outcomes of our New York getaway pushed me to see their point.
So, once a week we try make it out the door past 7pm. I would have to plead guilty to lying about not finding a babysitter, or pretending to fall asleep with the kids, just to avoid getting dressed and leaving the house. But every time we do actually get our act together and go party like it’s 1999, (i.e. visit the tea house), it’s never regretted, highly enjoyed and strengthens our connection as two adults bound together for life.