Charlie and I are coming up on our 19-year wedding anniversary. While we traveled extensively as a couple for the first 10 years of our marriage, for the past nine years - once we've become parents - we haven't gone out very much like we used to.
Although we've had babysitters here and there - for the most part, we're perfectly content to stay in ... or if we go out, we'd much prefer to take the children with us so they can share the experience, which usually consists of something juvenile that the children would enjoy. While we used to go to rock concerts and fly off for exotic retreats, now our idea of excitement surrounds things like the zoo, beach, amusement park, or Chuck E Cheese. Woot!
Up until last week, we'd only left the children - all four of them - once in their lifetimes. The one other time happened in 2009, when Charlie and I stayed at a hotel in downtown San Diego, so we could be close to the start line to run the Rock-n-Roll Marathon. We went to bed very late and awoke at 5AM while Alex and Kathleen graciously watched our cherubs. But that time away didn't really feel like a vacation, considering we had to wake up after five hours of sleep and run 26.2 miles.
When we arrived in Michigan last week, I was sick. And tired. And a bit cranky. Why was I cranky, you ask? Because it makes me so frustrated to think that I work and work and work and when my coveted vacation time rolls around, I'm sick. For that matter, I'm sick (or tired) nearly every weekend and for as much as I try to manage my energy and save my best energy for my family - it seldom happens that way. So, I get frustrated at the situation and that frustration manifests itself in to a crankiness that comes out on the people whom I love and adore the most.
And then there's the guilt that I'm frustrated and giving the people I love and adore the most even LESS of my best and hello rabbit hole of despair ... my name is Jen, I'll be the one falling down you and getting lost for a while.
When we arrived in Michigan, my lovely sister, the wonderfully intuitive Eileen, sensed that her baby sister was not in her best form so she indicated that she wanted to send Charlie and I away. When I first heard her say this, I perked up and said, "Like to Hawaii for a week?!" and she said, "No, to a bed and breakfast down the street for one night..." And without hesitation - which is extremely rare for me - I said YES. OF COURSE. Then I ran off to pack an overnight bag while Eileen continued, "So, um, why don't you run it by Charlie....?"
Ha, ha. The only thing I'd run by Charlie is myself - as I booked out the front door.
So my husband and I - courtesy of my sister and her husband - enjoyed our second getaway in our parenthood experience. While the more than capable team of Eileen and Clark and three of their teenaged daughters watched our children, we drove two minutes to a quaint bed and breakfast down the road from their house and it was perfect.
We checked in and talked with the innkeeper. We had a fresh baked cookie and cup of tea, before we walked in to the picturesque down town and strolled along Main Street and window shopped.
For the next several hours, we held hands and we kissed and I patted my husband on his bottom and maybe for a few zesty seconds, I left my hand there and pinched once or twice.
OH YES, I DID.
We sat on the outside patio and enjoyed a quiet dinner in a restaurant that had once been a church and we strolled back to the hotel and drank more tea and asked ourselves, "Why, why, WHY haven't we done this before?!" Many hours later, we woke up feeling rejuvenated and a lot less cranky. In the morning, we sat with other bed and breakfast patrons for three hours and enjoyed the most delicious breakfast (and lively conversation) Charlie and I can remember in recent times.
So here is my advice to anyone that wants it: If you really want to do something wonderful for a couple with young children, arrange for them to go and spend the night away. Even if it's just for one night - don't make the OFFER that you'll do this ... just do it.
And that is how you too, will enter the ranks of Sainthood. In at least the eyes of the couple from whom which you've given the heavenly (and much needed) reprieve that they may not have even realized that they truly needed.