Thursday, June 07, 2012

Absent

Mom and Amanda, summer 1999
You know how when you're in high school and college, and you have a long distance relationship -- you comfort yourself with the old adage "Absence makes the heart grow fonder."  Of course you are also plagued with the possibility of "Out of sight, out of mind."

I've found both to be true in parenting with perks and benefits to parent and child.

Terry and I were married almost six years before Amanda was born, so when she came along we had enjoyed vacations together and had the time to grow into ourselves as a married couple. We determined that becoming parents would not completely change that. And it didn't. Yes, we loved being parents, and we valued what she added to our lives. But having just one child did make it easier. The other factor that insured that we stayed connected as a couple was regular getaways.

My mom and stepdad came to visit us in Oregon for Amanda's first birthday. Mom volunteered to babysit if we wanted to have a romantic getaway, so we took her up on it.  I know people who haven't even left their children with a babysitter in the first year. I've learned not to judge what works for other people, but I have to admit that I always cringe when I hear that. I get that some people might not be able to bite the overnight getaway bullet so soon, but it's worked for us.

In fact, it worked so well that 8 months later, Mom came for a whole week while Terry and I escaped to a remote island. It was perfect. This was in 1999, before wide cell phone coverage, and believe it or not -- we were gone a full 7 days and didn't even talk to my mom or Amanda. Mom could have called the office if she needed us, but we didn't have phones in the room, and calling out wasn't easy. This is where the principle of "Out of sight, out of mind" came into play.

Of course Amanda was not out of my mind. I missed her. I wondered what she and Mom were up to. But I knew that they were both creating memories, and Terry and I were investing in our marriage. We arrived home in the afternoon, and Amanda was napping. I could hardly wait for her to wake up so that I could grab her and hug her. So at the first peep, I opened her door, expecting to see the excitement on her face. Nope. I mean, she was glad to see me, but it was just as if I had been there when she went down for her nap, not 7 days before. I haven't checked the developmental experts, but it seems that if young toddlers are still grappling with object permanence, the same could be said for parental permanence.

Maybe the key is not delaying your departures, but actually doing it sooner. We were definitely out of sight, out of mind in Amanda's toddler world. She wasn't out of our minds, but the fact that we truly escaped that 24-7 connection (which wasn't all that unusual 12 years ago), did help us to focus on our true purpose of being there. And other times when I was able to talk with my kids when I was away, it just made me miss them more.

Things have changed. That toddler Amanda is now a teen who will start high school this fall. She's off at church camp with a bunch of other teenagers. Come back to tomorrow to find out about why "absence makes the heart grow fonder."


2 comments:

Carrie said...

GAA! This is something I'm constantly working on -- to realize that it IS ok to get away. And leave the children. We're working on it and trying our best! It doesn't always happen but I think we're closer to being able to make that happen more regularly and we look forward to it!

Katrina @ Callapidder Days said...

We're not great about leaving the kids...but mostly because we're tired and busy! I know you've always been good about having couple getaways and I admire that.