Somewhere along the continuum of historical parenting, it’s become norm to demonstrate our love for our kids by making them the center of our world. I have encountered countless parents who have prided themselves in this single, all encompassing statement: “We have not gone away without our kids for [fill in an obscene number-the more, the better] years! I just cannot imagine going somewhere without them!”
Those same parents
unconsciously join together to shun any parents who decide to get away without their precious offspring. It’s as if going on a long weekend trip together while your kids get spoiled by grandparents now constitutes some form of child abuse or neglect worthy of a social service call. I’ve seen the eye rolls and tell tale glances down long noses when my husband and I have vacationed together without our kids. These parents talk about nothing, unless it includes car pool schedules, grades, piano recitals, sport stats (no- not NFL or MLB, I’m talking Pee Wee and Little League) and self-inflicted outings to places with names like “climbnasium” and “Monkey Joe’s”. They keep score based on hours spent cuddling, coddling and cosseting. Not each other, of course, but instead the little self-indulged youngins running around their baby-proofed houses that are decorated with nothing more than finger paints and juice-stained sectionals.
This past week my husband and I went to Savannah, GA to celebrate our anniversary. We chose Savannah because it epitomized our unique combination of interests- history, architecture, good food and art, none of which are in anyway related to our children’s interests. And that’s fine. Because they stayed home. As they do usually 1-2 times a year, when mom and dad go somewhere together, without them, because we can and we should. They didn’t bat an eye when they were told of our vacation plans. They bid us a fond farewell, we occasionally chatted on the phone, they each had fun without us. And, most importantly, my husband and I dined together, toured a new place together, created another memory together and remembered why we love each other. Because the best way you can show your love for your kids, is by loving each other. Period. Some of the best parenting happens when you show your kids that they aren’t the only thing important to you. If you want someone else’s perspective on this topic, read this.
A great by-product of my husband and me being selfish, is that our kids get to spend quality time with other family members. They are developing bonds with grandparents, laughing with cousins, getting scolded by aunts and uncles. They are learning to live independently of us. They are learning to thrive on their own. They are getting advice and stories from a wider circle of good influences. See this post about widening your parental influence, and the importance of non-parent relationships for young kids.
In case you’re reading this and still labeling us as neglectful parents, let me make one thing clear; we are not the same parents that choose our own interests time and time again over that of our children. We are not the parents that see giving birth as the culminating event of parenthood, and every act after is based on our own selfish wants and needs. We don’t sit our kids in front of Xboxes and go bar hopping every weekend. We don’t forget birthdays, we don’t miss opportunities to teach, we aren’t drive-by parents. We are aware of our kids’ grades, we go to parent-teacher conferences, we enjoy miniature golf outings and trips to the zoo.
Oh, believe me, our kids are not neglected- by any stretch of the imagination. They get one-on-one time with us, family time, vacation time. They get chauffeured, spoiled and they feel loved. They also know we (the parents) will exist even after they have moved on. They know our love for each other is as strong or stronger than our love for them. They know we have interests and talents that aren’t related to their interests and talents. And one thing they must know- they are not our world. Instead, they live in our world. And someday, they’ll create their own world. And we will come visit, on our way to Italy. Or maybe France.