Three more sleeps. That’s how long I have to wait until my husband and I leave for a week-long, kid-free vacation. Seven nights with just the two of us, while his parents stay at our house and look after our children. I keep thinking about that moment when I arrive at my gate at the airport, and I have made it through security and checked my luggage and found my gate … and then I’m done. I will pull my book out of my bag, and I will start to relax. I can’t wait.
But because I am a normal human mother, I of course feel a bit guilty. I know that my in-laws are excellent care-givers, and that all the kids are old enough to understand that Mommy and Daddy will be back in seven sleeps. I know that they are going to have lots of fun and be perfectly safe without me … but the little voice in my head does sometimes whisper that they might not be fine, and how awful will it be if something terrible happens while I’m gone? Also, caring for four children requires a lot of energy and patience and hard work, and that is an awful lot to ask of my husband’s parents. So, yeah. I feel little guilty about leaving my kids for a whole week.
But I’m definitely going, even though one of my kids will have her fourth birthday while I’m gone. Yes, I’ll be missing my daughter’s birthday. And that’s something I don’t actually feel guilty about at all.
Here’s why. First I should say that I do think it’s important for me to show my children that their milestones are important to me. My daughter will only turn four only once, and I absolutely know that turning a whole year older is a really big deal when you’re that young. She’s been talking about how she’s “almost four” for weeks already, and she knows that she’s going to get a pet fish, and she’s both thrilled and adorably confused about the whole thing. I definitely want her (and her observant sisters) to know that I care about this.
But I also want my kids to know that while they are very important to me, Mommy’s world — and the rest of the world, actually — does not revolve around them. I’m going to miss her birthday, but that’s because I’m prioritizing my marriage and my own need for the kind of rest you can only get without small children around. If I were to say, “I wish I could go away that week, and it all works out perfectly, but I can’t because it’s my daughter’s birthday,” I’d be sending a definite message about my priorities, not to mention the amount of pressure I’d be putting on that birthday to be worth the sacrifice.
It turns out that reconciling these things — showing my kids that their birthdays are important to me while also showing them that the world does not revolve around them — is actually pretty easy. I get to go on a cruise with my husband, and I just have to make sure that I leave behind a birthday present, as well as ensure that her birthday is going to be celebrated by those who are with her, which will be easy as pie. You see, she has three sisters. And grandparents who usually miss her birthday but will be thrilled to be there for one. And a present hidden in my closet.
We’ve been talking about it a lot, and Little Miss Confident can’t wait for me to leave. “Oma Opa gonna come and it’s gonna be my birfday and you and Daddy are gonna miss it ’cause you be on a big boat! And it’s my birfday and I be four!” My almost-four-year-old is going to be just fine. And I’m gonna be more than fine on my big boat. I’ll just have to take my birthday girl shopping for a pet fish when I get back.