When my parents first asked us if we would think about letting the kids stay for a few weeks during the summer, our reaction was kind of like any other normal parent: freedom! Usually during the summer, I take the kids to California to see family for a few weeks. However, this summer was going to be different. I’m now a bona fide, part-time employee with a fairly flexible schedule. While I’m able to take time off and do some maneuvering with my hours, I knew that I wouldn’t be able to take enough time to really have a quality visit. So, I took the trip off the table.
As summer approached, I was asked by my parents if there was any way that we would be able to make it out to California. Because of ticket prices and lack of time, I said that it was going to be a no-go. Not even two hours after this conversation, the kids began lamenting their summer woes. They wanted to go to California and visit with family and actually feel like they were having a summer (“summer” in Germany isn’t quite the same as it is in the States). I can take a hint, so I conferred with Husband. After much discussion, we brought up the idea to Mom and Dad. If the offer was still on the table, would they be willing to host the kids for a couple of weeks? To everyone’s happiness, they said yes.
We went to the ticket office and found some discounted airfare. However, there was a catch. Rather than the original two or three weeks, the kids would be gone for six weeks. After consulting Mom and Dad (and the kids), we went ahead and bought the tickets. I was instantly hit with a pang of anxiety and guilt. Six weeks. Away from my kids. Literally halfway across the world. What kind of parents do this? We do.
Here’s the thing. Husband’s job takes us all over the globe. When I was growing up, I spent a lot of time with family. I loved playing with my cousins and getting to know my grandparents, aunts and uncles. My kids haven’t really known this. Not because we don’t want them to–just the opposite. We’ve just been so far away geographically for so long that the opportunity doesn’t really present itself. My kids are so very lucky–they have two sets of fantastic grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins and an amazing extended family. For us to be able to send them back to my family home to get know some of these amazing relatives just seemed to make sense. They’re both relatively self-sufficient and mostly well-behaved kids. They’re at the perfect age where fostering and developing a relationship with their grandparents is important; even more so without Husband and I interfering or acting as intermediaries.
The hardest part for me, aside from missing them terribly, is the guilt. I actually wrote the majority of this post on the first leg of my trip back to Germany without them. I have guilt from many different angles: mom guilt, daughter guilt and even wife guilt. As a mom, I don’t want them thinking that they were dumped off for the summer so that Husband and I could party and be stupid without them. The truth is, they would have been bored out of their ever-loving minds had they stayed. Husband’s job is kicking off the busy season, and there’s a good chance that he’ll have to ditch me for a few days here and there. I know the kids would have been okay, but they would have been alone for a good chunk of the day, fighting over the gaming systems and doing wonderful impressions of the five-toed sloth. My parents, on the other hand, have done so many fun things with them. Camping, kayaking, an upcoming road trip up to Oregon, the California State Fair, indoor karting and more. The best part?? No Xbox.
Similarly, as a daughter I feel guilty because I don’t want my parents to feel as though we’re taking advantage of them or using them as a glorified babysitting service. They’ve assured me constantly that they don’t feel that way, but on the outside I know how it can look. I also know adding two extra peeps to a household that is pretty chill can throw the balance off a little.
As a wife, I feel guilty and a little selfish that I get to spend time with just Husband. We’ve been together for 19 years and 10.5 months (but who’s counting?). We’ve gone on date nights here and there, and spent a little time away from the kids for a week twice before this summer. Since the kids went to Mom and Dad’s, we’ve had a few awkward moments, but we’ve also had conversations that have been building for a while and just never had the chance to be heard. We’ve always prided ourselves on being fairly good communicators with each other, but it’s been fun to get to know each other on a slightly different playing field.
I miss and adore my little humans. I hope that they are having the summer of their lives.