My husband and I recently celebrated our tenth wedding anniversary with a long-ass drive and a frivolously-fun weekend away in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.
When we had been driving home for several hours and were a few miles from picking up our daughters at their grandmother’s house, my expectations kicked in:
I wanted a show-stopping reunion with our girls immediately followed by two hours of whine-free driving (to get home) and ending with a fuss-free re-entry into our regular lives.
In other words I wanted to hug our girls, express how much we missed each other and then have them disappear into no-need nirvana before effortlessly going to sleep. As long as I was knee-deep in fantasy, I also wanted to return home to a butler ready to unpack and neatly put away all of our crap.
Mike and I haven’t taken much time off together as a couple since we became parents eight-plus years ago, and we both really enjoyed our weekend together – sleeping, reading, biking, eating, getting massages, making out like teenagers (so we’re clear: we have little first-hand experience with this teenage rite-of-passage nor will our girls if we
keep them locked up can help it).
While I missed Ava and Rhys and was excited to see them, I wasn’t ready to start being a mom again ever yet.
While I knew our daughters would be happy to see us, I also knew they’d be overtired and sad to leave the bevy of cousins and fun they had enjoyed over the past two days. Anticipating what I expected to be a combustion of oversized feelings and needs, I knew we were headed for our usual trouble – lions and tigers and bears exhaustion and sadness and power struggles, oh my!
For once I was clear that my expectations of familial bliss were out of whack. No way were our girls going to run into my arms and then have no needs for the rest of the evening.
I called my friend Trish for some advice on how to handle our vacation re-entry:
Her sage suggestions: “Your only job tonight is to be loving and to set whatever boundaries necessary to get everyone a good night’s sleep. End of story.”
My over-muddled brain loved the idea that my mothering experience that night could be boiled down into two simple ideas: be loving. I could do that. Set boundaries. Not a sure thing, but doable.
When we arrived home, Rhys was 47 gummy bears past overtired. After an initial power struggle around brushing her teeth, I held her while she moaned and cried, all the while repeating my mantra to myself, “be loving and guide her toward sleep.”
Once she got her cry out of the way, she was willing to brush her teeth and move on to the story marathon that is our sleep routine. By the time the irresponsible man with the yellow hat had left Curious George alone to incite mayhem for the second time, she was blissfully asleep. One kid down, one to go.
Ava had enjoyed some cuddling and reading time with her dad, so I was anticipating an easy sleep transition. “Be loving and stay firm,” I told myself. After we enjoyed our Harry Potter reading ritual, I was ready to say goodnight, lock my parenting hat in the closet and check my Twitter feed connect with my husband.
Instead, Ava wanted more attention before she could sleep. She wanted hugs and a chance to tell me how sad she was about leaving her cousins – how much she loved them and how happy she felt while she was with them. In Michigan. Not at home. Unless home included me reading her another chapter of Harry Potter.
I held firm and held her through her initial resistance to sleep. When I felt her soften in my arms, I said a small prayer of thanks to Trish and smiled. Mom fail averted. Job well done.
How do you help your family re-enter after a vacation or time away? We have a family trip to Michigan planned for later this summer, and I need your ideas!
I’m participating in Pour Your Heart Out with Things I Can’t Say!