For the past 7 years my husband and I have been leaving the boys for at least a week while we go away on vacation together. We started this tradition when Liam was one and a half and obviously we liked it so much, we've kept it going! At first, I couldn't fathom leaving my baby for even a night, but when my husband was asked to speak at a conference in Maui we knew we would be crazy if we didn't go. My initial thought was that we were going WAY too far away from him and that perhaps starting with a weekend in New York would be more ideal, but after we got back we realized it was actually great being in Hawaii because it meant we couldn't come back (something I would have definitely done) if he was having a hard time. Being so far removed really allowed us to relax and by day four we were no longer checking for email updates every 5 minutes! (That changed to every 30 ;))
After having such success with our first trip we really felt like we got our wings back and the next year we followed up Hawaii with Fiji. Then there was Costa Rica, Paris, Costa Rica, San Fransisco, Big Sur and in a few days we are embarking on another trip to Costa. We never go for less than a week and that alone time together is something that we really live for the rest of the year. The boys always have a fantastic week and while they miss us they still really seem to understand that these trips are important, and are pretty relaxed in letting us go.
Here are 5 tips that have made leaving our kids breeze. Obviously, all kids are unique but given our boy's distinctly different personalities I'm confident this would work for most kids. Read this and then book that trip! ;)
- Go Far Far Away. As I mentioned above, distance really was the key to our first trip away. If you always have it in your mind that you can go back home then you really are more likely to do so if even the littlest thing goes wrong. Go far, turn off you phone and enjoy the kid free silence!
- Keep The Routines. We are so incredibly fortunate that my in-laws are ready and able to be with the kids while we are gone, and really it's the only reason we can do so. They always fly in a few days before we are leave so they can figure out the routine, and stay a few days later in case of flight delays. Everything stays exactly the same for the kids when they are here, school, bedtime, activities... etc so our absence doesn't cause that much disruption in their days. I've had friends who have done the reverse, dropping their kids off at parents and their kids seemed to have a harder time. My thought is that the more things can stay the same while you are removed the better... one less thing for the kids to worry about!
- Call!!! Or Not! This can vary from kid to kid and really from age to age. There are some trips that we've taken where a Facetime call could really set Liam off. Sometimes it was tears, and others he'd get really hyper. You have to be flexible in how much contact you want to have with them and really it's their moods that dictate this. We've found great success in email where we will write a letter to the boys telling them about our day and they will happily have a letter transcribed back to us. It keeps the communication open without it being too emotional. We also buy a little stuffed animal for each of the boys and take a picture with it each day during an activity. They get the animal when we get home, and sometimes the animal writes emails about what he is doing with us! The kids love this and it tends to erase any sadness they are feeling once they get the picture and message.
- Buy Them Stuff. aka bribery. Each time before we leave, the boys get to pick out a Lego set to build together. We usually pick it out the week before and for the days leading up to our trip they talk about how excited they are to open it. Gray is already counting down until we leave not because he's sad but because he wants the Lego set! While we are away I give each boy a numbered envelope for each day we are gone, similar to an advent calendar. It usually has a little candy or something small in it and just gives them something to look forward to each morning. Also, it's a real way for them to see how close you are to coming home by watching the envelopes disappear! Whoever said kids can't be bought never went away for a week! ;)
- Do It Regularly. This is the key for our family. For their entire lives, the boy's have known that us going away for a week in January/ February is something that just happens. Sure, they can still get bummed about the actual event, but they know that no matter what we are going and because it's happened so often they've also learned that we always come home. There is no big buildup, it's just a part of the year. Once they get the idea that it's happening they really start to look on the positive side (candy, legos, grandparents) and the whole departure is pretty seamless.
There you have it, my top 5 tips for leaving the kiddos. Of course, I can't talk about leaving without talking about the best part... coming home! There seriously is nothing better than the look on their faces, and subsequent hugs + kisses, when you walk back though the door!!! It's like Christmas came early! If I'm being honest I'dprobably go away just for the homecoming each year! xx
P.S. If any of you travelers have any tips to add please do so! I'm certainly no expert but that is what has worked great for our family!