Since moving away from our immediate family three years ago, visits are precious and far fewer than when we lived less than an hour away from everyone. Finding time to travel or time to host overnight guests is also getting tougher the more entrenched we get in our lives and schedules here, and as our daughter begins school. So when my in-laws asked if they could take our kiddo for a full week this summer, aka “Grandparents Camp”, I felt like we should have agreed before they could even finish the question.
Both my husband and I had our reservations. The longest we had both been away from our daughter was for two nights, and that wasn’t until she was four. She’s a very strong-willed child. Could anyone but us handle her for that long? Did we want to deal with the subsequent “re-programming” of our kid upon her return? We knew how she was going to get there, but how would we get her home? Could we reschedule the classes she’d miss? Could she really handle grandparents camp?
Thinking it Through
We thought about it and talked through it for a few days. She’s old enough. She can speak up for herself and vocalize her needs. She knows (basically) what she is and is not allowed to do. Her schedule is less complicated than when she was younger. We completely trust my in-laws. Our daughter is very similar to my husband, and they raised him. She’d get to see her uncle while she’s there. It would be such a wonderful break for us as parents, and for her as a kid. We knew the importance of grandparents. Why are we not jumping at this opportunity?
Ultimately, we figured out all of the logistics. We lovingly began referring to our upcoming week as “Grandparents Camp”. And on a Sunday in June, we transferred her car seat into my in-laws truck, gave her hugs and kisses goodbye, and sent her on her way, hoping the week would go well.
The ride back to our house was weird. It was quiet. It was chill. We could listen to whatever we wanted to without worrying about any explicit language or content. Bathroom stops took half as long. We could have a conversation without being interrupted 438 times. It was nice. It was why-didn’t-we-appreciate-this-at-all-before-we-had-a-kid nice.
It was strange getting back home too. There wasn’t the normal rush to get unpacked and settled in before dinner and bedtime. We could continue our conversations without being interrupted 264 more times. We could eat dinner and then sit down to watch a movie; whatever movie we wanted! We ended up going straight to bed, but hey, having the option was a beautiful thing.
Life Without My Sidekick
The whole week was a juxtaposition of wonderful freedom and feeling strange for being kid-free. My husband had his typical weekly schedule; going to the gym, work, home for dinner. I, on the other hand, am primarily a stay-at-home-mom. I hold two part-time jobs, but my weekly schedule varies and revolves mostly around my daughter’s classes, playdates, errands, chores, and being home in enough time to get dinner on the table. I’ve had a sidekick for the past four years. My husband poked fun at me, saying I was “unemployed” that week. That instead of being a stay-at-home-mom, I was just a stay-at-home. But to me, it felt like the boss was away on vacation. My work-load was still there, but nobody was breathing down my neck to meet any deadlines.
It was like I had stepped into this whole new dream-like world where I got to go at my own pace, doing my usual errands and chores, but also actually sitting down for breakfasts and lunches. And *gasp* tackling that endless list of things that need to be done, but always get put off. I felt like I was being spoiled and didn’t really deserve it. I felt like I absolutely had to take advantage of all this “free” time because I needed to have something to show for my week to myself. People said I’d sleep in. I didn’t. I actually got up slightly earlier than I normally do, excited to dive into an entire day’s worth of my own agenda. I’m consistently shocked at how much less time it takes to do things without a kid in tow. That week was no different. A friend asked me how it was going, and, by the second day, it felt like I had finished a week’s worth of tasks. I stayed busy, but overall, it was far more relaxed and stress-free.
Maintaining a Stress-Free Environment
I found myself pondering if it could still be like that when my daughter is home. I certainly can’t do things like paint a whole bedroom in a day, or expect to finish projects as quickly with her around. But I thought a lot about if I’m the one putting the pressure on myself, not her. Usually, when I’m trying to check a chore off my list and my daughter is with me, I’m racing to finish it as quickly as possible before she needs something, or before she asks to help and I have to figure out how to either distract her or a way to include her. I understand that’s parenting in a nutshell, but maybe I needed to take more deep breaths than I already do. Maybe it could be that relaxed and stress-free all the time?
As for my daughter? She had a ball! If you asked her, she’d probably say that having an extended sleep-over at Grandma and Grandpa’s house is the best thing that’s happened to her in her short life. My in-laws were great about sending picture updates and video calling us nightly. They stayed busy too; trips to the library, the water park, going on ATV rides, digging for worms, playing in the backyard, visiting fainting goats, playing with dogs, watching sunsets, and daily ice cream treats. Her days were jam-packed with fun and, most importantly, quality time with her grandparents.
Both my husband and I are grateful for the week we got to be together, just the two of us again. It was a nice refocus on our relationship, which so often gets pushed aside after kids. I’ve infused a little more calmness into my task-managing. Daily life is still more hectic with my sidekick back home, but I’ve taken some of the pressure off of myself to rush through my to-dos. We are also incredibly grateful that we have grandparents that are willing to take time off of work to make memories with and maintain a close relationship with our daughter, no matter the distance between the places we currently call home.
I’m so glad we took my in-laws up on their offer, and we hope Grandparents Camp turns out to be an annual event. If you get the chance to sign your kid(s) up for “Grandparents Camp” or “Aunt & Uncles Camp” or whatever it may be, don’t be afraid to take it. We found it to be completely worth the planning and effort. The gift of time with loved ones is always the best gift!
If you don’t have grandparents help at this time, perhaps a Kids Night Out Drop Off Program could give you a break as well!