We reached a new parenting milestone. We successfully left all three children at home and headed out as a couple -- just a couple, without a stroller or diaper bag attached.
But we didn't just stop for dinner and a movie; we left the state. It was our first real getaway since our honeymoon, and we didn't know if we were getting away from the kids, or if they were getting away from us.
Even the word "getaway" made us feel guilty, like we had committed a larceny and were on the lamb. Truth be told, I don't think they noticed we were gone; they had so much fun with their grandparents.
A friend warned that she had a "meltdown" when she and her husband stepped off the plane in Las Vegas as she realized she was more than 2,000 miles away from her little girls. But that didn't stop them from going to Mexico a few months later.
My "meltdown" occurred half a mile from home at our nearest gas station. Filling up the tank, I wondered: "Should we be doing this? They're so little. How will they survive without us?"
My husband knew it was more of a question of how could we survive without them. But we had a Cape Cod wedding to attend and 10 hours of fall foliage to view, so he wanted to hit the road.
He assured me we'd be 500 miles from diaper changes, 500 miles from the boys' squabbles over Rescue Heroes, and 500 miles from sweet potato feedings. Our only wake-up call would be the one we had scheduled at the hotel's front desk. Didn't we deserve a little break? Besides, our children are a little young -- 4, 2, and 8 months -- to plan a keg party with 100 of their closest friends. We might as well take advantage of this age and go away now, he reasoned.
He also reminded me of the countless hours I'd spent planning all the kids' meals and outfits, grocery shopping for extra supplies, cleaning the house, checking the smoke detectors, drafting emergency room authorization notes, and coordinating a tag-team effort by the grandmothers. Way too much preparation to throw in the towel at our first pit stop, he said. The eerie silence from the back seat took a while to get used to, but that didn't keep us from turning around every few minutes to make sure the boys weren't poking the baby. Once we relaxed and stopped listening for the cell phone to ring, the ride was over. We were there before we knew it.
So what did we get out of it? A second honeymoon, that's for sure. We appreciated it much more than the first. Why do couples need to take honeymoons before they have kids? we wondered. How stressful can a wedding and reception be that newlyweds must spend thousands to get away? From what?
We had time to make a wrong turn and stop for lobster rolls instead of McNuggets. We also had a chance to walk along the ocean and not worry a wave would wash one of our children out to sea.
We were able to watch a wonderful couple tie the knot, without bribing our children to remain quiet in the church. Their vows reminded us why we got married in the first place.
The ride home was slower. We could never quite get our children off of our minds. We checked out a few cottages and began to ponder, maybe next summer we'll be ready for another milestone: Driving 10 hours to the ocean with the kids.