"Holy $*&%, I just need some time for myself and away from these kids!!"
How many parents have uttered some variation of that phrase at some point in time? I know I have. Hell, I just went through life with an infant again this past year. Between Sam's multiple nightly awakenings, screaming fits, and teething, combined with Will's adjustments to big brotherhood and the first year of school, I used to fantasize about a life of solitude in a quiet mountain cabin where no one could find me and I could pee alone.
But on the rare occasions we're granted a parental sabbatical, I've noticed a disturbing trend -- we miss our damn kids too much!
I don't know about you guys, but it's not too long after I'm sprung from the asylum that I start to -- gulp -- miss it a little. And then a lot. It's like some sort of parental Stockholm syndrome. I just spent 55 hours on my own, and here are the stages of kidlessness I experienced.
Stage 1: FREEDOM!!!!!!!!
The first stage is characterized by an initial and intense feeling of release. Like I'm Andy Dufresne finally escaping Shawshank Prison through 500 yards of shit-smelling foulness. Or like Mel Gibson in Braveheart, only if I skipped the torture and got to sleep with Sophie Marceau again instead. Whether your childfree time is going to last for a night or a week, it seems the possibilities are endless and you can do anything. Road trip, baseball game, bar, expensive dinner, or even a movie at the theater that doesn't have cartoons -- the world is your oyster.
Stage 2: Whatever I Want!
Sure, you're going to put your Vegas trip into action soon. But that can wait for a minute, while you enjoy the little things you can't do when the family is around. You know, the simple things you used to do when you were single. As for me, I immediately strip down to my boxers, stretch out on the couch, and watch SportsCenter while scratching myself at will. Either that or all the movies no one else likes. Then I have a dinner that consists of Kraft mac & cheese, beer, and Doritos. Normally I'd be chastised for my post-meal bodily functions, but only the dog was affected this time (and she was guilty of a few nasty ones too). And then -- as the grand finale -- I take up the entire king size bed by sleeping diagonally, as opposed to sleeping on the sliver of bed I have after the wife and dog are accounted for. Sure, it might SEEM slightly pathetic that a grown man can enjoy farting in peace, leaving the toilet seat up without reproach, and using an excess of bed space so much, but best not to dwell on such matters for long. There's work to do.
Stage 3: Reality Sets In
After you've eaten like a pig and reveled in smelling like one as well, it's time to get serious about this temporary kid hiatus. That's when you start thinking of all your friends and get ready to call them up to have a good old-fashioned rager of a party. You call Jim but his oldest has summer baseball and his youngest has a ballet recital. No worries. Skip right to Brian, only to find out he's going to a concert. Awesome, right? Because you haven't been to a live show in years. The only problem? It's a "Wiggles" concert. Andy and Jake moved away, Ted doesn't want to stay out past 10 p.m. because he's coaching T-ball in the morning, and Bill already went out for a night this month so he's used up his privileges. Suddenly you realize two things: 1) you're old, and 2) spontaneity is officially dead. Which makes you sad. Which leads to additional mac & cheese, Netflix, and gas.
Stage 4: This Kind of Sucks
This stage sees panic setting in. You've gorged yourself, farted at will, lounged around in your boxers, and realized all of your friends are now lame. You start calling your wife and kids more often, just to hear what they're doing. While you're watching TV, you see Jake and the Never Land Pirates and consider watching it because you know how much your oldest likes it. But you're barely watching TV now because you're mostly looking at family pictures hanging in the hall, as you make one more call to the family to see what they're doing now.
Stage 5: COME HOME!!!
This is when things get really desperate. Suddenly your faltering plans don't even matter, because you're too busy playing with Transformers and sitting in the kids' empty rooms getting emotional. You're not even watching TV because you're combing through six years of YouTube home videos. You know they're due home today, so you up your calls to every hour on the hour just in case they get home early. In a fit of total desperation and longing, you flip on Frozen and sing "Let It Go" with tears streaming down your face as you promise never to take your family for granted ever again.
When they finally pull into the driveway, you sprint out barefoot because you're so damn happy to see them. You rip open the door of the minivan to see your precious little angels, only to have the youngest sneeze in your eye and simultaneously take a dump the likes of which makes landfills blush, while the oldest bitterly complains you woke him up from his nap.
I need a break...
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