While many parents are loath to admit it, we all eventually require some quality time away from the child. This is the story of a parents-only getaway two-plus years in the waiting.
My son Emile is two years and seven months old, and the last time my wife Carrie and I were alone together overnight was, oh, approximately two years, seven months and one day ago. That is an awful long time. We love E like nobody’s business, but the thing about having a kid is that they are always around.
Hillary Clinton once wrote that it takes a village to raise a child. Hillz, of course, had a state-funded nanny, but she’s correct to note that it ain’t easy to raise a kid with two parents, much less one, without a grandparent in town.
My folks live way out on the west coast, and 6,000 km is no quick commute for a babysitter (unlike their weekly 40-minute drive to Vancouver to watch my nieces). They give me grief about moving so far away sometimes, though they did the same thing when they left their own sets of parents behind in Montreal.
My in-laws live up near Ottawa—closer, but by no means drop-by-able. Thankfully, Carrie’s brother’s family lives nearby for emergencies—like the unfortunate confluence of me working North by Northeast while Carrie flies to Edmonton for a wedding. But, for the most part, we’re on our own.
And so, up until this point, we’ve enjoyed no joint freedom from Emile. I leave town to cover South by Southwest, CMJ, Harvest Festival, and the Junos every year, but by my lonesome. Carrie goes away for work, too. But the two of us had not yet been away together without our beloved-but-always-freaking-there boy.
Long before Emile, we’d cemented our relationship backpacking across Asia for a year-and-a-half. Our honeymoon was on a tiny island off the coast of Panama (not as romantic as it sounds, at least not after Carrie caught dengue fever while our open-air beach hut was being battered by a hurricane). Our babymoon was in St. Lucia in the cliffside Jade Mountain hotel where Amy Winehouse stayed, and which literally lacks a fourth wall. Children are banned for understandable reasons.
But for two years and seven months, we’ve been right by Emile’s side. If spouses are sometimes (mean-spiritedly) called the ol’ ball and chain, well, a baby is an adorable pair of cement shoes. So when my parents came to visit recently, we bid the boy goodbye and hightailed it the hell out of there.
Of course, we didn’t go far. Baby steps, y’know. We booked a suite on the 43rd floor of the Niagara Falls’ Hilton, a room with a spectacular view just spitting distance from the casino. We stocked up on vineyard wines in Niagara-on-the-Lake en route.
We then quickly realized that one of the premier family-vacation destinations in North America was perhaps not the best spot to go for our first child-free trip. Clifton Hill was crawling with kids, screaming and yelling and demanding to go to the wax museums, haunted houses, and other assorted corny attractions.
The sadly soon-to-be-defunct Maid of the Mist boat ride was awesome in the original sense of the term, but we both kept thinking how much E would have loved it. Realizing how close we were to Marineland didn’t help, either. It would take several more cocktails until a buzz overpowered our parental default mode and we could settle into a vice-filled evening of drunken gambling and not being responsible for a tiny life.
The second day was when decompression really kicked in. We woke up on our own accord, swam in the pool without having to keep a toddler afloat, and hung out in the sauna and steamroom without worrying about parboiling our offspring. It was a delightful afternoon that wasn’t based around a nap (though we totally napped, anyway). We went for drinks without our phones (!), ate a fancy dinner way late, played Star Wars and Kenny Rogers slot machines, and then stumbled happily back to our room.
And we didn’t call or Skype or even text to see how E was—though I did squander our minimal casino winnings on a toy doctor kit. (What? Someone has to tend to the injuries of E’s plush Itchy and Scratchy.)
Our time away was too long in the making, but the time Emile spent on his own with his bubbe and zayda (and their ukulele) was long-awaited, too. The intensity of his affection for them—which we’ve never really seen him show for anyone else other than us—was powerful to behold. We’re always keeping plates spinning, and his daycare class has 14 other kids, but Emile’s grandparents’ focus was pretty much 100 per cent on him. By the time we came back, E could ride his Strider bike, croon a new set of songs, and even his conversational skills had seemingly improved.
Bubbe and zayda may not be around for weekly visits or weekend sleepovers, alas, but it was sure nice to see that blood is, in fact, thicker than distance.