As I wrote last week, Casey and I took off for Mexico for a conference for an organization we are involved in, leaving Kenny for the first time for more than one night. All in all, it went great. But we’re still “recovering.”
Actually, Casey and I got back on Sunday night, and turned around Monday morning and drove to New York City (with Kenny) as Casey had some meetings and a nice hotel room. Kenny and I tagged along and spent a day and a half strolling up and down 5th Avenue, going to the Central Park Zoo (it was 45 degrees and raining, but that didn’t faze Kenny’s first glimpse of a real monkey!), running around FAO Schwartz (we actually stood in line and were the first customers in for the day… the entire sales staff lines up at the front door and gives a whooping round of applause to the first ones to stream in each day – that went over like a parade for Kenny, who thought it was all for him!), and exploring the M&M factory store (Kenny calls M&Ms “potty treats” and thought that he must be in heaven, because I let him eat an entire handful without producing anything in the potty first…). We even shared a king-sized bed, Kenny in the middle, as he’s too big for a crib, and we weren’t sure about cramming a roll-away in a New York hotel room.
But though we’ve been back on our “normal schedule” since yesterday, there is still quite a bit of “re-programming” to be done. I was warned by nearly all of my mommy-friends that when you leave your kids for any length of time, you have to accept that there is a new sheriff in town for the span you are gone. And that the re-institution of The Boss (that is, The Mommy) is an occasionally painful process.
For one, I don’t think there was much of a schedule while we were gone. There certainly wasn’t one in New York. I think there must have also been an inordinate ratio of “yes” to “no” answers from the grandparents, too, as he’s had more temper tantrums in the last 24 hours than he has in the last 2 months. The concept of actually doing what I say (or not doing what I say no to) seems like such a foreign tongue to my sweet little prince that I almost called my in-laws and said, “What have you done with the real Kenny, because this kid ain’t him.” Today he actually uttered the dreaded “Papa let me!” and I wondered how a small boy of two could already have grasped the concept of adult manipulation.
We’ve also had an awful time getting him to go to bed – though that seems to be stemming more from insecurity and wondering if we’re going to disappear on him again.
Though I believe my in-laws when they say that everything was “perfect” I am realizing that the mind of a two-year-old runs deep, and he was probably unable to fully express what he may have been feeling or wondering or worried about. I know that he’s still learning to express his feelings. In fact, when they left Monday morning, within an hour, Kenny broke down bawling in the middle of playing. After a little questioning, I asked, “Do you miss Papa and Gramma?” and he wailed, “Don’t say that, Mama!” which I took for a yes. He did the same thing a little later in the car on the way to the city. Then last night, as Casey and I picked up the babysitter for our weekly tennis night (which we’ve missed two weeks in a row) he started to wail again and cried, “Where you goin’? You stay here!!” something he’s never done before. When we got home two hours later, he was up in bed, waiting for our return.
Today was better; he actually got a good nap and we spent the entire day playing and doing quiet things. I also got him back on his healthy eating track – lots of good fruits and whole grains and no sweets (ok – there were four M&Ms somewhere in there), diluted juice, fresh milk and organic yogurt. I believe 100% that a kid’s diet can make or break their daily behavior. Between being with the grandparents for four days, then being on the road and in hotels for three, his indigestion was starting to show. He also had my undivided attention for most of the day – I am so completely worn out from the travel and such that I put off housework and catch-up work today and just laid low. It was a rainy day and perfect for reading books, playing blocks and making pumpkin muffins.
Another strange side effect of the trip away is that since being away from Kenny for four days, I have a slightly expanded view of him now. I’ve read that for the first year or so of life, a baby doesn’t see themselves as a separate person – they see themselves as an extension of their mother (or whomever is the primary caregiver). But I think I’ve also been viewing Kenny all this time as an extension of me. We are almost never apart. I think there are maybe six hours a week (not counting sleep time) when we are away from each other, and it never occurred to me to view him as entirely his own person. We we returned from Mexico, his voice sounded different, he looked different and his constant babble was different. Not really, but I was able to see it as simply his, not just absorb it as part of my daily dwelling.
So my conclusion is that an occasional trip for just Casey and I once or twice a year is mostly a good thing – for us as well as him. But it sure is strange the first time.