You can go on a trip, but you can’t leave your family behind
“Hey, I could buy this for Arborio Rice,” said my friend, “Deny-la,” who shall remain unnamed as she’s “hiding” her very visible pregnancy from her colleagues for another month. (Arborio is the nickname her husband gave their once-rice-sized baby-to-be.) “The whole point of Montessori is the baby gets to decide what it wants to do and you have child-sized versions of everything, only not in patronizing materials like plastic or melamine,” she explains. “Everything is in regular adult materials. This pan is perfect!”
Me (knowingly): “Dude, that’s a cast-iron fry pan and it’s going to crush your kid’s foot if it falls on it.”
We were at Dean & Deluca in Soho, away on a girlfriend’s getaway, aka, mental health weekend. And yet, entire capsules of the weekend ended up devoted to long-distance parenting.
Me: “Here’s one mini cast iron fry pan for me, one for Ernie, and this weird little novelty mini mini one for The Little Nutball. I’m going to be sautéeing up a storm! Did you know iron leaches from cast-iron pans into your food? Cooking from scratch on a cast iron frying pan is like taking an iron supplement!”
Deny-la: “I don’t think I want any plastic in my home at all.”
Me: “Sh*t. We have to find a CB2. The Little Nuball was flipping through Domino magazine and saw some butterfly plates she wanted me to buy. They’re melamine, but they’re just going to hold crackers and other dry stuff anyway.”
“Deny-la” at Pearl River Mart: “Here’s a book on mah-jong, I should get this so Arborio can learn how and then play with my grandmother!”
Me, at the New Museum for Contemporary Art, looking at a strangely lulling digital video projection by artist Paul Chan, of weird illustrated fruit floating away in ghostlike fashion from a fruit bowl: “If I could get that piece and project it on her wall, I’ll bet the Little Nutball would sleep in her own room.”
Deny-la: “We should get the license and market those things to Bugaboo parents.”
Us, at Ippudo NY, a great new artisanal ramen restaurant with a clubby vibe: “Wow, that little guy looks pretty happy. Clearly a three-year-old can enjoy Japanese noodles at 11 pm on a Saturday night.” “Yeah, but someone will start ragging on the parents soon enough, I’m sure.” “This broth is so awesome.” “They must simmer it all day long. Did you see the noodle master in that little white room cranking out the ramen noodles on that press? It’s like this hermetically sealed time-out room.”
Clearly, you can run, or fly, far away for a weekend away, but even if you’re not wiping a nose or wiping a bum, it’s hard to turn the switch off.
I promised my editor I’d start adding more service to my blog postings. So here are some tips for traveling WITHOUT your kids. They’re not authoritative by any means, but they work for me. and I bail, er, I mean, go on work- or mental-health-related trips, without my family about twice a year:
1. Do NOT equivocate when you are leaving.
There was a moment in the car when the Little Nutball looked uncertain and sad, and said, “I don’t want to you to go.” Things were shaky, and if I’d paused or looked uncertain too, that would have led to tears. I used my best former-telemarketer voice when replying, “Don’t worry! You and daddy are going to have SO MUCH FUN! I’m only gone for 2 days, but sleeping time doesn’t count, so that’s actually only one day! I’ll be back so soon! And you and daddy are going to have SO MUCH FUN! And you get to pick me up at the airport! Won’t that be FUN!” And, you know what she said? Believe it or not, her reply was: “Yeah! That’s going to be fun!” with a big smile and that calculated gleam in her eyes that indicated she knew she’d be able to con dad into doing all kinds of things that mom always says no to.
2. Don’t promise toys.
I indicated I would find a souvenir to bring home, but I didn’t go overboard. What if my bag was lost, or I couldn’t find anything, or if the first thing she’d said when she saw me was “What did you bring me?!” That would suck.
3. Don’t say you “I miss you,” on the phone to your small child, unless you can say it without choking up, or you’re almost home anyway. Again, they pick up on your energy, so a cheery “I miss you! But you know what, I’ll be home soon, and we’re going to hang out and play!” is okay but a weepy, mom-on-the-verge-of-a-nervous-breakdown “I miss you sooooo much, honey…” is going to make them sad and fearful. I went with questions about her day, what she ate, where she and her dad went, and left it at “I love you! I’m excited about coming home tomorrow!” and was rewarded with a nonchalant “Me too! …Mommy? I have to go look for Tabby Kitten now, I’ll talk with you later.” When I’m gone, life goes on. I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Yuki Hayashi, mother of a five-year-old daughter, AKA The Little Nutball, writes from home and admits her household lacks routine. If you’re feeling a bit scattered as a parent, you’ll find comfort in her Momedy blog.