HOW (& WHY) TO LEAVE YOUR KIDS ALONE WITH YOUR PARTNER AS MUCH AS HUMANLY POSSIBLE
(Or: How To Have The Best Mother’s Day Ever)
Recently I suggested taking a quickie girl’s trip to a nearby hotel with a girlfriend of mine.
She immediately begged off because she doesn’t have family nearby to watch her kids – who are both older than Diddy – while she’s away.
The thing is:
This friend is happily married.
By DEFINITION, she has family REALLY NEARBY.
He’s called HER HUSBAND.
But my friend has NEVER left her husband home alone with her kids for more than a few hours at a time.
Her list of reasons included:
- How would he feed them?
- How would he get them to / from school?
- The house would be such a wreck when she got back it just wouldn’t be worth it to her to have left them in the first place.
My short answers were:
- He can feed himself, right? So supposedly he can feed them, too.
- He gets himself to / from work, right? He can probably manage carpool.
- Umm … really? The house being clean is more important than MOM HAVING A GOOD TIME FOR 2 DAYS?
I mentioned this conversation to another friend, and she reported OTHER friends of HERS saying the same thing.
And we agreed:
OUR FRIENDS WHO DON’T EVER LEAVE THEIR KIDS ALONE WITH THEIR PARTNERS (and I say this with love) ARE RAVING LUNATICS.
- Refusing to leave your kids with your partner robs YOU of kid-free / alone time. This doesn’t need further parsing, does it?
- Refusing to leave your kids with your partner robs HIM of time alone with the kids. This is also pretty self-explanatory, isn’t it?
- If you don’t leave your partner alone with the kids, how will he ever really understand how HARD being the primary caregiver ACTUALLY IS? Don’t you want ANY CREDIT for making it look easy? Leaving your partner alone with the kids IS THE ONLY WAY to show him that being the primary caregiver is HARD. EFFING. WORK.
- Finally, and most importantly: If you don’t give the poor guy time to practice, how will he ever get it right?
Now, I’m not saying this is always easy. I have on occasion left for a few days to learn that school snacks were forgotten, that dance classes were missed, that MrBigIdeas couldn’t find the shin guards or figure out the coffee maker (umm, hello, push “BREW”).
And god yes has my house often looked like a hurricane ran through it after I’ve been away a few days and left the kids and husband behind.
I’m just saying that the earlier and more often you leave the kids home alone with your partner, the better it gets over time.
And then this happens:
You mention you’re making a six-hour spa appointment on Mother’s Day and leaving the kids home alone with Daddy.
You come home early. The house is wreck.
You decide this is not your problem.
Dad is out in the garden with the kids, so you decide to take a nap.
When you wake up, the kids present you with a hand-picked bouquet and Daddy says – and I am not making this up:
I’m sorry it looked so terrible upstairs, I was putting the boys down for their nap and I forgot to clean up lunch. But I did it while you were sleeping, so it’s good now.
BEST. MOTHER’S. DAY. EVER.
Hear me, Mamas?
This too could be yours IF YOU LEAVE DADDY HOME WITH YOUR BABY,
SO HE CAN GET GOOD AT IT.
While were in London, I had the great joy of seeing Matilda with my mother and my girls.
My mother always gets the hottest tickets in town.
For instance, she also took me to see Peter & Alice, starring Judi Dench. Unfortunately, Peter & Alice sucked, which is odd, as:
a) I believe that Judi Dench is a god among us and
b) it was about the fortuitous meeting of Alice Liddell Hargreaves, the model for Alice in Wonderland, and Peter Llewellyn Davies, as in Peter Pan, and I have a ridiculous soft-spot for anything about Peter Pan.
There are two reasons for my Peter Pan obsession.
This is one:
This is the other:
Peter Pan was the first musical I ever saw, on Broadway no less. With Sandy Duncan and her glass eye. (Yes, I am old enough that Cathy Rigby was still in the gymnastics game back then.) I was taken to see it with my grandmothers.
Both grandmothers. Who normally didn’t hang out much. So that was a BIG. EFFING. DEAL.
And I have NEVER forgotten it.
So forgive me for getting a little misty-eyed about the fact that WHEN I WAS IN LONDON LAST WEEK MY GIRLS SAW THEIR FIRST MUSICAL!
IN THE WEST END!
IN THE COMPANY OF THEIR GRANDMOTHER!
AND I GOT TO BE THERE TOO!
It was really, really, REALLY good.
I cried the whole time.
Joyous, happy, nostalgic, heart-wrenching tears.
Especially at this part. If you don’t cry at this part then you have no soul. (Fast forward to 0:50):
I have been so obsessed with Matilda since I got back that I tracked down that You Tube video, and I read a New Yorker piece about the composer / lyricist, Tim Minchin, and I bought an ACTUAL CD of the London cast recording.
Yep. A CD, PEOPLE.
Because I JUST HAVE TO HAVE TO HAVE TO listen to it in the car, and I have no effing ipods anymore, apparently — though I do have, oddly, about eight ipod speaker sets — and my phone no longer effing works for anything so mp3 transmission would be a stretch.
SO YES. I BOUGHT THE CD.
And I drove around laughing and crying to it ALL DAY YESTERDAY.
And it was awesome.
I haven’t loved a musical so much since a billion years ago when I was young and single and living in the West Village and John Cameron Mitchell was doing Hedwig and I went and saw it over and over and over again.
You may not understand this compulsion if you’ve only ever seen the MOVIE of Hedwig, which just isn’t good.
It’s just not.
The musical, however, is THE BEST THING EVER.
IT IS THE BEST.
Except now there is also Matilda.
And I intend to listen to it ALL THE TIME until my kids can sing every word and we can all sing to the CD together in the car like we used to sing every word of Les Mis and Miss Saigon and Evita and Chess and A Little Night Music and Into The Woods with my mom when I was growing up.
Like crazy people.
Crazy happy musical theater geek people.
This summer Diddy is doing two weeks of musical theater camp – Guys and Dolls! –and I could die of joy.
A new reader pinged me on Facebook last week to remind me that back when I wrote about organizing a nursery, I promised to blog about kids sharing a room with baby, and then never did it.
Totally busted. So here goes.
First off, stop worrying about how Big Kid is going to adjust to having to share her PERFECT ROOM with the new baby.
Seriously. Put that out of your head right now.
Your kids will LOVE sharing a room, at least while they’re still small.
The biggest complaint my girls had when we finally moved back into the house we’d been renovating for A BILLION YEARS to accomodate our growing family – don’t get me started on how having TWINS forced us to re-frame the ENTIRE downstairs THREE YEARS IN to this project – was that now they had their own rooms …. and they didn’t want to.
You hear that? MY GIRLS, having spent 2+ years sharing a room, BITCHED AND WHINED and CRIED THEIR EYES OUT when I gave them their own discrete spaces.
How did this happen?
How did I make my Big Kid WANT to live with her Baby?
The key was GETTING MY BIG KID involved with the plan BEFORE Baby got there.
1. ENLIST BIG SIB in the planning for her new, shared, space. Rearrange the room to accommodate a crib, make space in the closets. Then try to decorate in away that stakes out BIG SIB’S space as special from Baby’s.
- Separate bookshelves.
- A closet system that is easy to divide into separate spaces for each kid (I love ELFA).
- Separate dressers, or dedicated dresser drawers.
- Wall decals or wall art that differentiate different parts of the room for each kid.
- Bed linens that are UNIQUE to each kid, from each other, but coordinate in some way with the larger room.
- Common space on the floor for play.
2. Despite all this preparation, START BABY IN YOUR ROOM, or a third space, if you’ve got one.
- A Pack ‘N Play will suffice as the perfect spot for baby – near your bed if you’re nursing.
- Don’t bother with a “co-sleeper.” Co-sleepers are small. They are pricey. You can’t haul them around on vacation with the ease of a pack-n-play, and they won’t last your growing child as long, either.
3. SLEEP TRAIN BABY before you move her into the room with her big sibling.
- Believe it or not, you can sleep train ala The Sleepeasy Solution with your baby in your room – we did. When Gaga woke, and cried, we played dead. It wasn’t easy – Gaga was WAY harder to sleep train than her sister – but it was doable.
- Better yet: put your baby down AWAKE and without bouncing / singing / rocking FROM DAY ONE and avoid sleep training altogether!
4. ONCE BABY CAN SLEEP THROUGH THE NIGHT and you are past the point of responding to every waking and whimper – move Baby into her crib in Big Sib’s room.
Don’t worry that baby’s night noises will bother Big Sib – you’d be shocked at how quickly both kids will learn to sleep through each other’s noise.
I’m just back from London, where my daughters were flower girls in my cousin’s wedding, so this will be a short and fairly jetlagged post …
(Quick aside on that traveling-with-kids tip, though: You know all those miles you’ve been saving and banking, waiting for that perfect occasion to fly somewhere free? Use them to upgrade your seats when flying long-haul with your kids. We managed to swing BA Club Class upgrades both ways thanks to YEARS of saving our miles, and it was HOLY MOLY WORTH IT for my sanity. End of lecture.)
Anyway, the point of this post is to remind everybody that the GIVEAWAY of Bruce Feiler’s genius book, The Secrets of Happy Families, ends tomorrow.
So get your entries in!
In Which Bruce Feiler Reminds Me That Checklists Are Magic
(Or: How I Got My Kids To Make Their Own Beds)
So here’s the first piece of absolute magic I took away from Bruce Feiler’s new book “The Secrets of Happy Families: Improve Your Mornings, Rethink Family Dinner, Fight Smarter, Go Out and Play, and Much More.”
CHECKLISTS ARE MAGIC.
Yeah, I know.
ChecklistMommy needed A BOOK to tell her that checklists were magic?
Like, isn’t that what this whole silly blog is all about?
So how is it that it never occurred to me to write checklists for my kids?
I’m married to a man who never ever ever reads my checklists.
He calls me and asks me how to do the things I’ve written checklists for instead.
So I figured my kids were an equally lost cause.
I mean, only one of them even reads …
But then I read “The Secrets of Happy Families” and was particularly struck by the chapter about “agile development,” an organizational technique popular in Silcon Valley, and how the Starr family put it to work in their own home.
Basically, David Starr and his wife Eileen started holding family meetings (more about that next week). Then they and their four kids tried using checklists at home. During the morning rush.
If that ain’t a true test of a system, throwing it at your four kids at the most stressful, rush-and-push-and-pull part of the day, then I don’t know what is.