We did it. We broke the shackles, released the hounds or whatever else you want to say. We left the kids with someone else overnight.
I wish I could say Will and I had a romantic weekend away. A bed and breakfast somewhere in northwest Arkansas, maybe. Or a quick trip to Chicago.
Nope. We were at home, scrubbing the waist-high ring of grime from the entire house. I worked from sunup to bedtime preparing for our appointment to take pictures of the home before we listed it for sale. Will worked his job during the day and shampooed carpets, scrubbed toilets at night.
It was work, but I had no one to counteract my work. And it was so peaceful. I almost finished an audiobook, and no one was there to tell me to "Turn the man off, Mommy!"
The idea to leave them with my parents was hasty. I was flustered, faced with cleaning the house, which was still a wreck two days before it needed to be immaculate. Weeks of working on home-improvement projects meant that normal de-cluttering and general picking up was neglected, as were my children. And you know what happens when little children, especially boys, are neglected. They make messes.
So there I was, the Wednesday before the Friday of our appointment, scrubbing several years' worth of stubborn grime off our white kitchen blinds. Both boys were having a snack, sitting quietly. Too quietly. I turned around and saw Bennett peering over the edge of his high chair, dropping experimental handful after handful of Cheerios onto my fresh-scrubbed floor. Quinn hopped out of his chair, crunching cheerfully over the Cheerios to inspect his brother's handiwork.
My yin had been fighting that kind of yang for days. I'd be buffing scratch remover into a bedroom door, only to drop everything and sprint-stumble down the hallway after Bennett as he careened toward the stairs. I'd be rearranging a closet when I'd find Bennett surrounded by mini shampoo bottles and Q-tips, covered in soap and clutching an open can of hairspray.
Will walked in from the other room like a well-timed beacon. He grinned at me, my hair extra frizzy, my dark circles extra shadowy.
"I have a crazy idea," he started.
Take the kids to your parents' house today, he suggested. Drive the four hours each way. Lose a day that you expected to have for cleaning. Then bust your rear cleaning all day Thursday and Friday morning, when I'll be able to help, he said. We'll meet up with the kids Friday evening, when we had planned to visit the parents anyway.
I sat there stunned. I couldn't believe the brilliance. I couldn't believe I hadn't thought of it.
My parents were willing, if a little hesitant. Mom is retired, and Dad is a farmer with a flexible schedule, at least this time of year. My mom had a hair appointment and a funeral to work around, but Dad would fill in the gaps.
I threw some clothes and diapers into the boys' suitcases and we raced westward. In my haste, I left their coats hanging on the banister, next to the Pack 'N Play sheets and baby monitor. I stress-ate almost a pound of carrots, the only food within reach that jibed with my elimination diet. (That blog is here: http://www.mom2momkc.com/?a=profile&u=19245&t=blog&blog_id=4935)
The kids, and my parents, weathered the situation beautifully. Quinn was surprisingly amenable on short notice, probably because we told him he would get to spend a "Week at Grandma's" just like the Berenstain Bears. Bennett, in his confusion, spent the hours of 1 a.m. to 5 a.m. the first night awake, sometimes happily sucking his thumb and other times exploring the buttons and gadgets of my bewildered parents' darkened living room. Quinn's lip quivered a few times, but he toughed it out. "I was sad because I remembered that I forgot my parents," he told my brother.
Will and I beamed as we Skyped with the kids from afar, realizing anew how amazing and powerful their presence can be on our mood. They grow so much and so fast, that even after two days, I noticed little changes. Bennett discovered that he could pee on command when Gigi was changing a Jell-O-soiled diaper after dinner, and he peed on her, to his delight. Then he did it again for Daddy the next day. Quinn had a sleepy moment in the car with Grandpa. "I'm going to blink my eyes," he announced, just before passing out. They drove around a bit, then once home, Quinn opened his eyes and announced he was ready to go to the park. So they went.
In the kids' absence, the house sparkled. We moved out the toys and erased the grime. The thing is, all those times I wished the loud, plastic clutter away, I never realized that was what made it feel like home. Or maybe I was just missing my children.
We couldn't get to Concordia fast enough that Friday night. The kids stayed up a little late so they could see us. We stepped two feet into the doorway and got tackled with hugs, kisses and dozens of "I love you's." The scope of the boys' love was overwhelming, unexpected and magical.
The experience was good for all, methinks. Will and I got a breath of fresh(er) air, even if it was laced with cleaning chemicals. My parents got quality bonding time with the kids, even if everyone was ready for a three-day nap by the end. And the kids began to understand that, independent of us, they will survive. Maybe even have fun.