|image courtesy of Mulsanne via flickr|
"We need to go away so we can be a better Mommy and Daddy."
I'm sure this 3-year-old boy did not fully understand what she meant. But he was submissive, and I'm sure he liked the idea of having "a better Mommy and Daddy."
That's the first memory I have of learning that taking a spouse-only vacation is not just good for a marriage, but also for parenting. So, every year we have gotten away just by ourselves (no kids, no friends), usually for two nights. Even when Hannah was 7 months, we went to a Bed & Breakfast about 45 minutes away, and were gone for less than a day. The manager, upon learning why we were there, remarked that she's known people who have gone for years without a night together away from kids.
(And this is not just about having a night in your house without kids. There is something about getting out of your house, with a different feel and less of a chance to be distracted.)
Has it always been easy for us to get away? Not at all. It takes time to plan, emotional energy to engage each other, the willingness to trust your kids with someone else, and money to make it happen. But it is fruitful and totally worth it. How?
- Example for your children. Your kids need to see that, besides your relationship with God, your relationship with each other is the top priority in your life. What kids want from Mom and Dad is to hear and see that their family is full of love and security.
- Example for others. Similarly, putting marriage as a priority is a testimony to those around us. Yes, God is our loving Father, but think which relationship God uses to describe believers' relationship with Jesus. Marriage. Jesus is the groom, and the church is the bride (2 Corinthians 11:2).
- For the next season in our marriage. The danger is that if you focus all your time and energy on the kids, then when they leave your home, you are left with a spouse that you really don't know any more. Unfortunately, we've seen this with parents of friends. You probably have too.
- Grow our kids. For most kids, having to say good-bye to their parents is difficult, especially at a young age. But they need to learn to trust Mom and Dad's decisions, and being left with a care-giver for an extended period of time gives them another opportunity to come under their parents' authority.
- Grow ourselves as parents. At a marriage conference years ago, the speaker said, "Kids don't have separation issues; parents have separation issues." He was speaking from the experience of having "clingy" children himself. While this may not be completely true at face value, there is a lot of truth that parents (especially mothers) tend to have a hard time letting go. In my experience with kids, I've seen numerous occasions where it's the parents' nervousness that rubs off on the kids. Kids tend to absorb our anxiety. It's easy to get consumed with thoughts of control and worry. We need to trust God with our kids.
- Chance to plan, dream, discuss, and share. It's really hard to have deep talks and vision-casting at home, even after the kids are in bed. Face it -- we're exhausted by that point. Even with a dinner date, our time is limited. There is something special about getting away alone together, with no other agenda except to share your heart and focus on your spouse.
When was the last time you had a night away with only your spouse? Where did you go? (Share your ideas so others can "borrow" them.) Even more important, when is the next time that you are planning a night away without kids?