Anyone with a child will almost certainly remember the first time that child was left alone with someone other than Mum or Dad for more than a few hours. For one reason or another, it took us until just after Thea’s second birthday before we took the plunge and booked a grown-ups only long weekend trip to New York. The fact that we never really got to jet off somewhere exotic for our honeymoon, combined with my recent big 4-0 birthday guided us towards doing something more adventurous and bigger in scale than a nice little weekend in the country.
We’d always talked about visiting New York together as a couple, so that is where we set our sights. The decision to go as a two, rather than a three, was a difficult one – probably in part due to how long we had left it before making our first trip sans baby. However, you can’t really go to the city that never sleeps and end up back in the hotel room by 7pm each night with a beaker of warm milk now can you? The 86th floor of the Empire State Building would have surely been a more anxiety-inducing experience with a toddler charging about and climbing the rails and the logistical nightmare of navigating a buggy around the marauding masses in Times Square was also not a challenge we relished. You get the general idea.
As we tucked Thea into bed on the Friday evening that we left, the reality that we were going to be more than 3500 miles away for the next 5 days suddenly started to sink in. I had purposely booked a non-refundable hotel room so we didn’t have the opportunity to chicken out – which would have been so easy to do! We pulled out of our cul-de-sac and began the drive up to Heathrow. A few tears were shed, but for me, the fact that we had started our journey made it somewhat easier. The build-up to this moment had actually been pretty stressful. The days and weeks of see-sawing decisions… should we? Shouldn’t we? The weight of these choices had now been lifted from our shoulders and we could now head off and enjoy ourselves (or at least attempt to!).
One of the hardest parts was being out of contact completely while we were on the plane. With all the luxuries of modern technology that we take for granted these days, for 90% of the duration of our trip we could see Thea within a matter of seconds via FaceTime. However, having no Wi-Fi on the plane (at least none we could access without selling a kidney), meant that we were totally out of reach for a few hours. Once we landed and checked in with Thea, and of course saw that everything was totally fine, it set our minds at ease somewhat and we headed to Manhattan, desperately trying to remember how to function independently as adults.
We had an incredible holiday, managing in 3 long days to cram in the must-see monuments of the Statue Of Liberty, Empire State Building and Rockefeller Center, the incomparable Broadway version of The Lion King, a lengthy walk (Pokémon hunt) around Central Park, the obligatory samplings of NYC’s finest pizza, bagels and other sundries, as well as a once-in-a-lifetime evening with my adolescent idols Temple Of The Dog at Madison Square Garden.
When we finally got back and picked Thea up from nursery her response could have been so easily predicted. She ran across the room and threw her arms around Gemma for a huge hug. It took her approximately 5 seconds to turn around, exclaim “Cake!” at the top of her voice, and march back over to her friends around the lunch table. Miss us? I’m not sure she even knew we had gone!
Sometimes, no matter how much you love your kids, you have to do something just for you – as a single parent or as a couple it is so important to not lose touch with who you are. Yes you are a Dad, a Mum, a parent, but you are still you. Getting away for a few days together for the first time since Thea was born allowed us to do just that – some things for ourselves. It gave us an appetite for adventure, a taste for travel that we are committed to repeating… we’ll just take her with us next time 😉