The Kids Are Away and Conflicting Emotions Are in Play

My Okapis are away (at their grandparents) and it is time for the parents to play.

If only it were that easy.

For my wife, it is very hard for her to be away from our kids. The same kids she gave birth to at the same time. The same kids she spent all day with for the first 4.5 years of their lives. The same kids she has taken to school (or camp) and picked up almost every single day since. She loves our children with every fiber of her being and the downside is when they are not around she feels an ache of missing them.

For me, the guy that has had to work away from home ever since they were born, it is not as hard. I am used to putting my family in a special place and locking it up so it doesn’t make me as sad when I am not with them. I wouldn’t be able to function if I felt the ache of missing them every day. In fact, I get excited, not that they aren’t around, but that I get to have more time with my wife. She was my first real love and everything good in my life started with her. It is so easy to have our husband and wife roles consumed by father and mother roles and it is nice we can get back to us.

Obviously, I love my Okapis, but I really enjoy the time when they are away (and even feel a little guilt writing that down for people to read). The truth is coming home at night is easier and less stressful (no worries over dinner and showers and getting them to bed on time). Getting ready in the morning is ummm…easier and less stressful. Basically, without our kids life is easier and less stressful.

Last night we went out with a good friend and had dinner and drinks at one (kind of crappy) place and then had more drinks and dessert somewhere else (that was much better). Wonderful conversation, good friends, tasty margaritas (at least at the second place) and delicious desserts (fried Oreos!). Then Gem and I came home and we watched another couple of episodes of Battlestar Galactica (we just started it over the weekend and are really getting into it). The whole evening was relaxed and lovely.

Then we went to bed and walked past their empty room and even I felt the ache of missing them. They’ve only been gone less than 36 hours, but I’m a jumble of emotions. A sense of freedom. We can do anything we want without worry. Go out to dinner, have drinks, stay out late, go into New York City. ANYTHING! But they’re doing stuff and experiencing things I don’t know about. I am missing more of their lives and that is sad for me. Are they okay? Are they going to sleep without us? How are they feeling?

My Okapis are gone and conflict is in the house. My wife is torn between her ache and her wanting to enjoy the time with me. I am excited about the time with her, the freedom, but feel a guilt about enjoying time without them, as if parents don’t need their own time. As if, when we pick them up this weekend, I won’t be one of the happiest men alive to see them again.

In the meantime, however, I plan to have a lot of fun with my wife and our friends, coming home whenever we want and making as much noise as we want.

Our Ten Days of Decadence

By Jeremy G. Schneider, MFT

I am relieved to announce that our Ten Days of Decadence, oh so similar to the Twelve Days of Christmas, is finally over. Our Okapis (twin four-year olds) are completely spoiled now and we have 50 weeks to deprive them until next year.

Our Ten Days of Decadence (TDoD – kind of like the sound of my head hitting the wall over and over again) started Friday, December 15th and ended Monday, December 25th.

My family is Jewish and we celebrate Chanukah, which started Friday the 15th. In celebration of Chanukah we get our children small gifts for each of the nights. To give you a glimpse into how decadent the TDoD was, we didn’t even have a chance to give them most of the gifts we bought because they had received so many! Let’s see, they got Chanukah gifts from their grandparents, two sets of great grandparents and from their aunt, my sister, visiting from California. They got so many Chanukah gifts from family that we didn’t really need to buy them anything at all. We just only seem to remember that AFTER we buy them new gifts. Next year, nothing, I tell you. We’re buying them nothing!

But, in case you’re thinking, so what’s the big deal with that? Eight nights of presents, sure that sounds wonderful, but not all that decadent. Was there anything else?

Why yes, yes there was, thank you for asking. See, while the 15th was the first night of Chanukah, the 16th was their birthday party. Yes, their birthday is on the 17th. Since they were turning four years old (can someone please explain to me how that happened?), we decided to do things slightly differently this year – we held a party at our local recreation center for our Okapis to play in the gym with their friends and have pizza and ice cream cake. Their take from that party, the number of birthday presents they received was overwhelming to me, to everyone who saw them. We had about fifteen kids attend, with each one buying one gift for each of our Okapis (15 X 2 = 30 for those struggling with the math at home). That doesn’t include ALL of the presents from our friends and family who often give them more than just one gift. And they have a lot of family; grandparents, great grandparents, uncles, and aunts – they barely all fit into our house! With all of the presents some people had to stand outside. The cops came by to see if we had a license to run a club out of our house, there were so many people. Next year, I think we might hire some bouncers to handle all of the traffic.

Afterwards, we did what we normally do, we invited some of our close friends and family over to continue our birthday celebrations. Why do we need two birthday parties for our Okapis? Well, the first party was just for them to have fun with their friends and enjoy being the center of attention that you often only get to be on your birthday when you are a kid. The reason we continued the party at our house is because not only is it Chanukah, not only is it their birthdays, but it is also my wife’s birthday (the 18th).

And my birthday (the 22nd).

That’s right. All four of our birthdays and Chanukah fell in the same week this year. At the party at our house, we had four birthday cakes, one for each of us, of course. Everybody sang Happy Birthday to all of us and everyone, as they do every year, has no idea what to say when it comes time to use our names. “Happy Birthday to You, Happy Birthday to You, Happy Birthday Dear …” Some just use our last name, some try to fit all of our names into the tiny space, some just have fun and mumble nonsensical things since no one will know anyway. It is quite hysterical and I hope we never figure out a specific way to handle that, frankly.

Of course, after the birthday party, there were still several nights of Chanukah left – not too mention ALL OF THE FOOD!! We had leftover ice cream cakes (2), cookies, the other birthday cakes and so much other food. There was so much dessert I was barely making a dent in it all – and that’s not a problem I usually have, I got to tell you.

During Chanukah, we only had one night with just ourselves. Every other night, we either had family or friends over or we went to grandparents or great grandparents houses, with always so much food to eat and more presents to be had. This year, Chanukah ended on my birthday (Friday the 22nd), which we celebrated at my wife’s parent’s house with more cake and more presents for everyone. At one point during that Friday night my wife turned to me and said, “Thank goodness the presents are over for a year.”


Did I mention my wife’s family celebrates Christmas?

“Oh right! Monday is Christmas.” Which, of course, meant more presents! I actually had done the same thing a bit earlier, thankful it was all over and then remembering about Christmas with a slap to my forehead.

So this year Christmas ended the Ten Days of Decadence with a bang. More presents, more candy, more chocolate and not a nutritious meal to be had.

Now that it is all over. Now that there are no more parties, no more family events, no more chocolate, no more presents, I am looking forward to the next 50 weeks where we can remind our Okapis once again not to expect presents with every meal, not to expect candles every night or birthday cake or anything good for that matter for another 355 days.

How long do you think that will last? A week? Maybe ten days?