We all look forward to summer. The kids get their much desired break from the shackles of school. There are vacations to be had, lakes to visit, popsicles to eat on the back porch at dusk – life is but a dream. For some of us, though, summer is bittersweet – we say goodbye to our kids for a little while during this same lovely, carefree time. Maybe they are at camp or visiting grandparents. Or maybe, like us, you have to say goodbye while your little ones spend some time with their other parent.
If you’re like my husband and I, we get home from the annual summer drop off and are immediately struck with a sort of uncomfortable “what-do-I-do-with-my-hands” feeling. We are so used to our lives and schedules revolving around our 7 year-old that for those first couple of days, at least, we walk around confused about what to do without bedtimes, the early morning alarm of “can I have breakfast!” and of course, the evening “is dinner ready yet?” I wake up in the night because I think I hear her calling – I panic momentarily when we’re out past 8 pm – and occasionally if it’s quiet for too long I’ll forget that she’s gone, and wonder where she’s run off to. I call this “Phantom Child Syndrome.” I’m pretty sure that’s a thing.
Since we find ourselves in the middle of this phenomenon once again, I thought I should offer myself some suggestions for how to handle such a thing. Ooops, I mean, these tips are for you guys. I’m totally cool and not sneaking into her room to smell her clothes or anything.
Go on dates.
My best advice about how to use this uncomfortable time? Reacquaint yourself with dating. Go on dates with your significant other. Don’t have one? This time creates a perfect opportunity for going on some first, second, maybe even third dates! Go on dates with your friends. Go on a date with yourself! Have dinner at places you maybe wouldn’t go with your kiddos (we have some recommendations). See movies above a PG rating. In the afternoon, if you want! Spend adult time with other adults. Stay out past bedtime and drink wine (and then get an Uber home, of course.) The world is your oyster!
Know how you’re going to touch base with your kiddo. Have calls scheduled. Plan to text first thing in the morning, or last thing in the evening. FaceTime! Ask for selfies so you can see their face. We have been sending lots of texts with our kiddo and then trying to get calls in whenever she’s got the time. It’s tough, but at least we know we’ll hear from her, at least briefly, each day.
Do a project.
Ever REALLY want to get something done, but the consistent “I’m BORED” coming from your youngster makes it difficult to do so? Save your projects for when they’re away. You’ll get your chores done – and spare them the boredom of having to bear an otherwise occupied parent for a few days. Win-win!
Plan a surprise.
We like to have a little something fun planned for e when she gets home, like a surprise. This doesn’t have to be anything big – or expensive – but maybe something fun to do together when the nugget returns home. Tickets to a movie they’ve been wanting to see. A family dinner with their favorite meal to catch up on their time away. Just a little welcome home gesture, but a little bit of planning goes a long way with the littles.
It’s a hard thing, to let go of your munchkins for any amount of time; to not know what they are doing each moment, to not hear about their day every evening. It’s a temporary lull in an otherwise loud, life-filled home. We don’t have to like it. But we do have to make it ok for our kids. It’s a scary thing for kids, too, being away from home in any capacity – even if it is to see another parent. It’s a change in their day-to-day, and it’s our responsibility to make that change as smooth and easy as possible. It’s ok to tell them we miss them, of course – we want them to know they are loved and their presence is missed! But they should also know we’re ok. Their being gone is ok for us. We will be here, waiting, when they get back.
I wish you all the best in the struggle with Phantom Child Syndrome. It’s not easy, it’s not always fun, but we survive. And then when they come back with their “I’m boreds” and their “when’s dinners” and their “can I have breakfast yets” – we’ll remember how much we missed them when they were gone. We’ll kiss them, smell their sweet little heads, and tell them to buzz off until we call them for their next meal. We will love every second of it.
Until you get there, though – don’t forget to go on dates. Lots of really fabulous, grown-up dates.