Three Vacations

Stay-At-Home-Dads enjoy three kinds of vacations: vacations with their kids, vacations for their kids, and vacations from their kids. I have had the pleasure of the last two within the last month. For a break from my kids, I flew to Atlanta with my wife, Liz, so she could attend a conference. Liz spent her time sitting in medical lectures for ten hours a day. I spent my time sitting by the pool. It was a rough life, but someone had to do it.

I realized that five days is the perfect length of time for me to be away from my job. The week before we left, the kids had reached new levels of button-pushing expertise. Daily, they pushed me over the edge with whining, crying, fighting, disobeying, and overall brain-wrenching behavior. Point is, I was ready for a break.

The first day we were at the hotel, I was ready to go out to eat when Liz arrived in the room after her long day, but she wanted to call the kids at their grandparents to see how they were doing.

“They’re fine,” I said. “If they weren’t, we would have heard. Let’s go eat.”

The second day, I distinctly remember thinking about them at some point in the day. I don’t remember exactly when it was, but I did think about them. It was something like, “I bet the kids would have liked that if they were here. Where’s my drink?”

The third day, I wanted to call them before Liz came back, but I waited. I paced a little when she was late, but I still waited to call.

The fourth day, the kids said goodbye before I did.

On the fifth day—the day we returned—I met them halfway down the hall and squeezed them until they squeaked for me to stop. I let nothing—not their minor tantrums, not the burning dinner—distract me from them. They were the center of my attention and they were the most important things in the world.

Yep, five days is just about right.

This past weekend, I enjoyed a vacation for Noah, my only son. Liz took the girls to their grandparents’ house and the boys stayed home.

We did only the manliest things. We built a bird feeder out of wood and went to Home Depot to buy stain; we dropped Mentos into bottles of Diet Coke and shot fountains of foam into the backyard; we “team-read” Call of the Wild (abridged) from cover to cover; we had Doritos and M&Ms for dinner while watching Spiderman I and II. Then we went to church in the morning after eating a breakfast of donuts and chocolate milk.

I didn’t clean or do laundry all day. I didn’t give my attention to anyone or anything but him. I didn’t have to fit him into a block into my calendar or worry that whatever we did would have to be repeated three times for his sisters, just to be fair. I could give him 100% of my attention, instead of the usual 25% (or 20).

I could also relax my grown-up guard and just be a boy, eating boy foods and doing boy things with my only boy. Honestly, it was as fun for me as it was for him.

Next week, the whole family is going camping in Canada for a vacation with the kids. I suspect that this one will be even better than the other two!

©2008, Mark Phillips

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 Women, it's true, make human beings, but only men can make men. - Margaret Mead

Mark Phillips is a Stay-At-Home-Dad and freelance writer. Along with raising his four children, he is developing a franchise called “The Vacuum IS a Power Tool.” It is designed to help SAHDs maintain that which makes us men, instead of hairy Mom-substitutes. He earned a B.S. in Communication/Theatre Arts and teaching certificates in English, public speaking, and psychology from Eastern Michigan University. After six years as a high school English teacher and Director of Dramatic Arts at Powers Catholic High School in Flint, Michigan, he changed careers and became a Stay-At-Home-Dad. or E-Mail

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