Mama Madison: You deserve a break

You take a trip while the kids hang with Grandma -- it's a win-win

My husband and I have just returned from a "parents only" long weekend in New York City to celebrate his 50th birthday. While there, we took in a terrific Dutch Masters exhibit at the Frick and scored tickets to a taping of The Colbert Report. A highlight was walking both directions across the Brooklyn Bridge despite the below-freezing weather. And neither of us complained it was cold or that our feet hurt.

In other words, we did the kinds of things we never could have done if we'd had the kids in tow.

This will not (although it could) be a treatise on the value of "alone time" for a healthy marriage, though. Nor will it be an ode to how nice it was for me to have a few days off from lunch-packing, carpool-driving and homework-nagging.

There is no question I completely enjoyed my break from the kids. But my biggest discovery this past weekend (besides the fact that both Vermeers and Stephen Colbert are totally worth standing in line for) was that it was the kids, perhaps, who needed a break even more.

A break from me.

On the whole, I think my children would say that I'm a fairly easy mom to live with. Of course, like any kids, they'd prefer I didn't ask them to take out the trash, unload the dishwasher or match socks quite so often. But I've never gotten the feeling that they were devising plans to trade me in for a different model.

But from the moment I told them that my husband and I were going away for the weekend and that my mom was flying in to stay with them, the kids wanted to know how soon we were leaving. You know how some children have an Advent calendar to count down the days until Christmas? My daughter concocted her own version to count down the days until Grandma was in charge.

I don't think I'll ever know for sure everything they did while we were away. But suffice it to say, what my mom lacks in physical dexterity (she hasn't walked well for years due to a nerve issue), she makes up for in permissive ingenuity. I have heard rumors of M & M-infused Yahtzee tournaments and grandmother/granddaughter makeovers involving garish lipstick, bright blue eye shadow and Instagram. I think Xbox Madden was played before breakfast on school days. And I'm pretty sure that one night they ordered in Chinese and ate dinner right out of the containers while lying on the pullout in the family room.

I am trying to picture my three kids, two of whom are taller than me, plus Grandma, squeezed together in the double bed. It must have looked like a scene out of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.

But I don't ask too many questions. I was lucky enough to grow up seeing my grandparents every weekend; they were an indelible part of my childhood. But my kids only get to see my mom, who lives on the East Coast, a couple of times a year. So, in the end, what difference does it really make if no teeth were brushed all weekend? Or if I'll be finding remnants of egg rolls in the couch crevices for months? Precious memories were made. The kinds of memories that only happen when you enjoy every moment and loosen the rules. You know, like when you get a break from your parents.

So no, my husband and I definitely weren't the only ones who got a tremendous amount out of our weekend away. Yes, we may have had Broadway, Chelsea and Madison Avenue. But the kids had Madison, Wis., with my mom. And my daughter has already asked if I would consider moving my 50th birthday up a couple of years.

I don't think she wants to wait that long to tell me once again, "What happens with Grandma, stays with Grandma."

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