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When the Kids Are Away, the Parents Will... Mope?

Written by Ben Schmitt on .

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Peace. Quiet. Cleanliness. Romance.

Those thoughts ran through my mind as my wife, Donna, and I dropped off our two daughters for a week at sleepaway summer camp in mid-June.

Besides the inconvenience of having to work daily, the dream met the expectation: Casual dinners at Pointe Brugge Café and Alma; late-night walks around Edgewood with the dog; movies; grilling massive
steaks and sipping wine at home.

We missed them. But a week was bearable.

Fast-forward a month to our second week as temporary empty-nesters. This one came after a sun-filled family vacation in Cape Cod – the rare kind where almost all goes right. Our girls, Jordan, 12, and Chloe, 9, (pictured above) stayed on without us for eight more days with my in-laws in New England.

I had a lump in my throat the second I pulled out of my mother-in-law’s driveway in New Hampshire. We got home 10 hours later; went out for a quick dinner and made it home for the first episode of Breaking
Bad. Peace and quiet restored.

The next night, Donna rolled over and said with a sigh, “I miss them.”

The phrase quickly became the theme of the week.

This time around the house seemed too quiet; too clean. We barely filled the trash bag or dishwasher in a week. We tried a new restaurant and complained about the slow service. We grocery-shopped
together and then pointed fingers once arriving home to discover we left a bag of chicken breasts and meat at the checkout counter.

The mundane was no longer fun; it was mundane.

To be sure, we still had fun and we treasured our time alone but we definitely learned lessons about how long to give our kids away during summer. Maybe this time was different because it came directly
after a vacation together.

I tried to keep the belly-aching to a minimum during work hours, mainly because I knew my colleague, Aimee Miller, was sending her daughter off to camp for three weeks.

I didn’t succeed.

“If it weren’t for a whining colleague I’d naively have had no perspective of just how long three weeks is,” Aimee said last week. “It’s only day one and I’m already scanning the on-line photos for a
glimpse.”

That Monday, we barely contained our excitement when our daughters pulled into the driveway with my father-in-law. Our dog, Charlie, rushed to greet them and we cast aside the laundry they brought home
without a care.

We savored the lasagna Donna cooked and let them stay up until they conked out on their own.

Balance restored.

Ben Schmitt, who worked 11 years as a reporter for the Detroit Free Press, is now a marketing specialist and freelance writer living in Edgewood.

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