Why Parents Should Do (Some) Fun Things (Sometimes) Without Their Kids

Why Parents Should Do (Some) Fun Things (Sometimes) Without Their Kids

I went on a whirlwind trip to Japan last weekend. Without my children.

The timing made sense. It was the Chinese Dragon Boat Festival, so my husband had some days off of work and could be with our kids while I was away. I have a friend who has lived in Japan for four years, and it just so happened that Pentatonix was doing a concert in her city. I mean, seriously, who wouldn’t want to catch up with a friend and see Pentatonix live before Avi leaves the group?

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But for my kids, it wasn’t that simple. My son has mentioned, without having ever seen the place, that he wants to live in Japan when he grows up. And my daughter enjoys Pentatonix as much as I do. The day before I left, I reminded them that I was leaving, and they both broke down in tears: one because I was exploring Japan without him, and the other because I was seeing Pentatonix without her.

I am not a heartless mom. I felt terrible. But in the end, I’m content with my decision to leave them behind for a few days.

Here’s why it’s important for parents to do some fun things, sometimes, without their children.

  1. It teaches children the benefits of delayed gratification. I’m confident that my son will someday see Japan with his own eyes. I assume that my daughter will begin to enjoy other bands and probably see some in concert. Now is not the right time for them to do those things. But while they wait for the right time, they can develop patience, and they will actually enjoy those gifts more because they’ve waited.
  2. It gives children a sense that there are benefits to being adults. A good friend visited me a couple months ago, and she mentioned that when she was a child, she wanted to grow up. There were aspects of being an adult that she was excited about. In contrast, it seems that nowadays there are plenty of children and young adults who would rather skip adulthood. Sure, there are parts of adulthood that aren’t easy, but to be honest, there are also parts of childhood that are difficult. Being an adult does come with different responsibilities, but also with different benefits. And because I’m working on raising adults, I want my kids to see my husband and me enjoying adulthood, both our work and our play, so that they can look forward to the privileges that come with growing up.
  3. It refreshes the parent. I spent the weekend with constant people and sightseeing, which tends to be tiring for me. But surprisingly, by the end of the trip, I was full of energy and ready to get back to my work at home, probably due to extra sleep, meaningful conversations, and a change of environment. My heart was overjoyed when I returned home and could give my husband and each of my kids big hugs, and I had determination the next morning to do some hardcore house cleaning.
  4. It reminds children how much they appreciate their parent’s presence. My children did not suffer in any way while I was gone; actually, they thrived on extra special time with their daddy, and they discovered that he cooks really tasty spaghetti with fresh veggies. However, when I arrived home, those kids couldn’t wait to shout “welcome home”, nearly knocked me over in the doorway, and began to run around showing me all of their new tricks. My short absence gave them a renewed enthusiasm to spend time with me.

And so, I hope that you do (some) fun things (sometimes) without your kids…

In addition to doing (lots) of fun things (often) with your kids.

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Roundabout Route, Part 2

Roundabout Route, Part 2

If you didn’t see it yet, you can read Part 1 of this story.

 

Wednesday 7:30pm Pacific Time.

Los Angeles to Chicago.

Flight 3 of 4.

 

Abigail sleeping on plane

Abigail thankfully fell asleep right away and snoozed the entire four hours. Mid-flight, Tammy came to me, saying that Asher’s legs were itching and that he was having a hard time sleeping. I realized that Asher was half crying, half screaming. I switched spots with Tammy with the plan to help Asher sleep.

 

One exhausted, itchy three-year-old. One tired, stressed out mama. This was not a good concoction. Asher would not stop cry-screaming no matter what I did or said, and the more he cry-screamed in the dark, quiet airplane, the angrier and more stressed out I became. At one point, I literally wanted to shake him. I held myself back but hissed forcefully into his ear, “Stop crying and go to sleep!” Not my finest mommy moment.

 

Even with that, Asher pressed into me and drifted off as I rocked him. I am often thankful that God is not like me. He does not get tired or stressed.

 

Lord, forgive me and make me like You. Sometimes I am so far off.

 

When my kids cry-scream externally, God is not anxious about what judgmental thoughts other passengers or bystanders might bear toward my children or me. He gives grace to my kids, holds them closely, and speaks to them gently. He has compassion on them, and He is good.

 

Dear friends, when you or I cry-scream internally because we feel weary or because life is beyond our control, God does not flip out or react harshly. He gives grace to us, holds us closely, and speaks to us gently. He has compassion on us, and He is good.

 

May we press into God and rest in Him, receiving His grace so we can give grace to others.

 

Our family finally arrived in Chicago (with Chaya falling asleep standing up, but Asher and Abigail wide awake and excited to run around!) and spent four short hours in actual beds at a nearby hotel.

 

Ironically, it took us 20 hours to fly from Sioux Falls to Chicago, when we could have driven there in nine.

 

Thursday 10:30am Central Time.

Chicago to Shanghai.

Flight 4 of 4.

 

The kids did amazing well on the 14-hour flight. They enjoyed the toys and snacks sent along by their Nana and two of their aunts. Chaya beamed with excitement about being able to walk around on the big plane. Little things were tough but manageable, like not having any kid meals because of our last-minute rebooking. The only things Abigail ate were two buns.

 

Friday 3:00pm Shanghai Time.

Friday 2:00am Central Time.

 

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Tired and a bit bedraggled, we stepped foot in Shanghai. We made it to our temporary apartment roughly 48 hours after we started our trek.

 

Overall, all three of the kids traveled incredibly well. Josh and I were so proud of their adaptability and willingness to step up to help out. Tammy was a lifesaver, with the kids and with luggage. And Josh’s leadership made everything go as smoothly as possible within our given context. I’m just glad I didn’t have to rebook our flights!

 

Apart from the obvious mechanical problem, I don’t know why we were diverted from China for an extra day. For now, we’ll just chalk it up to a good lesson in flexibility, for the kids and the grownups alike.

 

Asher outside

And, Asher and I had fun together on the van ride through Shanghai. I love you, Asher! I’m so glad to be your mom. Thank you for giving me grace even when I am ungracious.

 

“Do you not know? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary, and His understanding no one can fathom. He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak.” – Isaiah 40:28-29

Roundabout Route, Part 1

Roundabout Route, Part 1

In the spirit of Gilligan’s Island:

Just sit right back and you’ll hear a tale,

A tale of a fateful trip…

Six passengers took flight that day

For a 24-hour tour,

A 24-hour tour.

You can hear the original song here.

We got up Wednesday at 4am, with the intent of going from South Dakota to Shanghai for a 3-year stint with my husband’s job. I have no photo because you don’t want to see what we all looked like at 4am.

Wednesday 6:30am Central Time.

Sioux Falls to Denver.

Flight 1 of 3.

first flight

The kids were quite excited. Chaya claimed the seat next to Ama (the kids’ “grandma” term for my stepmom Tammy), and Asher chose to sit by me. Abigail kept looking out the window to see the land, the sky, and the clouds.

Flying the friendly skies

I breathed a sigh of relief that we got all of our checked bags taken care of, and got everyone and everything through security and onto the plane. I was thankful that we wouldn’t have to go through that process again.

Wednesday 10:30am Mountain Time.

Denver to Los Angeles.

Flight 2 of 3.

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Asher and Abigail enjoyed the surroundings while waiting to board the plane.

This flight was a bit longer than the first, but aside from some earaches upon landing, the flight was great.

Wednesday 1:30pm Pacific Time.

Los Angeles to Shanghai… or not?

Flight 3 of 3.

Abbie with headphones

We boarded the aircraft, the new Boeing Dreamliner. Josh, my ever-techy husband, couldn’t wait to use the personal screens and option of choosing movies. The kids promptly began watching Rio 2, which they had heard about from Josh for days beforehand.

Halfway into the kids’ movie, we realized that we were still sitting at the gate. The pilot announced, “I’m sorry, but the mechanical crew has found an issue with a hydraulic line. They will take the aircraft to the hangar where they have more tools available to fix it. We need all of you to deboard the plane and wait at the gate for further instructions.”

The crew hoped that we would be able to board another plane around 5pm and leave for Shanghai the same day.

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The kids found sweet spots to sleep and to play at LAX while we waited, and in the midst of their playing, I got the phone call from Josh. “Can you get back here right away? Fast? Our flight is cancelled. We need to get our luggage from baggage claim and rebook.”

While we quickly gathered our belongings and headed to baggage claim, Josh rebooked over the phone. He told the person on the other side, “Yeah, that should work fine,” then turned to me and explained, “We will check back in here, go through security again, and leave for Chicago tonight. We’ll arrive around 1am and take the flight to Shanghai in the morning.”

My heart sank.

Another flight. In the wrong direction. Late at night. With three kids.

Thank God we had another adult with us.

So we did it. We hauled all of our luggage around, had Chaya pull her own suitcase and her backpack laden with toys, rushed through security, and found ourselves at the same gate in LAX that we had just left.

Read the rest of the story, Roundabout Route, Part 2.