Monday, April 12, 2010

Not Just Mommy and Daddy

One of the greatest gifts that parents can give their child is the example of a happy, healthy, devoted marriage. And one of the best ways to keep a marriage happy, healthy, and devoted – especially once children are in the picture – is to find a balance of family time and parents-only time.

And since today is our second wedding anniversary, Herb surprised me with a romantic 3-day weekend starting with a day of hiking (with Ryan) in the Blue Hills followed by lunch and a quick shopping outing on Saturday, then on Sunday we left Ryan in the very capable hands of Herb’s sister, brother-in-law, niece, and nephew, and went to Newport, Rhode Island, for our first overnight trip without baby.

Ryan was completely unfazed by the visit. He’s been to their house a number of times and adores playing with his cousins. I knew they would keep him entertained. (I also knew they would keep him fed and in dry diapers, but the “entertained” part is a lot more difficult, not to mention requiring a lot more energy and creativity.) I, on the other hand, shed more than a few tears both as I packed what felt like all of Ryan’s worldly possessions and again as we drove away from dropping him off. It wasn’t that I was concerned that he wouldn’t be well taken care of – it wasn’t even that I was concerned that he wouldn’t be as well taken care of as he would be by me. But the thought of being away from my baby overnight was very traumatic for me.

I managed to calm myself (with help from my wonderful husband), and it wasn’t long before I was focused on the romantic weekend ahead instead of the baby we’d left behind. And what a wonderfully romantic – and FUN! – weekend it was! We’d originally planned to rent bicycles for the afternoon, but when we arrived at the rental place, we were both taken with the mini “scooter-cars” out front and decided we could cover more ground in those than with bicycles. (I don’t know what they’re actually called, but the best description I could come up with was that they looked like the love children of a motor scooter and a bumper car.) So with Herb on the throttle and me riding shotgun and navigating, we giggled our way around Newport in our cool shades and dorky helmets.

Our first big giggle came when we discovered the hard way that straddling a pothole in a vehicle with only one wheel in the back is not such a good idea, and the laughter continued as we both noted the “bum massage” we were getting from the somewhat rough-riding little roadster and its hard plastic seats. And as we drove along, we got lots of grins from passers-by – although I’m not sure whether they were smiling at the funny car we were in or at our obvious enjoyment of ourselves – but that only made us smile all the more.

Before we reached the row of mansions that was our real destination, we drove past a waterfront park, and since it was quite a windy day, there were scores of kites flying and we decided to stop and watch for a bit. A van in the parking lot was selling kites, and we overheard the dealer mention that he was also a competitive kite-flier. He demonstrated a huge, wheel-shaped kite we had seen as we were passing, and as we strolled to the far end of the park to check out a few kites with extra-long tails we saw tethered carefully on the ground, he followed us and proceeded to demonstrate how he controlled all three at once. It was an amazing display of both technical and artistic wizardry, and the three kites chased each other, wheeling in circles, then suddenly one would break off before re-joining its mates.

[Click here for videos of the Kite Wizard!  Kite Flying Magic  More Kite Flying Magic]
Eventually we pulled ourselves away from the delightful show and headed back on the road toward the mansions. (More giggling ensued as we recalled that the car had no reverse gear and we had to push it backwards out of the parking space – and yes, I did in fact run over my own foot. Oops.) We admired the lovely, if forbidding, gates on many of the estates we passed, and oohed and aahed over the meticulous landscaping we could glimpse through the gates and fences. We stopped to take a tour of “Marble House”, which was lovely but proved to me the adage that money can’t buy love.

The lady of the house had spent $11 million making her home a showpiece, but she divorced only a few years after the house was finished. Even more sadly, her writings provide evidence that she was rather proud of that fact. She was a leader in the suffragette movement and apparently her divorce gave her a sense of equality to and power over men. Ironically, she controlled every facet of her own daughter’s life, allowing her not a single personal possession in her own room and marrying her off to a Duke simply to have a Duke in the family. The entire house had a very cold, distant feel to it, and all I could think was how much more cozy and welcoming my own humble home is, and how completely happy I am there.

Which brings me back to my initial point: spending time away from Ryan every now and then rekindling our romance is one of the greatest gifts that Herb and I can give our son. We both benefitted from having parents with happy, healthy, long-term marriages, and that is a gift we both strive to give our own children. We want to set an example of how a marriage can be strong, even when it isn’t always perfect. We want to teach our children from a very young age that marriage isn’t easy, but that it’s worth the hard work. We want them to see that sometimes we disagree or even argue, but that we always work things out in the end and that we apologize when necessary. We want them to see that we treat each other with respect and love even when we don’t agree. And most of all, we want them to see how much we love each other, and how we treat each other because of that love. It’s one of the best legacies we can give them.

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