My husband and I recently went on a dreamy week-long trip to Hawaii, and we left our son behind at home. It was glorious.
I am a firm believer in the healing power of an adult-only trip. We find yearly parent only trips both important to our individual mental health and happiness, and crucial to the overall health of our marriage. We take our son on 90 percent of our trips. We enjoy the family time and the experience it brings us, but let’s face it, a vacation with a toddler is not a vacation — it is an adventure. Totally worth it. Totally valuable. Totally exhausting.
We are fortunate to have both sides of our families as willing and wonderful caretakers in our absence, so when we can, we grab onto any precious one-on-one time. Since the birth of our son three years ago, we have taken three, parent only weekend trips for just a couple of nights, until we took our trip to Hawaii.
For us, thorough preparation was the key to our enjoyment and the key dampening our own separation anxiety. Here is what we did to prepare to leave our son at home for a glorious week-long vacation.
First, I threw together the ultimate binder including the following things:
Medical and Legal Documents
- Updated will in case the worst happens
- Power of Attorney allowing someone to act on our behalf in case we couldn’t be contacted
- Medical Release Form for a Minor (I did this through my pediatrician’s office)
- Copies of important documents and note of location of original documents including birth certificate, social security card, vaccination records, passport, health insurance and prescription cards
- Age-related, child-safety tips and reminders (in our case, it was all toddler related)
- Emergency contact numbers including: our pediatrician, the ER, Children’s Mercy’s 24/7 nurse helpline, neighbors’ names/numbers, local friends’ names/numbers, and poison control’s number
- List of known allergies and daily medications
- Medicine dosages- both daily and just in case dosages (think Tylenol and allergy meds)
- Parents’ travel information including: a general itinerary, flight numbers and times, hotel/rental address and management contact information
- Our family’s COVID protocols and routines
Day-to-Day Helpful Information and Items
- A rough daily schedule with general bedtimes and eating times
- Any hard and fast rules our caregivers might need to know
- A calendar of upcoming dates/events for the week
- Potty training and diapering routines
- Technology passwords and guides for the internet, tablet, tv, home security system, and any other kid tech (like our Hatch sound machine and the baby monitor).
- Crucial pet information including: feeding, general care, vaccination records, and veterinarian information. We also left a contact number for an emergency dog-sitter.
- Money- we left a credit card and some cash
- A list of family-favorite local hotspots and any membership or entrance cards
After I got the binder squared away, I organized our home to make our things as accessible and easy to find as possible. Not everything was perfect and absolutely nothing was labeled, but I did the best I could with what little time I had!
Honestly, all the paperwork and organizing was the easy part. The hardest part of leaving our pandemic-raised, 3-year-old was preparing him for the transition and week-long parental separation. I would be lying if I said I wasn’t worried that our son would struggle with our absence after two years of near constant pandemic-induced parent/child contact. But, he did great. Did he miss us? Of course! But I feel like with the following steps, we were able to adequately equip him to deal with the separation.
How We Helped our Son with the Transition/Separation
- We avoided colliding the trip with other big transitions. We potty trained and moved him to a new toddler bed months ahead of time, and we pushed starting preschool back by a week so he didn’t begin while we were gone.
- We practiced leaving him with his grandparents for shorter separations.
- About a week before we left, we started talking daily about our trip and about how he would get to have lots of grandparent time. We read books about babysitters and invoked the great Daniel Tiger (grown ups come back).
- We left room for the inevitable differences in care, explaining to our son that different people will do things in different ways (like bedtime routines, dinner rules, etc). We also managed our own expectations by giving only a suggested daily schedule and by not micromanaging how the grandparents chose to take care of him. All that mattered was that he was happy and healthy.
- We made time to video chat with him every day we were gone and we sent lots of pictures.
- We also left him a gift bag to open every day we were gone, filled with a family picture, a note, a special snack, and a small craft or activity (thank you, dollar store!).
It was a lot of work to leave our son for a week. Did we need to be this thorough? Probably not. But being prepared allowed us to completely relax while we were away and being prepared made it super easy for the grandparents to focus solely on loving our kiddo! After seven days of fun and adventure with them, I’m not sure he was ready for us to return home!