Time Off...

>> Wednesday, 5 March 2008

I've been meaning to post this for a while: it's an account of a weekend off husband and I had in New York 18 months ago, and have finally got round to it after being inspired by Iota and her trip a few days ago. It's not short - consider yourself warned....


Time Off

Thursday 5th October

So Husband and I are off to New York for a long weekend, leaving the Boys in the care of their grandparents for 4 days. Am both excited (I get to sleep, uninterrupted, all the way there if I want!) and apprehensive about leaving them; this is the first time since Boy #2 was born that we’ve done this. Conflicting emotions abound; the bliss of travelling without the kids (and not least, their related luggage) versus the pain of leaving them behind. And don’t forget the guilt… how can I do this to them? The sensible part of me states they won’t remember my leaving, only my return. But the Emotional Mummy part knows I’ll scar them for life…

My father drops us at the airport, following a frantic morning of last minute shopping and writing of copious lists. I never realised it was so complicated looking after the Boys until I had to put it all on paper for grandparents who haven’t done this sort of thing for a while. But the evidence shows that they have done it – and since Husband and I both made it through our childhoods, I can just about force myself to make that leap of faith it will all be OK…

Once on board the plane, the pre-flight glass of illicit champagne never tasted so good (thank heavens for air-miles and free up-grades; I knew there had to be some advantage to Husband having to spend more time in the air than a commercial air pilot…). I watch a movie uninterrupted, such a pleasure – but what is it? ‘Cars’, of course. I just can’t turn this mummy business off…

We arrive exhausted with great plans to go out, but crash before 9pm local time (in my defence, it is 2am at home), and sleep through until 5.30am when my beloved gets up to work. (The fun never stops with his job)


Friday 6th October

Thanks to the time difference, for once we are up early on holiday, and are even out of the hotel before the shops open. We walk down through Soho and Greenwich, getting cold and wet (what happened to the glorious autumn weather we ordered?), and stop for a restorative hot chocolate in a very un-American French bakery. Why does drinking out of bowls seem exotic and right in France (or indeed in a pretend version of it), and just a pain in the backside anywhere else?

Then on to the Rockefeller Centre and 5th Avenue to give the credit card a warm-up, before lunch in the Boathouse in Central Park. We are surrounded by middle-aged ladies (tanned, leathery, with bad posture, and frankly dreadful clothes), all of whom are having reunions, loudly and competitively comparing photos of their nearest and dearest. “Yes, that’s me in our back yard, with a wild turkey” I hear one say. Her friends look less than impressed. I can almost hear them think; is that the best she can do? There is also a wedding party with a shivering bride who looks like she wishes she had heeded her sisters’ advice and waited for better weather next spring.

I notice that there is not a single child in the restaurant. Of course it’s a school day, but where are all the babies and toddlers? And, bearing in mind this is supposed to be a child-free weekend, why on earth do I care?

After a stroll through the park we pay a quick visit to FAO Schwarz. It would be rude not to, really. We pick up a couple of presents for the boys, and admire the enormous stuffed toys (I think Boy #1 would particularly like the moose, almost life-size, yours for a paltry $1599). We also watch some ecstatic kids creating their own ice cream flavours and enjoying a birthday party they will never forget in the store cafĂ©. It’s hosted by a Robin Hood and a Snow White who put most kids entertainers I’ve seen back home to shame – but then, this is New York. They probably have night jobs on Broadway.

In the evening we go out with a couple of Brits and a very opinionated New Yorker (although that is probably an oxymoron), who talks damningly of London crime rates and dirt. I am desperate to counter with the fact that I’ve seldom seen a shabbier first world city than her home – but decide that to say so might not be the most tactful response. I sit on my hands and keep schtum.

Having kidded ourselves for the evening that we are still young and in touch we finally give it up and go home early around midnight, where we find ourselves in the hotel lobby surrounded by hip locals and tourists from New Jersey who trek in at the weekends to be part of the ‘happening’ crowd in the bar upstairs. Of course, I was much too knackered to take advantage. Life the fast lane…

Miss the boys throughout the day, especially Boy #2’s compact, heavy little body, and Boy #1's mercurial temper…


Saturday 7th October

Better weather (thank god), a visit to MoMA (exhausting – I can only do so many floors of pictures before I start to get art-blindness. I know – I’m a philistine), more shopping and then lunch in a soul-less mall with a nice French cafe. (Don’t worry, we also found room in our weekend to gorge ourselves on local cuisine; did I mention that our lunch at the swanky-sounding Boathouse was in fact a hamburger?). The mall is home to a shrine to cookery on the ground floor, a store stuffed to the gunnels with expensive cookbooks, pots and pans – mostly imported from Europe – which according to friends over here, once installed in splendour in tiny New York kitchens, are destined never to be used. Most should never lose their ‘For display purposes only’ stickers…

In the evening we go to a local Italian in Greenwich and pretend we are in any number of gangster movies / chick flicks. The food is… OK. The atmosphere is priceless. Then back to the hotel for yet more sleep. How much is enough, I wonder? Is it ever possible, post kids, to have too much sleep? Don’t think about this for long however, as I start to worry that the grannies might not be taking good enough care of Boy #2’s eczema (as it turns out, I’m right). And before I know it, it’s morning again…


Sunday 8th October


Our final day, and glorious sunshine. At last, the weather we ordered. We have a leisurely breakfast, another walk, and then go the Frick Collection for a spot more culture, because we really should take advantage of the opportunity to visit these places without having to worry about our children destroying some priceless antique. There is a parade on 5th Avenue – Hispanic Columbus Day – so to avoid the surrounding gridlock we walk the 30 blocks downtown to the Empire State. By the time we get there however we find there is a 2 hour wait before you can go up, so give it up as a bad job and go for lunch in a diner instead. Yes, more hamburgers, delicious. Almost as delicious as the Bloody Mary I precede it with (well, I am on holiday, after all…)

We sit outside, people-watching in the busy Meatpackers district, marvelling at the endless parade of New Yorkers with their dogs. According to our opinionated New Yorker from Friday night, dogs are essential for a proper Manhattenite as not only do they replace the need for children, but they give them an excuse to talk to complete strangers and so create a social life where there was none before. The dogs all seem happy enough, and fall into one of two categories; small and yappy, or big and aristocratic. I wonder if the dog’s size is an indicator of the owner’s wealth & status (bigger apartment = bigger dog?) but am assured that this is not the case, as most of these animals spend their weekdays in Doggy Day Care anyway – where there is plenty of room to run about, sofas to lounge on and TV’s for the pampered pooches to watch. Only in New York.

Find myself peering nosily into passing prams and buggies (I see the Bugaboo, that badge of the uber-mummy, has arrived here too). Feel marginally guilty that I’m doing this on a child-free get-away with my husband until I see him doing it too…

Finally, we go for one last walk in an effort to shift a few calories from our carb-heavy lunch, and finish off at a faux French bar opposite our hotel. One last drink, into a taxi, and back to the airport for the flight and a night of disturbed sleep in an attempt to ready myself for the onslaught of the boys when we get home.


Monday 9th October

Home at last – well, it feels like at last, although it has in fact only been 4 days… Boy #1 greets us at the door with delighted giggling, hugs, kisses and demands for presents (luckily we come prepared). Boy #2 sits on the floor and just beams at us.

How could I ever have left them?

11 comments:

Expatmum 5 March 2008 at 20:38  

I think we all flatter ourselves at how much harm we are doing our kids when we leave them. I can't remember ever being left with my grandparents for more than one night - it would have been a huge treat and I wouldn't have missed or hated my parents.
And oh the joy of status with a particular airline. That's the double-edged sword of hubbies who fly around a lot. A couple of months ago I flew alone with hubby (for one night only). We managed to get on the flight before we were scheduled, AND bumped a dead-heading pilot from first class. It's sad when you have that many air miles somehow.

Pig in the Kitchen 5 March 2008 at 22:17  

you could have left them...because you love them all the more when you return!

and becoz it recharged your maternal batteries,

and your marriage,

it did deplete your current account, but it also

topped up your culture account so that you don't have to visit another art type place for another five years.
I'm thinking 'win win'?

And, FOUR DAYS! One paltry night at a time is all we've managed in 9 years of kids, (no, tell a lie there was 2 nights in Rome), FOUR DAYS! (pig shakes head in disbelief and envy...)
Pigx

GoneBackSouth 5 March 2008 at 23:01  

It does sound lovely - well done for writing it all down at last. Funny how we parents crave getting away for a short while but then when we do we think about the kids loads!

The Rotten Correspondent 6 March 2008 at 04:28  

My kids never miss me as much as I pretend not to miss them.

It's just not fair.

Potty Mummy 6 March 2008 at 08:39  

EPM, it is sad, I agree. But it does take a little of the pain away when you can check in ahead of the crowds... (I am clearly a very shallow person)

Pig, don't worry, it hasn't happened since... (although we are off next weekend without them for a couple of days, hurrah!).

GBS, I think we all do it. My mother once told me of how, on a weekend away with my father, she turned around in the car to point ou the tractor to me. Before remembering that we had stayed home...

RC, so true - think they will only ever really get it when they have kids of their own. And since they're boys (as mine are), possibly not ever?

aims 6 March 2008 at 18:24  

Well girl - I hate you for going to New York - (it's still in our plans - eventually)

as for life without kids...that's another story entirely isn't it??

My question is this - why all the French restaurants and cafe's when there is everything under the sun to be had in New York!!??????

Potty Mummy 6 March 2008 at 18:39  

Not sure on that front Aims. I think we just happened to be outside them at the times we were hungry... and it was only 2 French places - we did also manage to fit in Italian, Thai and good old North American cuisine as well. A girl's got to eat, right?

rilly super 6 March 2008 at 20:55  

oh potty mummy, sounds bloody brilliant. Neverbeen to New York but I can just travel vicariously through stories like your's. Why does everybody come back and talk about the food though- I detect a theme here..

Potty Mummy 6 March 2008 at 21:32  

Rilly, thanks - it was (though much too long ago). As for the food thing: let's just say there is a lot of it to talk about...

Tracey 6 March 2008 at 21:55  

The couple of paltry child-free weekends we have managed over the years have been nothing like "We went to New York" !! I'm starting to envy you northern hemispherian europeans. Paris. New York. Wow...(I just can't count the miserable week where husband's company paid for me to accompany him on a work trip to KL - how was I thinking that was going to be much fun while he was working?!)

Potty Mummy 6 March 2008 at 22:19  

Well the thing is Tracey, we have to boast about these things because we don't have the space, the weather, the amazing landscapes (am still smarting over your 30k to the nearest town comment...). There have to be some benefits to being up here!

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