It’s said that if you love something let it go…blah blah blah, you know the rest. What we’ve not heard is the corollary regarding “trading” things you love. Not bartering mind you, because in this instance you aren’t swapping your junk for someone else’s junk. We’re talking about straight up trading…your kid.
Before somebody sends Child Services to our door we should explain that he comes back. Eventually. Though not always too willingly…
Junior has been having overnight sleepovers since he was 18 months old. He goes to his friends’ house one night or more a month and on another night (or the next night) they all come here. There’s one of him and three of them so we sometimes get a doubleheader and he’s gone for two nights.
What has been surprising is the number of benefits, both expected and unexpected, that have resulted from this arrangement. Clearly we expected him to develop stronger relationships with his friends. We didn’t expect that they would act more like siblings than just friends. Importantly, Junior gets to experience what life is like in a big family (“Guess what? It’s NOT all about me….”).
We also didn’t expect that this would give him the degree of self confidence that it has to spend the night at any other friend’s house when invited. When we ask, the host parents always say that he didn’t cry for or even ask about us. Parental obsolescence at age four?
Junior, and his friends, have also learned that while some rules are different between houses, the vast majority of the rules (and virtually all of the important ones) are identical at both houses. They are all learning that what is asked of them at home (both homes actually) is/will be asked of them elsewhere. Two data points make a line – we’ll keep telling them that they also mark a trend. We’re years away from them understanding advanced mathematical concepts so they can’t call us on this one just yet.
The biggest surprise of all, however, has been how much WE enjoy it and not just the part when Junior is away, or how much we enjoy him coming home, but also the part when his friends are here.
OK, so maybe the away part we like a bit more. It is blissful to a) go out, b) stay up late, c) sleep in, d) go for a run/walk/hike, or e) all or none of the above without, Junior. In short, we get visitation rights (or is it more like work-release?) to our past, our carefree unscheduled lives as DINKS.
We have our friend Cheryl to thank for this marital/parental aid. She persisted in getting us to hand over Junior to the care of her and her family all the while telling us we would really come to appreciate the break. With three kids of her own and a well established trading program with another set of friends she had insight and wisdom we lacked.
We’ve never looked back. We’ve even added other friends into the program from time to time because once you’ve got four kids in the house one or two more really isn’t going to make that much difference in either decibels or destructive capacity. We also learned that from Cheryl.
Remember, if you want to try this with your own kids, it’s helpful if all of the participating parents have compatible parenting styles. Junior doesn’t come back to us having had a 24 or 48 hour exposure to an entirely different take on life that would then require the equivalent of a toddler 12-step program in order to reset his expectations. This is probably one of the secrets to the success of the program.
So, if you love your kids then let them go (actually, send them away) and when they come back to you your love for them, and your spouse, will be just a bit stronger.