Last week we went camping for the whole week. It was me and the kids, only it turned out for most of the week it was just me and two kids: the girls.
Max was sent home with his father on Sunday, returning on Thursday. He didn’t want to go and pulling a kid from the family holiday was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done.
But he needed to go.
All weekend he’d been on some kind of attitude bender and I just couldn’t face a week of it. There came a point where Bart and I realised that the consequences for his attitude had to be large. They had to be meaningful and memorable. So home he went, spending the better part of the week at his grandparents while Bart went to work.
Aside from the fact that Max wouldn’t speak to me for a couple of days, it turned out to be a wonderful move. I got time “one on one” or, actually, “two on one” with the girls and Max had Bart’s full attention too.
If you’ve been reading this blog for a while, you will totally understand what I mean when I say that Max takes up a lot of space. Not just physically (although he’s now pushing 6′ 1 and he’s only just 13!), but mentally and emotionally, He’s a giant kind of character. I can’t even begin to tell you what a marvellous person that makes him. He’s charismatic and positively vivid. But he’s also a lot of kid to parent. He’s a lot of 13 year old boy.
So, a week with the girls, just us three. There was a whole different rhythm to our days, as we stepped around the gaping hole that was Max (and Bart – hi honey). Life was gentle and harmonious (although my girls will totally go each other if you let them loose). We were camping with friends who each had girls around the same age as Arabella and Lottie, so there was a tribe of girls busy doing girl things.
My girls are very different characters, but they get along beautifully when they let themselves. Both are creative, energetic kids who like to keep active and engaged. There was never a moment when they didn’t have something important to do.
There was something so refreshing about changing the family dynamic like that. I so enjoyed spending time with just my girls. They are the very best kind of company. I felt like I got to see a side of myself as a parent that rarely sees the light of day. One that didn’t have to stand in the face of the Maxnami each and every day.
That’s not to say that I liked being that parent better, or that I prefered not having my boy around. I think this kind of ‘parent holiday’ works no matter how you switch the dynamic up.
In fact, I know this to be true because yesterday Bart took the girls up the coast to Aunty Zia’s house for three nights. Max and I are left behind – me to work and Max to rehearse the school musical he is enthusiastically a part of.
It’s been brilliant. I haven’t got along with Max like this for months. The gentle, coasty feeling I experienced at camp with my girls seems to be the mum I am when I’m not being pulled in three different directions. Max likes this mum. We have long chats and enjoy sitting side by side reading our books and occasionally muttering something about the contents. Our time together is easy. I haven’t said that about Max and I for a very long time.
I can see exactly why it works so well. On both occasions, my kids have been able to experience more of my undivided attention. When camping, I was all-in for Arabella and Lottie. These past couple of days, the only thing Max has had to compete for my attention with is my work day. And he’s used to that, he gets it.
I was hesitant to send Max away at camp, and sad when I realised Bart would be taking the girls without us for an extended weekend. It felt so weird to not be together as a family. But it turns out that split time like this is possibly the best thing we’ve done as a family in ages. And certainly the best thing I’ve done as a parent.
I do miss Bart though… 🙂