Thursday, April 30, 2015

Preparing for my first overnight away from my baby

In a few days, Victor and I will spend our first night EVER away from Max (actually, Victor's been away from him overnight before, but I haven't).  On one hand, I can't believe he's almost a year old and this is the first time we'll be away from him overnight.  On the other hand, I feel like it's too soon and I'm half tempted to call the whole thing off.

Max will be staying with Victor's parents while we have some baby-free time an hour away from home.  I am perfectly confident in their ability to care for Max and keep him safe and sound until we return.  They live less than a mile away from us, so they can easily come by to get anything we might forget to pack for Max, if needed.  Our pediatrician's office is 5 minutes away, as is the nearest hospital, so they're super close to any emergency medical care, as well.

Yes, I'm 99% sure that everything will go off without a hitch.  But that's not going to stop me from leaving detailed instructions on how to care for my baby.  And I'd leave the same instructions for my mom or sister if they were the ones watching him.

I know Victor's parents and my mom all successfully raised 4 children among the 3 of them.  I know my sister has nannied for several children, ages newborn to 10 years old, and has even worked as a night nurse for a newborn baby (she's also a cardiovascular ICU nurse, but that's neither here nor there).  I have no doubt that they are more than qualified to keep my son happy, warm, fed, clean, dry, and safe in my absence.  I know they will play with him and love on him and make him laugh and comfort him when he cries.

But I'm still leaving a Max Instruction Manual.  And I hope that it will be read and acknowledged and maybe even followed somewhat closely.

I read this post on Scary Mommy a month or two ago by a woman who left a 6-page list of instructions for her in-laws when she left her daughter with them for 10 days.  It was funny, especially her years-later commentary on some of the instructions she left.  Admittedly, some of her instructions were a bit ridiculous (requiring them to "sniff when the bear sniffs" while reading Big Hungry Bear), but she meant well.

I don't think my "instructions" are too batty.  It's mostly a breakdown of his daily routine (plus some info on Tylenol dosage amounts and the pediatrician's phone number).  Having taught elementary school for 7 years, I know that children (babies included) thrive on routines.  I also know that when routines are not followed, some level of chaos (even just a slight amount) will inevitably ensue.  When I was absent from work, my substitute plans were incredibly detailed (I was often thanked by my subs for being so thorough and prepared).  I would spend hours writing out every m.i.n.u.t.e of my kindergarten day so that the only thing that would potentially throw my kinders off would be the different person in the front of the classroom; everything else would be the same and familiar.

Of course I'm going to do the same thing with my own flesh and blood.  DUH!  I am with Max all day, every day.  No one can care for my baby better than me (and I fully believe every involved mother has the right to say that about her own child(ren)).  So while I know that Max's caretakers for my 24-hour absence are very highly qualified, they're not me.

Hence, the instructions.

Now, my in-laws read my blog, as do my mom and sister.  I know they're going to see this.  I actually want them to see this.  I can't tell you how many times they've all said to me and Victor, "I know what I'm doing.  I've raised/cared for children before."  I'm sorry if you've been offended by our requests, demands, and reminders; we didn't mean to hurt your feelings.  But guys, this is my kid.  My first baby.  I'm allowed to be neurotic.  I'm allowed to worry.  I'm allowed to leave instructions with you for his first overnight away from me (and possibly the next several overnights).

Just look at this nugget.  Of course I don't want to leave him!

For the past 11.5 months, I've been the one who feeds him, bathes him, changes his diapers, rocks him, comforts him, reads to him, sings to him, puts him down for naps and bed, wakes up with him at all hours of the night, takes him to the doctor (or worries about whether I should call the doctor about his cough or that low-grade fever or that rash).  I'm a perfectionist, I'm independent, and I'm a firm believer in the saying "If you want something done right, you gotta do it yourself."  Just humor me and read the instructions, respect my reasons for writing the instructions (because I want my baby to feel comfortable and have some familiarity and consistency in my absence, NOT because I don't have faith in you), and maybe just follow the instructions, even if you follow them loosely.

So, for those who are lucky enough to be entrusted to care for the child of a first-time parent, just cut us a little slack.  Let us be neurotic and a little overbearing and leave you with a list of things to do and say and feed to our baby.  I'm sure you did the same thing when you were in our shoes; lots has happened since then, so you might not remember those early days of parenthood.  We will likely loosen up with more practice...and more babies.

Shoot, the first time I left Kenny with someone else, I left PAGES of instructions for how to care for my fur-child and a box full of doggy supplies.  Now I drop him off with his leash, the travel crate, and a bag of dog food and hit the road without a second thought.  I'm sure I'll get to that point with my kids someday, too.  Just give me time.

photo above by Dottie Millwater Photography

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