Last weekend, Joy and I headed up to Alaska for a long weekend to celebrate her birthday. It was our first vacation together without the children in nearly five years and the first post-diagnosis (excluding an overnight in NY together for a work function last year that doesn't quite count).
That's too long. Way too long.
Parents, especially parents of special needs kids, need time away alone together. To quote the University of Notre Dame's President Emeritus, Rev. Theodore Hesburgh, "the most important thing a father can do for his children is to love their mother." Not give them toys. Or take them to McDonalds. Love their mother.
The intensity of dealing with special needs (or even children in general) focuses so much attention on the child that other relationships suffer. It almost has to. There's only so much attention available in a day and a special needs child takes up a lot of it. That's just the way it is. I mentioned the importance of addressing the needs of the siblings in the review of The Black Balloon below (because I think those needs are widely overlooked). It's also important, if not more important, to address the needs of the marriage. The marriage has to be the priority, even ahead of the children.
We need a break. We have to get away from it all. Vacations, dates, and even long lunches alone are all necessary. Joy and I are fortunate that I was able to amass enough frequent-flyer miles and hotel points to nearly cover the entire cost of the trip. If not for that, we would still have to do something; even stay someplace ten minutes from our house.
The "where" is rarely the problem. It's the "how" and "who"? How can we leave our children for so long? Who will take care of them when we're away? These questions can easily derail any attempt to get away. I know. It's been five years. My advice is make answering them a top priority, even if it only means a day or two away. It's an important investment - one too valuable not to make.
(NOTE: I've turned off the comment control for now. Apparently, Google doesn't much care for posts without comments so feel free to let them fly, especially on any past posts - wink, wink, nudge, nudge)