Alone Together

When you’re one of several children, I think most people, at least occasionally, daydream about what it would be like to be an only child. I know I did.

One of the things that my parents did that I loved most was take just one of us on vacation – one parent, one child. Three or four days as the only child, with one parent completely focused on you, was absolute bliss.

It started when my little brother Shepard was diagnosed with cancer and was doing chemotherapy. Because chemo weakens your immune system, you’re not supposed to travel.

My family had traveled a lot throughout my life, so my parents didn’t really want to cut it from our lives entirely, especially when there was no telling how long Shepard’s treatment might go on.

Instead, they decided that one parent would take one child on vacation, rotating among the children.

My mom and I went to New Orleans in the last few weeks of the summer before I started my freshman year. My mom’s sister came along for two days or so, and we all had a terrific time. We stayed a few nights in an old plantation, and another couple in the French Quarter. We ate our body weight in praline patties. We toured some of the Mardi Gras warehouses, with all the floats and decorations stored there. We went to the aquarium, the D-Day museum, and wandered through the Flower District. We got caught in pouring rain. Coming from Las Vegas, we were shocked when the casino wouldn’t let me in because I wasn’t 21. It was a fabulous, fabulous trip.

The next year, my dad and I went to Washington D.C. We saw everything – the Holocaust museum, the Library of Congress, Ford’s theater, the monuments and memorials. I especially remember during that trip that my dad was reading a book about improving your memory and we practiced remembering the names of every person we met or came in contact with. It was just as terrific.

My mom went on a cruise through the Panama Canal with Merrick. She took each of my sisters to Boston at different times. My dad took Landen on a cruise to Mexico. Some of the trips were long, some were shorter. It gave each of us time one-on-one with my parents, and it let the rest of us practice not being jealous of someone else’s good fortune.

Even after Shepard died, and we could go on family vacations again, my parents kept it up, interspersing these individual trips with entire family vacations. There are few things that I remember with as much fondness and joy as those trips, that time with just one of my parents, a chance to talk and talk and talk, and spend time together, and be the only child for a few days.

And I can’t wait to do it with our kids someday.

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  • Reply Heather November 19, 2009 at 2:24 pm

    This is something I've thought about a lot. With four kids so close together, they want and need individual attention. I went on a DC trip w/just my dad and loved it. If only I'd have squeezed in a trip w/Mom.

    I'll definitely be implementing this plan as my own kids get a bit older. Thanks for sharing.

  • Reply Shelly November 19, 2009 at 2:41 pm

    That is a really good idea. I'm starting to do some things with just my daughter and she's responding really well. I think it will be good to have some things that each of us do with the children alone.

  • Reply Tina's Blog November 19, 2009 at 2:49 pm

    I think my daughters would benefit from some one-on-one time as well. It is interesting how well they behave when they are alone with one of their parents versus how they behave when it is the three of them together all trying to compete for attention- even bad attention sometimes. Our oldest daughter was diagnosed with cancer when she was four and even though she is doing well now, there was a lot of attention she received for a span of time that we couldn't give to our middle daughter (our youngest daughter had not been born yet). Even though our middle daughter was only two she continues to make comments about how her sister gets all the attention. Going through something like that truly impacts every member of the family.

  • Reply Packrat November 19, 2009 at 3:03 pm

    My mom was an only child. She said she sometimes liked it, but she said she was mostly lonely. (My grandparents never stayed in one spot long enough for Mom to make good friends.)

    You are really, really lucky. It isn't even about having the money to travel, it is just the fact that they did something alone with each of you.

    I can't ever remember doing anything alone with my dad. Nor, do I remember him spending one on one time with my brothers.

    Mom would twice a year take a day off work – always once during the school year so it meant a day out of school, too. She and I would go shopping. We'd eat out, maybe go to a movie. We'd shop until our feet were killing us. We didn't always buy much or spend a lot of money, but we spent time together. It was so delicious because I always felt like I was playing hooky.

  • Reply Lexilooo November 19, 2009 at 3:10 pm

    I love this idea! How wonderful of your parents!

  • Reply Miri November 19, 2009 at 4:26 pm

    Wow, I think that is a fantastic idea. Your parents sound like they really had it together while you were growing up! I love hearing about the things you and your family did.

  • Reply McCulloch Family November 19, 2009 at 4:50 pm

    We've always made the choice to make sure that at least every few weeks we've had one-on-one time with the kids. We started when they were super little and haven't stopped and they love it and I would recommend it to any/everyone. However, we've never taken a vacation with them. I love that idea a lot. Thanks Janseen! I can't wait to implement it!

  • Reply Peaceful Reader November 19, 2009 at 5:19 pm

    What a great memory! We do make sure to have one-on-one time with our kids for movie trips, etc but I never thought about taking it one step further! You parents did have it together!

  • Reply Becca November 19, 2009 at 5:29 pm

    This is so fabulous. After my 8 day, 4,000 mile, cross-country trip with just my mom, I started thinking that something like this was in order for our kids. It was so ridiculously fun.

    Thanks for sharing. 🙂

  • Reply Katie November 19, 2009 at 5:57 pm

    Well written my friend! Loved the idea and they way you described it.

  • Reply Science Teacher Mommy November 19, 2009 at 7:36 pm

    Wow. And I had no idea about your brother. No doubt his illness influenced your childhood as much as the vacations.

    When I was a child I wanted to go to boarding school. Too much British lit, I suppose.

  • Reply Bean November 20, 2009 at 4:20 am

    I think that is a wonderful idea! I may steal it. 🙂

  • Reply Stephanie November 20, 2009 at 7:02 am

    I always try to do individual things with my kids. I think each needs that special one-on-one time. I don't know whether I would do actually vacations though. Maybe when they are older. Now they are just too little to understand.

  • Reply Jenny November 20, 2009 at 11:43 am

    The one on one time is so precious. What brilliant parents you have.

  • Reply KT November 20, 2009 at 4:37 pm

    This is a fantastic idea. I'd love to implement it if we ever have kids.

    I love when you share things from your childhood. It seems like your parents really had it together.

  • Reply Jess November 20, 2009 at 8:53 pm

    This is such an awesome idea. I love it. I am totally going to remember it for when we have kids.

    And I don't think I knew about your brother. I'm sorry for your loss.

  • Reply Mary November 20, 2009 at 10:02 pm

    What great parents! My mom did this with me and I loved it. Makes me want to plan a girls trip for me and my little one.

  • Reply Lisa November 21, 2009 at 2:53 pm

    That is such a great tradition. I'd love to be able to do something like that one day.

    And the Holocaust museum made me sob.

  • Reply Miriam November 21, 2009 at 5:07 pm

    I don't think that would have worked in our family – the difficult part would be that Uncle Dave doesn't like being left out of something! I'm pleased to have been part of one of your special memories!!

  • Reply Kelly December 29, 2009 at 9:29 pm

    I love this idea! I just forwarded it to my hubs.

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