“Should we throw a party? Plan a super fancy date night? Fly to Disneyland for the day?”
His eyes twinkle while we discuss my impending 30th birthday.
“Disneyland, huh?” I smile. “Is that on the table?”
“It would be fun, don’t you think?” he says, trying to read my face.
Of course it would be fun, but the logical side of my brain resists. Disneyland is expensive. And who would watch the kids? And how would we get there? He reminds me about the vacation hours he cashed out last month after switching jobs—extra money we weren’t necessarily counting on. I think of all the Responsible Things we should do with that money: make deposits in the kids’ college funds, pay our car insurance for the year, save for braces, buy the next car seat we’ll need.
“You’re always telling me that we should invest in experiences over things,” he reminds me.
It’s true; I do say that. I try to remember the last time we did something spontaneous and carefree and fun, just the two of us. Nothing comes to mind. For the past few years our lives have been one foggy cycle of diapers and laundry, meal plans and doctor appointments. Work hard, clean the kitchen, pay bills, put the kids to bed, repeat. There has been a lot of adult-ing in our house, but very little spontaneity. I start to entertain the idea.
Could we really fly to Disneyland for a day, just the two of us?
That would be so fun.
That would be so special.
That would be so……irresponsible.
When I was a kid, my deepest desire was to be a grown-up. It’s all I dreamed about: wearing real bras and high heels, working in a cubicle and eating ice cream for dinner.
My five year-old self would be devastated to know that bras and high heels are the worst, cubicles aren’t all they’re cracked up to be, and eating ice cream for dinner just leads to bloating.
The thing about adulthood that I never understood until now was the mind-numbing monotony of it all. The grown-up life I fantasized about when I was a child did not include things like buying tires for the car or re-caulking the tub or rolling the garbage cans down to the curb in the pouring rain. You can’t escape adulthood; it’s everywhere. Sure you can go on vacation once in a while, but when you come back, you still need to do your taxes and change the batteries in the smoke alarm when it starts chirping at 3am.
“Oh no,” he says.
It’s 10:30pm on a Sunday night and we are folding laundry on the bed. He holds up the new sweater he received for Christmas, which apparently took a tumble in the dryer by accident.
I burst into a fit of giggles. The sweater looks like it would fit my 5’4 frame better than his.
“It’s not funny,” he protests.
Pretty soon our entire bed is covered with neat stacks of folded laundry. He asks me about the $900 doctor bill on the counter, one of two invoices from our son’s recent tonsillectomy. I remind him that it's been two years since either of us have seen a dentist. The conversation spirals into a to-do list: you pay that bill, I’ll call that office, you deposit that check, I’ll transfer that money, you take care of that oil change, I’ll order that birthday gift. Can you pick up diapers on your way home tomorrow? And coffee creamer?
We turn off the lights at 11:28pm. I fall asleep dreaming of roller coasters and Mickey-shaped beignets.
Do you remember who we used to be before these kids came along? It feels like a lifetime ago. Do you remember when we saved our money for two whole years so we could go to Santorini and watch the sun sink into the ocean like a painting? Do you remember when that pigeon pooped on your shoulder in New York City and we laughed about it for hours afterwards? Do you remember wrapping your arms around me at the Avett Brothers concert in Vegas, our bodies swaying back and forth without a care in the world?
We were so young and tan back then.
Do you remember that one time we gambled at that weird casino and won $13? I took that money straight to Target and bought a new pair of sandals. I still have them. And do you remember our road trip to Washington? Do you remember how I kept my feet on the dashboard in the sunshine while we ate giant bags of sour patch kids and talked about the future?
Do you remember the summer we fell in love, when I was a waitress and you left me flirty notes on your receipts?
Do you remember how often we held hands?
How often we kissed?
To hell with it, maybe we should go to Disneyland. Maybe our marriage could use an adventure, an escape, a trip to the happiest place on earth. Maybe for one whole day we could act like kids and not grownups. Maybe we could take a break from the dishes and the bills and the children and the monotony of being responsible adults……maybe we could get lost in the park and lost in each other.
Maybe it would be…..fun.
Sometimes I miss having fun with you.
Dear sweet grown-up reader, when was the last time you played hooky from being an adult? When was the last time you ditched your kids to feel like a kid yourself? When was the last time you ate a churro for lunch?
Disneyland is extravagant, I know this. Let's call that the exception, not the rule.
If your answer is I can’t remember, this pep talk is for you. It starts with childcare. Call the grandparents, line up a sitter, work out a babysitting swap with your friends. Tell them you need an emotional health day, and that your fun tank is running on empty. The kids will be fine. I know you’ll be tempted to use the time wisely, fighting the urge to drive to Costco because you’re out of paper towels again.
Listen to me carefully: you have the rest of your life to stock up on paper towels.
DO NOT WASTE THIS.
I want you to go to the movies. The movies! Do you remember how good that popcorn is? Get the milk duds, too, because calories don’t count when you play hooky. What else? Mini-golf? When was the last time you played mini-golf? Or rode the go-karts? Or cannon-balled into a swimming pool or danced at a free concert in the park?
This is what I want for you: I want you to get drunk on sunshine and freedom. I want you to feel alive, to feel happy, to forget that the lawn mower is broken. I want you to smile with your whole face. I want you to order anything but salad. I want you to be in the moment—completely and fully—and I want you to rediscover that sense of adventure that used to pulse through your body before adulthood took over your life.
I want you to be irresponsible. I want you to remember what it's like to be a kid, to be truly carefree, to do cartwheels in the grass.
Just for one day. Just for a few hours. Whatever you can manage.
I promise you—you’ll have no regrets. And I bet those kids you left at home will one day be thankful their momma remembered what it felt like to be one.
Last Tuesday we hopped on a plane at sunrise and flew to Disneyland for my 30th birthday.
We held hands all day and I ate so much food I had to unbutton my pants by dinnertime. We landed back in Sacramento at 10:45pm and ran to the car because it was cold. The gas light popped on before we even got out of the parking lot.
Then I remembered I had dole whip for lunch and smiled anyways.