Going on vacation without looking back

Five years ago we had one kid. One shrimpy little 2-year-old who took up relatively little space in our house but pretty much occupied all the corners of our minds.

And life was pretty simple. He and I slept in every morning. (When you have just one kid and don’t have a 9-5 job, you can train him to do things like that.)

Then we ate cereal together while watching the “Today” show with Matt and Katie (the show’s golden years).

Next we cleaned the house together, or ran errands, or painted something. In the afternoons he napped while I taught guitar lessons.

And in the evening, when the three of us were together, we made him say funny phrases and videotaped him walking around with a cane and sunglasses like a blind person. (He was all the entertainment we ever needed).

About that time in our lives, my girlfriends and I decided to go to Chicago for a girls’ shopping weekend. We found $99 round-trip tickets, booked the hotel room and told our husbands to cancel their tee times: They had babysitting duty.

But as the day arrived, I got cold feet. I was packing my toiletries in the bathroom when I glanced down at the little pint-sized potty chair. I began to worry. Jude was potty trained, sort of. He was great at communicating his need to go No. 1. But the other thing — the thing you REALLY wish your kid wouldn’t do when you’re standing in line at the grocery store — was not going so well.

He’d sit on his potty chair for what felt like forever. Nothing. And then as soon as he was clothed again and running around the house, he’d duck behind the couch and answer nature’s call. It seemed like he and I wrestled with his little problem for years, but in reality it was probably just a few months. Nevertheless, one can only wash out so many pairs of underwear before one just starts throwing them out and buying new ones.

So as I was packing my things before my departure, the thought occurred to me that someone was going to have the monster task of keeping this kid from having an accident. And, when the accident inevitably happened, that someone was going to have a very big mess on his hands.

Now, my husband, I figured, could handle it. Once you’re a parent, you became very brave when it comes to body fluids and other icky things. (Recently, my single sister freaked out when she saw milk collecting under the baby’s chin while he sloppily drank his bottle. She has no idea.)

But on at least one of the days while I was gone, Jude was going to be with a much loved family friend — and there are certain things you don’t want to do to a friend.

I felt sick to my stomach. I did not want to go. I knew I couldn’t actually back out, but for the first several hours of the trip I regretted my decision and wanted to turn around and go back home.

I thought about it frequently on the trip. I recall trying to find cellphone service inside a mammoth shopping center so I could check in with the friend and confirm my worst fears. I just knew the little guy had done it.

But after all that drama, he was an angel. He never once squatted behind a single sofa.

I thought about that trip away — my first as a mother — as I packed for another weekend getaway Friday, this one with my sister to San Francisco.

With three kids taking up virtually every space in our house and competing for space in the corners of our minds, certainly there are things I could and perhaps should be worrying about.

But I have not one misgiving about leaving them behind with my husband for a few days.

Perhaps it’s because we both work full-time jobs, and he is a more equal partner than he was five years ago. Perhaps it’s because none are at that awful potty-training stage. Or perhaps it’s because, after a few kids and a few more years of life, you learn that kid antics and accidents are nothing to get too worked up about.

Often the thing we make into a mountain in our minds is really just a little dip in the road. And during one of those dips in the road, you realize that putting a kid into a Pull- Up for a few days is certainly worth preserving both your sanity and a friendship.

So as I boarded my plane Friday afternoon, I left without looking back, knowing my husband is more than capable of handling whatever a little kid can throw at him — even if that thing is disgusting and smells terrible.

No doubt it will still be there when I get back.

Amy Palser

Amy Palser writes personal stories readers can relate to: tales of family and friends, of childhood and rites of passage, of fantastic people and ordinary things. Her column appears each Saturday. She is the Tribune's managing editor.

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