Retreat for Two
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“Retreat for Two,” Ensign, June 1975, 26

Retreat for Two

The tensions seem to drain slowly from my body, and I feel strangely at peace with the world as I sit here in my rocky haven on the beach. The rock I’ve found for a chair is warm and dry, but the frothy spray shoots high all around me, and I feel its soft touch on my face and hair. A lone seagull stands sentinel on the rocky crest above me, and a black sea bird dives through the foam of the cresting wave, his timing flawless as he escapes toward the open sea. A crab clambers up the rocks, reaching tentative feelers ahead to ferret out danger; then, seeming to sense my presence, he scurries sideways into a crevice in the rocks and disappears into sea foam suds.

As I sit here I think of a friend’s remark as I told her of our plans for this trip. “Do you mean you’re going to leave your children all alone? Don’t you worry all the time you’re gone?”

I had to admit honestly that I didn’t worry at all. The children, under the supervision of our 17-year-old daughter, are perfectly capable of taking care of themselves.

“But don’t you feel guilty not taking them with you?” she pursued the subject. Again my answer was an emphatic, “No.”

Parents need vacations away from their children, just as much as children need vacations with their parents. As a result of these few days away from the family, I’ll go home tomorrow a better wife and mother. My husband will be a better husband and father, and a better bishop, after being away from the 750 members in his ward family.

This time together gives us an opportunity to analyze the problems of each child, discuss our family goals for the coming year, plan vacations (which we always discuss with the children at the next family council meeting after our return), and renew our courtship and love for each other.

What a joy to sit in a restaurant all alone, looking at the lights across the bay, and smiling at the young couple at the table next to ours as they mop up the spilled milk, make the emergency trips away from the table, and try to quiet clamorous chatter.

I’d forgotten what it’s like to take an entire shower without interruption, to spend three unbroken hours at the typewriter, and still have time for this quiet hour on the beach before meeting my husband for lunch.

We have several rules for these personal spirit-renewing trips: (1) We never call the children. They have our phone number and can call us if the need arises. (2) We never buy a newspaper. Our escape from normal pressures must be complete. (3) We use the telephone only to call for restaurant reservations. We don’t even give our number to friends who might be staying in the same hotel. (4) We turn on television only if it is equipped with an FM music station.

If you are wondering how we can afford it—we can’t! We combine these personal vacations with seminars or conventions that my husband needs to attend. Usually my accompanying him adds less than $100 to his total expense, including meals, transportation, and extras.

Do we really forget our children when we leave them like this? Of course not! As we clamber on the rocky beach, we vow to bring our 15- and nine-year-old boys here sometime. When shell collecting, we find special treasures for our six-year-old who loves all living things, and a tiny baby shell for the two-year-old. I spot a book which I loved as a young girl and buy it for our two teenaged girls. I write long letters and cards to our missionary son. The only souvenirs we need for ourselves are the pictures we take and the memories of this interlude that we can share in quiet moments.

As I sit here in the sun, hearing nothing but the waves seething against the shore, watching the surfers, swimmers, and shell-gatherers far down the beach, I feel secure in my answer that there is nothing to worry about when I leave my children. A remark my daughter made when we discussed this trip with her and explained her responsibilities in our absence gave me security. She said, “Mom, I hope when I get married my husband will take me on trips like Dad takes you. I think that would be really great.”

  • Ann Carroll Stewart, homemaker and mother of seven children, serves as cultural refinement leader in the Bakersfield California Stake Relief Society.