Going on a boys' trip as a dad is a different ball game, Niall Seewang writes.
It started off like any boys trip – beers at the airport at a time that would normally be considered way too early.
But the three of us were giddy with excitement – the type of excitement most young dads feel when they get a chance to get away from the intense demands of child rearing.
For us – with five kids between us aged from three months and five years – it was a weekend in Burnie for a good friend’s 40th birthday. Two. Whole. Nights. Away. From. The. Kids.
Of course, I love my little boy more than anything I can possibly imagine, and the wonderful relationship with my wife has become even stronger since we welcomed a third member into our family.
But as a parent, you’re always ‘on’. The grind is relentless. It is of course worth every ounce of effort, but it’s oh-so-relentless. Any chance to unwind, then, is pure gold.
At the airport, we mixed serious discussions about our lives, families and work with a healthy slice of reminiscing about our ‘glory days’ as young men with nothing more to worry about than wondering where and when the next beer was coming from.
“Can we squeeze another one in before we board?”
That second pint tasted just like the first – cold, hoppy and with lashings of freedom.
But it almost proved disastrous as it turned out we didn’t have time for another, with a mad dash to the gate, dad bods wobbling spectacularly through the airport, the only reason we were able to board our flight.
Our weekend away had been planned for almost a year, with our mate who lives in the UK deciding to hold his 40th in his home town of Burnie.
While my wife and I strongly value each other’s independence and need for time away from the family hub occasionally, nights away – let alone entire weekends – were still rare commodities in our relationship.
Thankfully, by getting organised early and pencilling in the date a long way out, I, along with my two fellow travellers, had no issues in making the trip south. Apart from the flight we almost missed.
After just 45 minutes or so in the air, we landed in Burnie, ready to turn back the clock and party.
Or were we?
“It quickly became apparent that sleep, not the frivolity of catching up with old friends and smashing beers, was now at the forefront of our minds.”
The first signs that this boys trip was different to those in the past came after we checked into our AirBnB.
What greeted us was a three-bedroom house with spacious bedrooms – no cots or change tables or toys or baby monitors to be seen. We were officially in a Kid Free Zone.
“We’re going to have some amazing sleeps here for the next two nights,” one of us said as a strange feeling of relaxation swept over us.
“How good is it going to be to not set our alarms!”
“We could actually go to bed early and have like eight, or even 10 hours’ sleep!”
It quickly became apparent that sleep, not the frivolity of catching up with old friends and smashing beers, was now at the forefront of our minds.
The choice was simple: Party like we were still in our mid-20s (or even early 30s!) or prioritise sleep over late nights and hangovers. And it was obvious what we were most excited about.
The first night was always supposed to be a quieter one, with the 40th set for the following evening.
But in years gone by, any time we were able to catch up escalated to silly levels – even when we were ‘trying’ to be sensible. This time, we were all Captain Sensible, calling it a night after a few drinks.
The walk to our apartment was joyous as we gravitated towards the pull of as many hours of uninterrupted sleep as we could manage.
We slept, and slept and slept. My natural body clock still stirred just before 6am, which is when Junior generally rises, but this time I was able to enjoy that incredible feeling of rolling over and closing my eyes again, with no attached guilt.
After we all took full advantage of the situation, rested and refreshed and relaxed, we chattered like excited school kids about what had taken place the previous evening.
“I think I got eight hours’ straight!”
“I think I got 10!”
That night we knew would be different, because it was the event we’d travelled down to Burnie for – our great mate’s 40th. Surely we couldn’t leave early to maximise our sleep, could we? We started hatching a plan as we sipped the free beer on offer.
‘What time would be the earliest we could leave without being disrespectful’ we whispered.
‘Would he be pissed off if we did a runner?’
In the end, we stayed until after the speeches were made, and after several partygoers had hit the road. Nervously, we approached the Birthday Boy to explain our desire to not be the last-men-standing, to instead be curled up in bed at a reasonable hour.
He just laughed. Despite not having kids, he fully understood. He was thrilled we’d made the effort to come down for the weekend and was just happy to have spent some all-too-rare time with us.
With some hugs and more laughter, we said our goodbyes and caught a cab back to the AirBnb. It was 11pm and we had eight hours’ sleep in front of us – maybe more. And we weren’t going to let the chance slip.
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