a stay at the brown palace (and on leaving your babies for the first time)

A friend recently told me about a trip she and her husband took—a weekend abroad without their two little ones. I was amazed, and began asking all the questions.

Where did you go? How long were you gone? Who watched the kiddos? Was it hard to leave them? Did the kids do okay? Did mom and dad do okay?!

It was during this conversation that it really sunk in that my husband and I had never left our own kids (3 1/2 and 1 1/2) for an overnight before. Yes, we had each been away for a night or two, but never both at the same time. Not even when the second baby was born. (“That wouldn’t even count!” the friend I was talking with laughed.)

Before baby one was born, I took a mild interest in extended breastfeeding and AP (attachment parenting). A casual reference in conversation to the controversial “Are You Mom Enough?” 2012 Time Magazine cover sent me into a spiral of googling and youtubing various fringe parenting trends. Of course I sent Sophie and Maria videos and articles that intrigued me along the way, and shocked them just a little. But I emerged on the other side of my internet spree with a more moderate position on parenting…or so I thought.

It was in conversation with my friend that I realized perhaps I had absorbed more of an AP attitude than I imagined. I also realized it was more about my emotional needs than theirs.

One of the things this friend said about their getaway really stuck with me.

“You just have to do it,” she said. One of you just has to make the decision and take the lead and work out the logistics. Otherwise you keep going back-and-forth, taking turns raising all the reasons against going, and you never will.

She was on to something there. There are so many reasons not to go…money, childcare, scheduling conflicts, disruption of routine, emotional trauma…

Because if you leave your children for one night, they will forever feel neglected and emotionally stunted, amirite?

Wrong! Turns out they do just fine without you, as I soon learned.

I related this conversation to my husband later that day, and about a week later, he surprised me with an overnight getaway to The Brown Palace in downtown Denver—somewhere I’ve always wanted to go.

the stay at the brown palace

Built in the late 1800s, The Brown Palace Hotel and Spa quite proudly states it has never closed, not even for a day, since first opening its doors on August 12, 1892. The land was owned by a real-estate entrepreneur, Henry Cordes Brown, who donated land for the State’s Capitol Building, made a fortune selling much of his land holdings on capitol hill, and used the money to turn a nearby triangular plot where he grazed his cow into one of Colorado’s most iconic hotels.

When we first walked into the hotel lobby, we were in time to witness the closing of the longstanding tradition of Afternoon Tea, offered daily from 12-4pm. As we waited in the checkout line, we were treated to a small display telling of the series of unfortunate events leading up to a double murder at the hotel bar over the love of married socialite Isabel Springer in 1911. And as our room cards were made ready at the check-in desk, we were poured glasses of Champagne, which we sipped from as we rode the elevator up to the 7th floor. Later on, we stood at the 7th floor railing looking down on the lobby as jazz tunes from a live band filled the open atrium during Atrium Cocktails.

It’s difficult for me to pinpoint the exact atmosphere of this hotel. It’s self-described as a “luxury” experience, but it’s nothing like any luxury stay I’ve enjoyed before—not like the sleek modern luxury of beachfront hotels in Naples, Florida, and not really like the stuffy grandeur of a hotel like The Jefferson in Richmond.

I remember reading on a plaque somewhere in the building that the castles of Europe were an inspiration for the building, and there was a desire for Denver to have a “palace” to compete. The hotel itself is built in the Italian Renaissance style; the exterior is of Colorado red granite and Arizona sandstone, while Mexican onyx graces the lobby. But the overwhelming sense of the interior is of practicality outweighing elegance. There’s something distinctly American about the whole thing, in spite of the daily “Afternoon Tea” complete with Devonshire cream. Perhaps the tall narrow atrium with six levels of cast iron railings and grillwork panels go a long way in giving the interior a certain practical, a certain industrial atmosphere. And, to be fair, the hotel largely served the wealthy businessmen of the era. The Brown Palace seems very much a place of the past, evoking the atmosphere of a certain time and place in America, namely, the West of the early 1900s.

Far from disappointing, I found it charming, and fascinating. I couldn’t tear my eyes away. I wanted to stand in the lobby looking upwards at the ponderous flights of stairs for hours, with visions of women in long dresses on the arms of their wealthy businessmen husbands walking the halls, leaning over balconies, and floating down the stairs.


back to the children

But I couldn’t stand there forever. Reality beckoned.

We returned home after being gone less than 24 hours, and it turns out that my babies barely even knew I was gone. I realized it was important for me to be able to make the emotional detachment—just as important as it is for children to learn, little by little, to be independent too.

Two weeks after our 24-hour getaway, we left for a long weekend for a wedding. And in another couple weeks, I’ll be leaving again on my own for another wedding weekend. Taking the plunge with that initial short, nearby getaway was definitely helpful in working up to longer, further separations. I’m not at all saying that the endgame here is permanent separation…but then again, in some ways, it is. In fifteen years, my first baby is going to be heading off to college, making her own way in the world. I can’t keep her tied to my apron strings, just as she can’t have me helicoptering around her all her life.

My children are, indeed, bone of my bone and flesh of my flesh. But they are also their own unique persons, with their own paths to follow and their own hearts to be fulfilled.