Q. "My husband and I are planning our first vacation since our baby was born 18 months ago. We've decided to leave him with my parents in Pittsburgh for about 10 days later this month. Though he's been for visits with his grandparents before and they've stayed here (my mother has stayed for as long as 2 weeks), I'm wondering what effect this will have on him.

"I know we'll both miss him. He goes to a Mother's Day Out program and to a baby-sitter's on a regular basis, but this will be our first separation. What problems should we expect and how should we cope with them?

"Is there anything we can do ahead of time?"

A. The more independent your child, the easier this separation will be, but he still will object.

You don't want to look anxious when you leave him, of course, or he will figure there is something to be anxious about, and you don't want to leave him with your parents without telling him goodbye -- that isn't the way to leave a friend.

You can't even do much to prepare him.

While 18 months is young for this, you might leave 10 inexpensive, gift wrapped packages -- one for your child to open every morning while you're gone: "a present from Mommy and Daddy!" Some after-supper phone calls would be nice, too.

In the meantime, your child probably will have a fussy day or two at first with your parents, and yes, you will miss your baby -- but not nearly as much as you thought you would until the very last day of your vacation.

That's when you rush into your paren't home, swoop up your baby -- and he cries, as if he's never seen you before and throws himself in your mother's arms. And then you'll cry and do the same.

For the next couple of days he won't have much to do with you and even will turn his face when you try to give him a kiss. He also will be a bit chary of any sitters and of Mother's Day Out, all of which is normal.

But every marriage deserves a 10-day vacation. It's well worth squawky child.