Q: Help! In my eagerness to be a "good" mother, I totally ignored the advice given in almost all child-rearing books that tell you to get away from your child and make sure you have "couple time."

For 27 months I've been letting my daughter call the shots, and I'm resenting it more and more.

I can't say she's spoiled in the nasty sense; she's very polite and basically obeys. However, I let her control when I go out and for how long.

An example: As much as I want to wean her, I haven't yet. She still nurses to sleep at naptime and at bedtime. I basically plan my day to make sure that I'm home for both. (She cries for hours, has tantrums and refuses to sleep otherwise.)

This means, of course, that my husband and I haven't been out past her bedtime for two years. We've never hired a baby sitter. Only family members have ever baby-sat and she's never happy about it. She always cries at least 10 minutes, and sometimes the whole time I'm gone.

My husband wants us to go away for a three-day weekend without her, and as nice as I think it might be, I have this feeling that she'd never tolerate it, or forgive us.

How do I suddenly put my foot down and say, "I need space. I need to set more limits," without making the child feel rejected and unwanted?

A: A.Do it without regret. It's time to think about you and your husband.

If you keep putting your child ahead of yourselves, the family bonds will fray. Two parents who stay together for life are far better for a child than two parents who hover around her in the early years and then, worn out by their efforts, go their single ways.

Major changes are needed, but not all at once.

Going off for a three-day weekend, without any prelude, is obviously too abrupt for you, and at 2 1/2, it's sure to be too abrupt for your daughter. Unfortunately, everything is too abrupt for her now.

A child from about 26 months to 30 months is at a rigid, ritualistic age when everything has to be just so. Moreover, since this child hangs around her mom like a little koala bear, the breaking away is that much harder.

Some of her demands now may simply be her way to ask for some limits. It's mighty hard for a 2-year-old to rebel as she should if she doesn't know where the boundaries are.

You'll also be showing her your respect in a subliminal way, by helping her realize that she can be more independent than she knows.

It will be easier on you if you make this a three-month project, with the weekend vacation as a reward for your patience. Begin by changing patterns, flourishing the trumpets to announce the End of Boring.

Do something different each Sunday. Invite your child on a small, unusual, unexpected excursion during the week and have your husband do the same, treating them like special occasions. And in fact they will be, if she has a date with just one parent at a time.

You and your husband deserve special dates, too. Stop asking relatives to baby-sit -- another pattern broken -- and instead find one or two imaginative sitters you can hire or friends with whom you can swap children. Use a sitter once a week to meet your husband for lunch or even a walk, and once more to meet him after work for an early movie. Your child has to learn that there are times when the three of you are together, and other times just for her parents.

And, sad to say, if she cries for 10 minutes while you're gone -- or even for the whole two hours -- those are the breaks. If you don't overreact to her, she'll soon fuss less.

These outings will help you wean her, for a little freedom invites more. But please, no guilt. You've given your child a splendid start. The best things in life are free, and breastfeeding is certainly best for babies, but it's time to quit when it becomes too much.

Do it gradually, still nursing your little girl, but not to sleep. That only confuses bedtime with mealtime and keeps you at her mercy: What mother can deny a child food, love and sleep, all at once?

Change the routine more by switching to a different chair, nursing briefly and then brushing her teeth and putting her to bed with a storybook to "read," because she's so grown-up. More broken patterns.

It shouldn't take long to make her lose interest in breastfeeding, but if she doesn't, you'll have to stop the naptime feeding yourself, and in a week or so, the evening feed.

More than anything else, your attitude will decide how easily this separation goes. If you act uncertain or threatening or guilty, your child will be upset, but she'll accept it reasonably well if you're positive, and see the new routines as part of growing up and growing bold.