According to Merriam Webster dictionary, vacation is:
1. a respite or a time of respite from something
2. a: scheduled period during which activity (as of a court or school) is suspended
2. b: a period of exemption from work granted to an employee
3. a period spent away from home or business in travel or recreation
My mom and I joke that there’s a huge difference between “family vacation” and “family trip,” because in our fast-paced, multi-tasking, overcommitted lives (whether work is in an office, or full-time parenting, these qualifiers apply), we focus on vacation def. part 1: respite. Don’t our vacation visions include sleeping in, sunset cruises, cocktails overlooking the water, and lounging around with nothing on your mind?
Traveling with kids pretty much removes the chance of fulfilling def. part 1. Furthermore, MW’s definition of respite is “a short period of time when you are able to stop doing something that is difficult…” Hm. Parenting has a lot of highs, and we’re blessed to have children. But parenting is not easy. So bringing kids = continuing doing something that is difficult.
at least there are some sweet moments, right??
I love my children, so very much, and we were really excited to take them to the beach for five days last week. But this was the toughest family vacation we’ve had with them. Is it the ages (2 and 4)? CJ’s defiant developmental spurt? E’s crappy (non- or co-) sleeping habits? The challenge of staying in a rental house with two 30-40lb wrecking balls sprinting through it and dive bombing over the couch? This trip was exhausting, and not just because I ended up in E’s bed, her using my chest as a pillow, for two out of the four nights.
But our beach trip last week with the kids met MW’s criteria 2a, 2b, and 3. In fact, it met most books’ definition of vacation. And you know what, we’re already planning next year’s family trip. Why even bother? Here’s what I’ve got:
- Hearing E shout “I swim like a dolphin, mama!” while kicking like a puppy dog in the pool, grinning above the toddler floaty strapped to her chest
- Watching CJ learn how to play his first card game – War – with his dad, delighting in his victories, and watching Charlie so thrilled to share with his son his family’s love of card games
- Snuggling with E at 3AM, and soothing her back to sleep with cuddles, because that’s banned at home (or she’d do it every single night…)
- Exposing both kids to new sites and sounds and smells and tastes… From Thrashers French fries and Kohr Brothers soft serve to the expansive people-covered beach, from sign-toting beach planes to the buzz of Boardwalk arcades… We want to open their senses to all these new things.
- Learning that E still hates the sand, and that next year we’ll go somewhere cooler and less sandy.
- Having time as a full family to teach lessons, whether it’s practicing restaurant manners or learning that you lose out on mini golf if you pretend not to hear mom and dad for the billionth time. Charlie and I got to be a united disciplining team in front of both kids. That time is necessary and important, for all of us.
- Returning home with a renewed appreciation for our things, routines, and comfort there.
- Listening to Carter days after our return: “Mommy, remember when we went on the thing at Funland, and E wouldn’t sit on the horse, so she sat on the bench, and then I got to ride with daddy by myself?”
Exhausting, but worth it.