I thought it would be a good idea to take the kids by myself to the beach for a few days, with Nat joining us later. Why I thought this was a good idea is anyone’s guess. When I come up with this plan, it was because I was just used to driving Sam (who is 4) to the beach. But it’s not just Sam anymore. It’s Sam. And a baby. And a dog.
I realized the error of my way within 25 minutes driving on the Turnpike. Sam started whining about the game on my phone. Kit started crying because she dropped her bottle. And Scout was sitting next to me, panting heavily into my ear, ripe with anxiety over the packed suitcases and the thought of going somewhere new.
And because I was driving, I had no hands to fix Sam’s app. Or grab Kit’s bottle. Or pet Scout. All I could do was drive while feeling like my eyes were going to pop from my head.
(If you ever want to appreciate your husband, go somewhere solo with your small kids for a few hours.)
It went like this for two hours. And then we got to my mother-in-law’s and Kit had poop all over her, Sam needed to get changed into PJ’s, Scout needed to be fed, etc. And I was so tired. It was only 2 hours into my “vacation.”
I remember when Sam was around 2 and we did a nanny share with a couple around the block, the mother told me how she and her family didn’t even go on vacation anymore, it was too hard. I remembering feeling bad for her. For giving up so easily. “I will never be like that,” I thought to myself. “How sad.”
In the car, driving to the beach, I realized she wasn’t “giving up”; she was being practical.
Eventually, I got to the beach. I fully unpacked and got in a nap (with my mom’s help) and finally felt like I wouldn’t break into a thousand pieces.
In the end, it was so nice to spend some time with my children. And it was doubly nice for them to spend time together. Being away made me realize that they don’t have a lot of time to interact. I seem to always be with Kit while Nat and Sam play together. We have mornings and evenings together as a family but none of the slow time little children need to feel comfort and love.
But to call it a “vacation”? That’s a stretch. Maybe we should call it “total family immersion in a new setting.”
It wasn’t a vacation as it’s far from being relaxed while having to constantly service the needs of two small children all day and all night. But it did give us time. I had time to show my son how to make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, a skill that will serve him well throughout his life. I will always remember his chubby little hand, still fleshy with toddler chub yet getting bigger and narrower by the day (“When did his nail beds get so big?” I wondered to myself as he gripped the knife to hoist out the peanut butter). My beautiful, bald daughter started babbling and we spent long stretches on the bed together, just talking to one another. I got to kiss my dad’s old forehead and hug my mom. I was able to take a tip in the Atlantic, always a terrific joy. There was no rushing, no getting out the door. Nothing had to be quick.
Vacation is hard. But it is worth it. Like everything to have to do with having children.
But next time?
Nat is coming along for the ride.