For our family, getting away has always been harder than staying at home. Traveling is just too utterly exhausting. And it involves packing, the very thought of which can trigger a panic attack. Dramatic, I know. But seriously, getting all our stuff together is truly a week-long challenge of memory and skill. Kind of like Jenga—but with clothing, suitcases, car seats, toys and strollers. And we haven't even left the house yet. Once our pile is configured, we then have to endure the joys of travel (read: car sickness).
The hardest part though is when we arrive to our destination. The boys struggle with change—to their food, sleeping arrangements and environment. After a few days of picky eating, sleeplessness and overstimulation, they are pretty darn unhappy and/or insane. At this point Andrew and I are usually fresh out of patience and resources—internal and otherwise. We question what we are doing wrong... and why on earth does it look SO much easier for everyone else? How have we, once again, found ourselves defeated?
We watch in awe at people who take their kids everywhere... camping trips, weekends skiing, weeks overseas, multi-state road trips, a month at the lake. How do they do it? (Please, tell us!) My parents used to take 5 of us on vacation. FIVE! I'm a good mom, but I could never handle that. What am I doing wrong? Is it down to practice? Attitude? Energy? Whatever the case, these folks appear to be getting the real deal—a genuine vacation.
After a particularly wearing trip last year, we declared we'd never (ever ever) go away again. But I quickly had a change of heart, for the sake of our family's future. I mean, if we didn't succeed with 2 kids in tow then what chance would we have when number 3 arrives?
So last week we ventured to Cape Cod with redefined expectations and low hopes. And wouldn't you know it was the best family getaway we've had. It wasn't perfect, but it was certainly a vacation. This time, we did things differently. We rented a cottage with all the modern conveniences. We left the dog at home with a sitter. We invited visitors to break up the week, and we made a list of activities so we were never bored. The packing still sucked, and Chan did throw up in the car, but the boys' initial adjustment period lasted only 1 day—a promising start.
I'm not exactly sure how it happened, but we finally embraced a real vacation attitude. Laissez-faire, if you will. The boys stayed up late every night, ate a lot of junk, skipped naps entirely and watched too much tv. They played water guns constantly and slept in sand-filled bathing suits. Andrew and I ate way too much seafood, got sunburned twice and took turns napping and sleeping in. We had several long beach days, a couple rainy days in the bowling alley, some evenings at the arcade, picnics nearly every day, and lots of ice cream. And for the first time, we let the boys stay up late enough to watch the 4th of July fireworks—on the beach in Hyannis. They were in awe of the sunset and night sky over the harbor. And we were in awe of them, staying up until 10pm like big boys. The whole thing was pretty darn spectacular.
Our little foursome finally enjoyed a vacation, and not a moment too soon. We needed these memories.