Now that we have two young kiddoes, I wouldn’t exactly describe our first family-of-four vacation as “relaxing.” In fact, it was the hardest-working getaway we’ve ever had. G and I both feel like we need a vacation from the vacation.
But as we return to our normal routine and the stresses of everyday life, I can certainly appreciate the time that our family spent together. What’s more — I’m starting to think that the whole meaning and purpose of a “vacation” has changed for us.
When G and I were newlyweds, we loved going to the beach on vacation. We’d lay on the sand together, listening to music, reading books and napping. We’d stay beside the ocean all day, then go out for a romantic dinner and drinks, just the two of us.
Ah, it all sounds so luxurious.
Now our beach vacations are substantially noisier, more chaotic and have nothing to do with us relaxing. We have about 10 bags that we lug from the car, including toy buckets and shovels, beach towels, extra clothes, diapers and lunch. I stay on the beach towels to feed Baby Sis while G goes with N to check out the playground. Then one of us takes N into the ocean — but she’s scared of the waves, so we carry her into the water. Our hands are constantly in motion — applying and reapplying sunscreen, confiscating a shovel that just flung sand in the air, hanging onto the flimsy beach umbrella so it doesn’t fly away in the sea breeze, snapping pictures, helping little hands collect rocks or build a drip castle in the sand.
Late in the afternoon, we head home to clean up for an early dinner at a family-friendly restaurant. After chicken fingers and fries, we have just enough time for an ice cream and a ride on the carousel before it’s back home for bedtime.
This year, we stayed in an eccentric old vacation house that, according to N, must have belonged to the Seven Dwarves, given that no adult of full height could stand upright in the upstairs bedroom. Given the bizarre layout, we completely changed our sleeping arrangements. G slept downstairs (actually, under the stairs — he said he felt like Harry Potter) and the girls and I slept upstairs, in the Dwarves’ bedroom.
The first couple of nights we stayed in the house were the toughest. N was in an unfamiliar place and she was out of her routine — thus we had some major bedtime battles at first. By the third night, N had started to settle in, and bedtime got slightly easier. Still, G and I would stay downstairs with Baby Sis and listen for N to go to sleep, which usually takes 1-2 hours. Then we could take Baby Sis up to bed.
Once the girls were asleep, G and I could finally enjoy about 15-20 minutes with a glass of wine or a beer before we just couldn’t keep our eyes open another minute. Then we retired to our separate sleeping quarters — G to his Harry Potter bed under the stairs, me to the Dwarves’ room.
No, I wouldn’t describe our family vacation as “relaxing,” but that’s not what we’re looking for in a vacation anymore. G and I want our family to have fun together and reconnect, free from the pressures of everyday life. We want to show our girls new experiences, and maybe learn something about each other along the way. It’s work for us parents, but by those measures, our family vacation was a success.
(And of course I am fully aware that one of these days, when I’m old and the kids are grown, I’ll be sitting on a quiet beach somewhere, listening to my music, reading my book, and wishing I was rubbing sunscreen on a cute little face…)