It was the summer of 2017 when a stranger on the beach brought me to the abrupt realization that moms with young children do not, in fact, vacation when they are accompanied by their children.
My toddler had just made a sprint for the ocean, and I had taken off after her while hauling the baby along. Once I grabbed the escaped child and started trudging through the sand back to my pointless beach chair (now with TWO children perched on my hips) a woman about her 70s called out to me.
She was the picture of royalty: absolutely *decked out* in jewelry, a hat fit for the Kentucky Derby, and a million-dollar smile. She was lounging in her chair like she didn’t have a care in the world. She was surrounded by her huge family that included grandchildren who were old enough to not be at risk of drowning in 3 inches of water. She was laughing fit to burst at my predicament, but not in a hostile way. In a way that clearly said “I’ve been there. I’ve lived that. And not just once, but all over again with my grandchildren.”
“How is your VACATION??” She cried out. Her hands stayed calmly on her beach chair but her voiced traced quotation marks on the last word. She winked at me with mischievous delight and directed her attention back to her family.
After recently completing my second “vacation” of the summer with three children under 6, I’ve finally realized: vacations do not exist. These week-long excursions are better entitled “family trips.”
If you are wondering whether you experience a vacation instead of a family trip, I invite you to participate in the below quiz:
- Whilst on the beach, do you sit in your beach chair for less than than 60 seconds at a time?
- Do you spend the hours before dawn in complete darkness attempting to keep one (or more) early-rising children quiet while the rest of the house sleeps in?
- Do you consider going out to eat with your children a form of torture?
- Do you find yourself uttering “we’re never doing this again!” several hours (or perhaps minutes) into your drive before you even arrive at your destination?
- Do you consider the swimming pool a form of recreation? Or a death trap where you cannot divert your attention for longer than two seconds?
- Is every available inch of your vehicle packed with toys, booster seats, pack n plays, flotation devices, ALL THE SNACKS, and three times the amount of clothing one would normally wear in a normal week?
- Does packing said items require multiple lists and/or military-grade strategy?
- Do you take enough food for the Oregon Trail even if you are staying in the same state?
- Do family photos require bribery in the form of candy and someone behind the camera acting a fool?
- Does it take more time to pack to go down to the beach than time actually spent at the beach?
- Do time zones play a part in deciding on your destination?
If you answered “yes” to more than 7 questions, then I have good news and bad news.
The Bad First
You are officially in family-trip mode. And they are a lot of work. They drain a lot of patience (not just yours), and they take a lot of planning.
Now The Good News
Even in the hardness, great memories can (and will be) made with a little effort on your part. And yes, you will eventually have a relaxing vacation again one day. Perhaps when your children are older, or even (gasp!) you might consider a weekend or even weeklong getaway without kids! No one on the planet appreciates a vacation more than a mom without the daily HUGE responsibility and workload of keeping small children alive and somewhat happy.
At the very least, I’m thankful to be a resident of St Augustine and live in a place where people literally travel all over the world to vacation! It’s amazing to think that I can get somewhere in 20 minutes that takes someone else a lot longer. So until my daily routine DOESN’T include diaper changes and toddler meltdowns, I’m happy to stay in our little slice of paradise.