I was sitting in a chair by the pool, reading a magazine and listening to my kids’ squeals of laughter when it hit me: This was the first time in nearly seven years that I felt like I was actually on vacation during one of our family vacations.
Soon after my eldest daughter was born, I realized that going on vacation with a child in tow is (sadly) not a vacation at all. There’s no time to relax, no time to sleep in, and certainly no time to adopt one of those go-with-the-flow vacation attitudes I had before kids. Our vacation schedule was dictated by her schedule. Rather than going out at night to enjoy a nice meal, we were the ones hanging out with the early-bird crowd at 5 PM, just so we could have her in bed on time. We’d sit in a dark hotel room with the sound machine on and stare at the ceiling while we tried not to move so we wouldn’t wake her.
Discussing vacations after that was a moot point. It wasn’t about a trip that would actually let us unwind, but more about a place that was accommodating to our little ones.
But now — two more kids and seven years later — all of that has changed. At last, we can now vacation with our children and feel like we’re actually experiencing things. We can look for places that have interests for all five of us during the day, and with the kids being a bit older and much more independent, it allows us to have some time for ourselves while they’re busy having the times of their lives.
Honestly, I never thought I’d see the day. I thought that the only vacation I’d get after kids was a vacation without kids. But this is the first time in seven years that we’ve never had a baby. Our youngest is 2 years old and quite entertained by his older sisters — which gives us time to read our magazines on the beach while they build sand castles together nearby. And how’s this for a parenting milestone? Yesterday at the beach, I actually drank a piña colada while it was still frozen. (Still frozen, people!) If that’s not cause for celebration, I don’t know what is. I can barely drink an entire cup of coffee while it’s still hot, but my children let me drink a frozen beverage on the beach long enough for it to remain frozen. I’m still in awe.
This vacation has encouraged us to take more vacations. It’s reminded me that, as hard as the early years of parenthood are (and still are, in many ways), there is a light at the end of the tunnel, and it’s not as far away as we may think. For the first time in a long time, I won’t go home feeling like I need a vacation from our vacation. I feel relaxed and refreshed.
As with all things parenting, you learn to adjust to things as you go. You quickly learn that life isn’t just about you anymore. Sometimes those adjustments can make you feel like you’re just trying to keep your head above water. But I can finally say that the water is receding and I can breathe a bit more now. Our vacations may never go back to the days before we had kids (at least not for another 16+ years or so), but they’re even more special now that I get to share special memories with my own children — and sneak in a little R&R for myself while I’m at it.More On