When Jeremy and i moved to arizona, we had 5 blissful weeks between the time we put ky in the rear view mirror, and my start date at foothills. We resisted all urges to come straight to phoenix, unpack, find jeremy a job, and be grown-ups. The movers took our stuff to storage (some of which we got back eventually… not recommending that moving company any time soon) and for 5 weeks we were on roam. “You’re homeless!” my bff Bridget said. “We’re free!” said i.
We spent 3 days at a posh resort in scottsdale with our marriott employee rate, and then headed north with an air mattress, a tent, and Frommer’s guide to national parks of the American West–otherwise known as “the Bible” at our house. Suffice it to say, the journey was both epic and restful, adventurous and nurturing, more of a honeymooon than our actual honeymoon (which was a quick 5 days while i was in seminary). We hit Phoenix feeling ready for anything.
Fast forward 5 years to our most recent travels–let’s just say, this was not that. I went to the Disciples General Assembly in Nashville, one baby in tow while the big kid stayed home with dad. My mom came to Nashville to help with the baby, but anyone who’s ever been to a huge church gathering will tell you, it is anything but restful. I also got to spend a couple days with my brother and sister-in-law, and then we flew to Florida for a beach vacation with the in-laws. Jeremy and Harper met us in the Atlanta airport, and we headed south together.
When is a vacation not a vacation? When you have small children. Period. I don’t care how much fun it is, how well your kids travel, or how much you need that family time away from home–a week away with young kids is work. Babies don’t sleep well away from home, hauling all their stuff through airports is exhausting, and you spend your whole morning getting stuff together for the beach, only to get there and realize it is already somebody’s nap time. Then you get all fed and rested and sunscreened-up for the afternoon and–oh wait!–it is somebody else’s naptime. (maybe even mom’s). Large, loud family dinners are so much fun (i’m not being a smart-ass, i really do love them), but send the kids home over-stimulated and not quite ready to wind down for bed. Everybody crashes, exhausted, and wakes up to do the whole thing again the next day. Before you know it, you are on a 4-hour flight home with a screaming, teething infant, and realizing that you have to preach a sermon in about 36 hours. All the while wondering, “where did my vacation go?!”
Someday, i will have another 5-week road trip with just my husband, no reservations, no itinerary, and no diapers to change. But in the meantime, i would not miss a moment of these early-year travel experiences. For one thing, i figure it’s like getting your kids’ teeth cleaned. It might seem like a chore, it might wear you out, and it might even be unpleasant–but it is saving you alot of pain and expense down the road. I can’t help but notice that my 2-year-old knows how to behave on that 4-hour plane ride, and never complains once of being “bored,” or “tired,” although i know she must be. I figure all the dragging her around the world at a young age is starting to pay off. She is downright fun to take places.
Some other moments that made it all worthwhile, and make me certain that we’ll do it all again soon:
–after spending a week away from her, i was so excited to see harper in the airport–but she was even more excited to see her baby brother. they squealed and climbed all over each other and generally made a joyful scene worth any amount of hassle that it may be to get a small child through security.
–when you live a country away from your whole family, giving the kids a whole week with the grandparents is a priceless gift to everyone involved.
–speaking of grandparents, having them around means that mom and dad get a vacation date night! while a pre-kid vacation meant date night, every night, a WITH kids vacation means that you appreciate those couple of hours a whole lot more. we spent a ridiculous amount of money on the kind of place that has a “catch of the day” vs. something that comes in nugget form, a place that had real linens vs a playplace, and a place where–Gloria Steinem and Sandra Day O’Connor forgive me, the boy tastes the wine first and says “yes, WE’LL have that.” worth every penny.
–kids playing on the beach. kids learning to swim with little inflatable things on their arms. kids getting tired enough to sleep for days when you get home. yes, yes, and yes please.
–and finally, for all the little worthwhile moments that added up to a wonderful–if exhausting–vacation, i watched my little girl walking across the airport parking lot with an irrational sense of pride. it was late, it was hot, she was exhausted… but damned if she didn’t hold her daddy’s hand, walk like a big girl, and pull her little suitcase to the car, all by herself. I told her baby brother to watch and learn. We might be taking them to Yellowstone sooner than we think…