“Do you have your phone and your iPod, Christopher? I asked while we got off the plane. He shook his head as he mumbled an exasperated, “Yes, Mom”.
Often, my thirteen year-old leaves stuff behind – a jacket at a friend’s house, a soccer ball on the field, a book in his school locker, homework at home or an iPod on the plane…which makes his exasperation at my question so very ironic. Also, my children have an uncanny tendency to get sick on trips or pre-trip – we’ve had chicken pox, ear infections, strep throat, skin infections and bronchitis while far from the comforts of home and our beloved pediatrician. Needless to say, it’s a tough job to get a family of six from one place to another even when everyone’s healthy and remembers all their things.
So before our family trip to Florida to visit grandparents over Thanksgiving, I took two kids to the doctor. Our group of nine (our family, plus my sister-in-law’s) was traveling in shifts due to different work and school schedules. I thought I had the lucky draw with just my 16 and 13 year-olds in tow, but found them uncharacteristically squabbly from the moment we left for the airport. Christopher poked Annalise. She shrieked and told him to stop. But for some reason, he was possessed with a relentless need to aggravate. I told him to stop touching her. He quickly obeyed by putting his hands as close to her face as possible without touching skin, while saying, “I’m not touching you, I’m not touching you, I’m…not…touching…you.”
“Christopher, you will pay Annalise five dollars for every time you touch or annoy her from here on.”
Within a minute she’d earned $10 until they began arguing about what constituted “being annoying.”
Apparently, the two of them didn’t understand. This was supposed to be the start of my relaxing Florida vacation.
And this is why we can’t call these “get-aways with kids,” vacations. Vacations are supposed to be relaxing and rejuvenating. They involve long dinners, pretty sunsets, romance, sleeping, morning coffee and uninterrupted time to think, explore, read and play.
But what does that mean when you’re a mom?
Eighteen years ago, John and I were on our first “vacation” with our nine month-old daughter. We turned the lights out at her usual 7pm bedtime and put her in the portable crib behind the curtains we made from blankets to shield her from seeing us. We kissed her, said “nighty, night” and slipped quietly into the bed beside her as if this was our normal routine. She shuffled around trying to settle in her strange surroundings. I could hear her pull herself up to the side of the crib, looking for us. Soon the whimpering and crying began. We lay there hiding guiltily and whispering, “Should we get her? Let’s wait. But maybe she’s scared,” while simultaneously praying fervently for magical sleep. When she finally drifted off, we sneaked in some TV, hoping we weren’t pushing our luck with our Saturday evening indulgence.
Since then we’ve had plenty of hotel vacation stays where we’ve put various children to sleep in their Moses baskets in the bathtub, placed port-a-cribs inside closets and reconfigured furniture to create quiet and dark sleeping spaces. I’ve even found myself tucked into an unforgiving bathtub to escape the child sleeping horizontally between us in bed (why they end up sleeping that way is such a mystery!). We’ve packed special baby foods in coolers, brought bags of baby entertainment and even the awesome but unwieldy “exersaucer” along with us. Bringing babies on vacations is not for the weak or faint-hearted!
As the kids get older, vacations are beginning to feel more like true vacations with fun intermingled with good rest. In Florida last week we had relaxing and frolicking times at the beach and pool, fun and interesting conversations over yummy breakfast and a spectacular sunset. I even managed to get in lots of exercise which is “vacation-y” to me. So altogether, we had some certifiable vacationing moments. But until that palpably restful feel of vacation is present, I propose we call these “not quite vacations”, GAWKs (Get-Aways With Kids) during the years where “restful” is just out of our reach.
Do you agree? I’d love to hear some of your GAWK stories.