“Eliza, honey, we’re going on vacation!” The two-year old’s response? Blank stare. “Do you want to see the mountains in Colorado?” “Macation Colomado Montains?!?” And so began a quick four day weekend to Colorado Springs for a wedding and some time with extended family. If you missed it, here’s a comically horrifying family story from our trip to a memorial service in New York HERE. While we managed to dodge the throw-up and diarrhea this time, I nevertheless write this post hung over in a state of defeated and delirious exhaustion from our latest successful family vacation. Successful in the context of a vacation with little ones might well be termed as survival, as there is rarely any vacationing going on for mommy and daddy while navigating a trip with a toddler and a newborn.
I’m only three years into this parenting thing, but the first thing I’ve noticed is that the only vacations that actually happen require external circumstance. We’ve managed cross-country trips for weddings and a memorial service, but no time in the last few years have we ever planned any time off from work with a true vacation in mind. It literally takes death or marriage for us to even contemplate an attempt at travel. This isn’t just because of difficulty, but also because of PTO (paid time of) concerns; by the time you factor in maternity leave, childcare issues, doctor appointments, and a toddler’s ability to contract every possible virus present in a five state circumference, there simply isn’t much work leave left in the tank to fritter away on a trip. Those same issues also tend to contract the ol’ family budget as well, so committing a few hundred dollars (or more) really stems any desire to embark on a family journey.
I cannot speak to all age groups, but I can say that the saving grace of raising both our toddler and our newborn is routine. Whether it’s eating, breastfeeding, sleeping, or even bowel movements (any senior citizen in America would be envious of my daughter’s…consistency in that regard), we function as a family only on the strength of a daily regiment. When we travel, however, we might as well throw that routine into a blender and watch helplessly as everything bursts at the seams. To remedy the nightmare of travel, we did our best to make the 8 hour drive as compatible as possible with our daughters’ routines, which just means a whole lot of night driving for daddy. We arrived in Colorado at 3 am Friday morning and departed at 4 am Monday morning, all in an effort to minimally disrupt our well-earned routine. It was quite the pleasure to arrive at 3 am and have my toddler bubbling with energy when she woke up at 5:45. It’s lovely to begin daddy’s portion of vacation on three hours of sleep.
We did our best to keep the routines, but a new room and a new bed equated to 17,000 middle-of-the-night wake-ups for the toddler and about twice that amount for the newborn. The beauty of a restful vacation, I suppose. Meals weren’t that much better, as our regulated feeding windows crumbled into a 24-hour buffet of snacks and scraps for Eliza while her sister Everly decided to match her patterns with breastfeeding. I think it was around 3 am on night number three, while my wife was breastfeeding and I was frantically searching for Ollie the Owl for my pleading and wide awake toddler, that my wife and I realized vacation probably wasn’t going to be the word we used to describe this trip.
I cannot say for sure when I first started developing memories of vacation from my own childhood, but I definitively can’t recall any from at least my first four or five years of life. The funny thing about this trip and any vacations with young children is that the fondest memories being developed are by the parents and not the kids. The truth is that Eliza would probably have had just as good as time at home and it doesn’t take mountains and cabins for her to enjoy time with her parents. Regardless, Eliza may never remember it, but I will forever recall her walking up the mountain (a little 100 yard stretch we ‘climbed’) and being so proud that daddy didn’t have to carry her (as I did the previous 19 attempts over the weekend). My wife and I will cherish her wide-eyed fascination with the deer she encountered at close range. We were just there 19 hours ago, and my wife and I are already reminiscing about her amazement splashing around in the Colorado streams. We’re still giggling about the fantastic time she had with her great aunt and uncle, drawing bugs and showing off her musical whimsy while getting to know her Colorado relatives.
After all the sacrifice and energy spent, my girls will never appreciate what a challenge it was for mommy and daddy, but if nothing else, it carved a special memory for us to enjoy the trials alongside our girls. A vacation with young kids is anything but an actual vacation, but we still deem it worthwhile to have those moments preserved in our minds. The good news, despite all the exhaustion, was we arrived home to a clean house readily prepared to start the work and daycare grind again tomorrow. Oh, wait, that’s not what happened at all. Apparently you have to pack your ENTIRE house in order to travel with a toddler and a baby. I had to climb through piles of travelling carnage leftover and complete disarray to write this point…oh well, we survived. And that’s what family vacation is all about.