Ah, family vacation!

We had a long and windy summer, you might even say a lazy one. Instead of filling L’s weeks with expensive camps, feeling frugal, I emptied out the calendar and kept him home a lot of the time while Sam went off to daycare as usual. Mostly, it worked, though increased class caps and chatty students meant I was ignoring him more than engaging him in quality time. He did a lot of reading Calvin and Hobbes on the couch, and a certain amount of begging for Plants vs. Zombies on my phone.

But summer in this part of NorCal is—can I say this?—a nothing burger. The climate here is so temperate, the fog a consistent lurker. Summer looks vaguely different from spring in that it’s a bit dryer and a degree or two warmer—or colder, depending how hard the fog lays in. We had some nice times, but we were all holding, like a beacon, our three weeks in Maine at the end of July. There, I knew, we’d have a real summer. There, I knew, we’d have a real vacation (nevermind that The Hubs was working remotely the first week and me, the whole time). My family would be the proverbial village, helping me raise my kids. The weather would be perfect. Etc.

But that didn’t quite happen.

My poor mom wound up with some horrible GI bug the minute we arrived. It went from terrible to worse, and she ended up in the hospital, on IV fluids and antibiotics. My dad needed to be picked up in Boston after his own medical appointment gone awry. And Ben was working. Not “I’ll finish this memo then take the kids swimming” working, but up at seven on the computer and taking calls all day working. So there I was, in Maine, trying to get the baby excited to play with a very nice 14-year-old he’d decided off the bat he didn’t like, and Leo, who was now reading Calvin and Hobbes on a different couch, was confused why none of his cousins were there. My mom was dying upstairs, I had papers to grade, neither of my children were happy, and I thought to myself: this is the same old crap. This isn’t vacation at all.

And of course, it dawned on me, that that’s exactly it. There should be a slogan: Vacationing with kids: same crap, different location. Click To Tweet

Vacationing with young kids is not going to be a tropical vacation—even if it IS a tropical vacation. Now, I don’t mean to complain. I was so relieved that if my mom was going to get salmonella or e. coli or cholera that it happened while I was there. It’s hard to be so far away from my parents, especially as they start to age. And being in Maine is always wonderful. But it’s a place I don’t associate with, well, stress in quite the way I did this summer. With pleasing everyone, or trying to. With all the crap we moms wrestle with all the time at home.

After that first week, my mom started to slowly, slowly get better. Ben took the next two weeks officially off, thank goodness. And while it took us a few days more to get into a groove, and for one of us to get her anxiety under control (ahem), we ended the trip with 14 people packed into one house, with an elaborate meal-organization system and enough swimming possibilities to satisfy everyone. The cousinness was amazing: Sammy and the other two littles racing around the house, terrorizing everyone, playing at the beach, tantrumming on cue. It was a sea of cheddar bunnies and dirty diapers and sand and delicious, delicious bonding.

L cried the whole way into town when we left. Why did we have to go? Why couldn’t we stay for three more weeks?

That’s the thing: vacations end. Routines resume. I realize now that vacationing with young kids is never going to be a tropical vacation—even if it IS a tropical vacation. You’re still going to have to change diapers and feed everyone and manage emotional meltdowns and all the rest of it.

But if you’re lucky, it’s also going to be sweet, sweet, sweet.


Did you attempt a family vacation this summer? What was the highlight, or low point? Comment it up!

p.s. You might also like:

The Working Mom’s Lament

Homecoming in Norway