Summer is a lot of things: It is beach season and swimsuit season. It is “school’s out” and backyard barbecues. It is long, hot days and warm, star-gazing nights. And it’s vacation season.
More specifically, it is family vacation season.
Of course, I know what you are thinking: Family vacations are not vacations, lady. They are frustrating and exhausting, and they are annoying beyond measure. I mean, late nights and missed naps and overpriced snacks and schlepping cranky kids through crowded places doesn’t really seem like a vacation to the parents guiding these missions.
And as a mother — a stay-at-home, work-from-home, “Did I mention I have a threenager at home?” mother — I get it. I empathize. I understand. But despite the insanity and aggravation, I live for family vacations.
I love family vacations.
Yes, I’m serious.
Why? Well, because life is too short. Life is too busy. My daughter is growing up too quickly — we are all growing up too quickly — but family vacations give us an opportunity to slow down, sit back, and be with each other. They give us a chance to be present and to appreciate one another, and they give me a chance to indulge the thrill-seeking, theme-park-loving, running/hiking/climbing hyperactive kid who still lives in my heart, with my child by my side.
Make no mistake: There are things about family vacations that totally suck. I loving staying up late — and then sleeping in. I enjoy sunning and sipping on cocktails, and I love both rest and relaxation. But these things don’t go well with kids, as you surely know.
Multi-hour massages and day drinking aren’t really “child-friendly.” Oh, and don’t even get me started on the hotel situation, where beds are shared, and closets, and bathrooms, and everyone is crammed into a shoebox for days on end.
It’s the true meaning of “too close for comfort.”
But you know what? While I would love to sleep in a separate room and pee alone, while I would love to get a mani-pedi and a hot stone treatment, and while I would love to roll out of bed with a mimosa in one hand and a margarita in the other, I would rather get up at the ass crack of dawn and go down to the hotel lobby for lukewarm eggs and a handful of shitty cereal.
I would rather walk up mountain paths and through theme parks until my feet are sore and blistered.
I would rather go swimming in an overly chlorinated hotel pool (and get my hair wet) if it means I get one laugh from my daughter, one hug from my daughter, or one smile from my daughter.
I would do anything for a special memory with my daughter.
You see, Vegas was great in my 20s and cruises — aka floating karaoke bars — were fun in my (pre-baby) 30s, but today things have changed. I have changed.
Instead of valuing bar time, I value family time, and I appreciate the simple things, like impromptu dance parties at 8 a.m. or ice cream cone dates before nap time. I value the big things, like time off, time together, time home, and time away. And I am thankful for the sweet moments. The innocent moments. The fact that I get to sit back and take in the “Where are these moments going?” moments.
And as I mentioned earlier, this only happens when my family unplugs and disconnects.
Vacations are the only time we walk away from work, school, and life and toward each other. We spend hours talking and laughing and listening to each other.
Of course, I would love to tell you that my family does this every day. I would love to tell you that we paint and dance every day and that we savor the “little things” (and one another) every day, but the truth is we don’t.
Not really because shit happens, but mostly because life happens. And sometimes the weight of the world, and bills, and adult responsibilities, gets in the way.
It blinds me, and all of us, to the little joys of life.
But on vacation, things are different because we have no work, no chores, and no responsibilities. We have no duties or liabilities, and our only job is to sit back and be together.
We throw schedules away, and instead choose to live in the moment, be in the moment, and enjoy the moment.
Whatever that moment may bring (or be).
And so we travel together. We party together. We snuggle, fight, laugh, and vacation together.
But here’s the thing: While the tone and tenor of our vacations may have changed — while our destinations have changed — for me, this is what vacationing (with and without kids) has always been about. To refresh my relationship with my husband, and now to refresh my relationship with him and our little family.
So even though vacationing with kids may be more stressful — even though it can be a trying, tiring, and exhausting experience (for all) — it is worth it, because at the end of the day we have stories. We have memories, and we have each other.
At the end of the vacation, I realize how lucky I am and how #blessed we all are. As cheesy as it sounds, it’s the truth.