One of my most poignant memories as a child was my family’s Disney Cruise trip when I was in 5th grade.
It was a disaster at the start.
My sister woke up sick that morning at o’dark thirty, we took a painful plane ride from Illinois to Florida, met up with my aunt and uncle, discovered my uncle lost the travelers checks (no, I have no idea why one would need travelers checks), separated from my aunt, uncle, and cousins, took a painful road trip to the boat dock, boarded the ship and took my sister to the boat’s infirmary only to discover my aunt and uncle and cousins were already the ship’s first patient due to a dining room door crushing my cousin’s fingers. My sister ended up with a double ear infection, my counsin with a hand x-ray. And we hadn’t even left the dock.
Other trauma drama happened that trip, including me, breaking myself, my sister, and my cousins out of the ship’s childcare and escorting us to our room, leaving my parents to wonder what the heck happened to us only to find us all in our room, jumping on the beds, scarfing chocolate ship cookies, and watching the Disney Channel.
After that, I was understandably trepidatious of family vacations.
Someone is always throwing up, tantruming, getting lost, crying, or – mostly – all of the above.
And after our trip to the beach last year, I was real nervous about getting in the car again with Kate.
So I stocked up on Pringles, fired up the borrowed DVD player with The Fresh Beat Band, and braced myself.
The ride down was tough – over six hours in the car. And when I suggested to Kate that she might want to rest and close her eyes, she said: NO! KATE’S EYES OPEN!
There was no nap.
But we made it okay. And since my parent’s accompanied us this year, I figured it had to be an improvement over last year.
And then it proceeded to rain almost the entire week.
When managed to hit up the beach in between the rain, but it was a gloomy week in general. Coupled with my family-vacation-anxiety, I was ready to head home.
Family vacations with tiny children are not easy. Kate didn’t sleep well since she wasn’t in her own bed, we didn’t have our usual supply of toys and entertainment devices, and she received more than usual attention from our friends (who rented the house across the street) and our family.
It was fun to watch her rake her hands through the sand and jump in the waves with Dan. But it was also exhausting to chase her up and down the beach, wipe sand off her face, and peel her out of her wet, sandy clothes and deal with the aftermath of too much fun and not enough sleep.
I say all this because I think it’s easy to think that the pictures I post here show us having the perfect family vacation. And we did have a good time. But I also want to let you know that behind the pictures, it’s hard to be a parent of a small child away from home. When I saw pictures of people’s vacations over the summer, I thought, why don’t we look like that? Why isn’t anyone crying?
But I think that’s just the way it is with family vacations. Someone’s probably going to cry, throw a fit, and maybe throw up. But that’s the stuff family memories are made of. The good tossed in with some bad and ugly. And it always makes for a good story.