You’ve been up since 5:37 a.m.
It seemed the baby knew something exciting was about to happen and didn’t want to miss a single minute of it. So he was up, which meant you were up. You groaned inwardly but accepted your early-rising fate, making yourself a mug of hot tea or coffee and thinking, “Well, at least I can sip my warm drink and get everything ready to go before the others awake!”
Dark turns to light and the peaceful morning makes way for rambunctious excitement, with everyone bumbling around to collect those last-minute items and asking questions like, “Did you pack enough underwear?” or “Where are my favorite jeans!?” Spoiler alert: they’re in the wash and no, they won’t be done before it’s time to leave.
It’s 9 a.m., time to hit the road in order to make it on time to family dinner.
You wrangle the youngest into their 17 layers of winter clothing and into their car seat, where they promptly begin screaming their adorable little head off. The oldest, who was completely ready to go (you checked before putting the little one in their seat) has now decided on a full wardrobe change and insists she needs to pack seven stuffed animals because “They’re a family and would miss each other!”
You holler for backup and your dearly beloved partner is:
A) on the toilet furthest from this chaos where he’ll be for another 10 minutes
B) outside detailing the car that’s about to have crumbs exploded all over it, or
C) cleaning out the gutters, or some equally not-relevant-to-the-moment task.
You wrangle the kiddos into the car, feed the cat, grab the last of the bags, ensure each child has an accessible snack and drink, divvy out activities to keep them busy, and run back and forth from house to car another dozen times for all the forgotten items. You finally settle into the passenger seat, sweating in your winter coat, feeling exhausted and frazzled.
It’s now 9:21 a.m. and you’re officially late.
That partner of yours (who you absolutely don’t feel like strangling one bit) comes trotting out to the car looking cool as a cucumber and handsome as ever. Meanwhile, you look down and realize there is already a trail of baby boogers decorating your sweater. And while you’ve packed extra everything for everybody else, you neglected to do so for yourself . . . so you take a baby wipe and do the best you can with these magnificent clean-it-all towelettes as you back out of the drive together.
Finally! You’re on your way.
After you stop and top off the tank which you’d forgotten to do the day before as planned. And inform your kiddos that no, we are not stopping for snacks, the snacks already packed will do just fine and enter into the first meltdown of the trip before making it on the highway. But then you’re off!
These road trips or plane rides or quick weekends to visit family and friends are not exactly convenient. You’ve just made it through that last sleep regression and know you’ll be starting from square one upon your return home. The kids sleep better in their own beds (and frankly, so do you), their digestion will be all out of whack from the extra sugar and unlimited buffet of deliciousness, and they’ll likely get away with behavior that would never cut it at home. Or they’ll be so irritatingly perfect that someone is bound to unknowingly comment about how easy raising them must be. Somehow in one weekend, you’ll accumulate a week’s worth of laundry to do on top of the norm when unpacking those bags, and you’ll be asked how your holiday vacation was when you feel like you now need a vacation to recover.
Watching your mother’s eyes light up as she gathers all her grandchildren together like a proud mother hen (grandmother hen?). Laughing as the kiddos are reunited with their cousins, their built-in best friends, and tear around in an unspoken but instantly agreed-upon game of tag. Enjoying your mother-in-law’s favorite dish she made just for your family because she knows how much you look forward to it. Listening to your husband talk about car projects with his dad and chatting about recent events on the farm with your own.
Hugging your siblings those long, warm hugs and commenting in disbelief how much their children have grown before teasing one another even more than you’d done as kids. Meeting new babies, celebrating one another’s life events and successes, and joking about how despite all the newness, some things never change.
Like the way you feel when you see your kids delighting in books that were your favorites, or bringing out board games that had been in the closet for 30 years. Or noticing how much joy that feeling of togetherness stirs up, whether together means five people or 25. Or understanding that this could unknowingly be the last holiday together with certain loved ones.
By all means, protect your energy. Make the decisions that are best for your family, and know it’s okay to say no. Plan ahead, and for goodness sake, fill the car up BEFORE the whole family is loaded and ready to get going.
But most of all, treasure those little moments that are becoming their own treasured memories of love right before your eyes.