Hey mom,

I want you to know if you’re on vacation and reading this, you are not alone. Whether you’re hiding in the bathroom reading on your phone in the dark while you try to breathe silently so you don’t wake the kids, or–mercifully–enjoying a cocktail and a moment of what vacation is supposed to be, I’ve been there, too.

Maybe you packed for two, three, four, five all by yourself while your partner clipped his toenails. Or decided it was a good day to re-organize the garage.

Maybe when you arrived, he asked where the toothpaste was. Despite going over every list and checking it twice, you still forgot that one thing. And without meaning to at all, he’s reminded you of it, and it’s all you can think of.

It almost goes without saying you made vacation plans you were sure your family would love, but you could hardly even think about them over the screams of, “Are we there yet?”

You hadn’t even arrived yet, and you were already over it.

Because you did everything, and for what? So you could lie in bed in a room full of people at 8:15 at night wondering why on earth you thought going on vacation was a good idea in the first place? So you could still wake up at 5:30 but in a slightly more tropical location than normal? So you could spend more money for more scenic tantrums?

No, this is not what vacation was supposed to be!

But you have kids.

For a while maybe you fought it. Maybe you’re still fighting it. But there is one thing that you just have to know:

This is what vacation is now.

But like so many other things when you have kids, this is a phase. And while it seems impossible to believe in this moment of despair, someday you will look back and remember it was a good vacation.

More importantly, your kids will remember it was a good vacation. They won’t remember the impossibly long drive they whined through. They won’t remember you forgot sunscreen and had to buy the expensive kind at the hotel and how that put you in a bad mood. They won’t even remember the epic tantrums.

But they’ll remember the smiles. The splashes in the pool. The night you all stayed up late and watched a movie together in the hotel because no one was sleeping anyway.

And someday they’ll be grown and remember the epic road trips you used to go on. The flight across the country. Camping under the stars. Wherever it is that you’re a little miserable about right now. And they’ll think, I want that experience for my kids. And they’ll go. And be miserable too. They’ll call you and ask, “Was it like that when you took us?”

And like my mom, who I just called from my miserable vacation, you’ll say, “Yes, but we loved it.” Because in the fuzzy, rearview mirror of life, they remember loving it. And so will you.

So go.

Breathe through the tantrums and push through to make the memories. Ignore the naysayers and post every. single. perfect picture on Facebook. Rewrite history so you’ll just remember the perfect vacation you took.

And if it’s too soon for you to appreciate your vacation–because you are in the thick of it–know I am right here too, mama. Typing quietly. Trying not to wake anyone up. And praying tomorrow has fewer tantrums, more smiles, and some memories we will all carry with us for a long, long time to come.

Previously published on the author’s blog

Christine Koehring

Christine Koehring blogs at TheSaltyMamas.com with blogging partner and honorary co-parent, Jaymi. She has three small children and one very tall (and supportive) husband. Christine relies on coffee, the rare solo trip to Target, more coffee, and a LOT of humor to survive the crazy experiment that is parenting.