I’m still pretty new to this parenting thing. I am the mom of two beautiful boys, a two-and-a-half-year-old and a still brand new to this world three-month-old. I genuinely enjoy being a mom, even when it sucks. And it does suck sometimes. For example, when you planned a getaway to another state for your 30th birthday and the trip becomes so stressful you contemplate leaving your child at the McDonald’s you stopped at for lunch, and then you have major mom guilt about it because you love your babies and could never actually leave them.
As we were pulling into our beautiful lakefront Airbnb, it was as though the Devil whispered into my children’s ears and they became possessed. Their behavior that week, short of 360 degree head turns, reflected this apparent possession. I am new mom, but I am not naïve. My two-year-old has his periods of being a Grade A sasshole, but those times are few and far between and never last very long. This week however, he was teaching a clinic in pushing buttons. Even though their behavior was unhinged and my husband I were seriously considering an exorcism, for a few reasons, my husband and I still plan to travel with our boys as often as our budget will allow, and I encourage you to do the same.
When your kids are grown and reminiscing about their childhood, they will be laughing and thinking fondly of the memories they made, not the things you bought them. My two-year-old who has the memory of a goldfish still talks about our trip and swimming in the lake and the “amazing” mountain tunnels we drove through. Personally, I will not forget the look of wonder and awe in his eyes during the fireworks show we watched or seeing the smile and pride on his face as he swam in the lake by himself. For the rest of my life, I will have the image of my mom peacefully and serenely rocking our youngest, who was otherwise inconsolable, to sleep. I clearly have mild PTSD from the more stressful moments, but the happy memories come to mind much more clearly.
A vacation with your children, while maybe not at all relaxing, could actually bring you and your partner closer together. I have always thought my husband and I were a good team, but after several car trips during this vacation that ended in our boys scream crying in the back seat and us gently sobbing in the front seat, I realized we were a great team. I’m a teeny bit of a control freak so being forced to be vulnerable and depend on my husband for strength and sanity brought our relationship to a whole different level. We tag-team parented our children like seasoned pros and relieved one another when a mental break was required. It helped us realize that together, we can make it through anything, even the demonic possession of our children. As an aside and maybe a pro tip, try to travel with people who love you and especially love your children. Yia-Yia and Titi (my mom and sister) traveled with us and graciously allowed us to escape every now and then. Without them, we may very well have been featured on the six o’clock news.
Learning more about your children and yourself is another surprising benefit of a family vacation. Of course, my boys weren’t actually possessed, I think anyway. They were however, completely out of their element, off their routine and totally exhausted. I learned that my boys thrive with structure. Spontaneity isn’t their thing yet. I learned the exact same thing about myself. As mentioned before (and in frequent “discussions” with my husband), I tend to enjoy having control over things. Going with the flow is not a phrase I subscribe to and spontaneous adventures, especially with two little ones, makes me physically ill. On this trip, I was forced to deal with situations as they arose, because plans go out the window when your child is practicing the octave range of his screams at your birthday dinner. It is a lesson I know will serve me well as I continue on my parenting journey.
In the end, we can look back on this trip fondly with many lessons learned. No family trip is without its stressors or moments of “what were we event thinking”, but the memories, both good and bad, will last a lifetime for you and your children. I’m already planning our next vacation . . . and searching for the perfect sized suite case to carry as many bottles of wine as it will take to get me through.