A sandy, far cry from va­ca­tion

Maryland Independent - - Classified -

Oh, va­ca­tion­ing with a baby. Or “va­ca­tion­ing” with a baby, that is. In what world did I ex­pect to re­lax with a mag­a­zine and frosty bev­er­age on a sup­posed break? I’m a par­ent now. Those days are gone, gone, gone.

Last week’s trip to the Outer Banks of North Carolina proved that. It was a far cry from the an­nual fam­ily jaunts I en­joyed grow­ing up: you know, back when I was re­spon­si­ble for noth­ing but hastily pack­ing my own san­dals and swim­suit. Just along for the beau­ti­ful ride.

Be­yond hav­ing to now pack half the house into a small car, mov­ing ev­ery­thing around Tetris-style, it was chal­leng­ing to take Oliver out of his fa­mil­iar sur­round­ings. Our 1-year-old loves noth­ing more than crawl­ing away and pulling up on any­thing he can grab. Chairs, win­dows and doors are all pos­si­bil­i­ties, as are vents and slam­ming draw­ers. The more dan­ger­ous, the bet­ter.

Oliver is on the move, friends — and that’s how I’m edg­ing closer to hit­ting my daily 10,000 step goal. While he’s not quite walk­ing, he is a cy­clone of non­stop ac­tion. As the Swif­fer com­mer­cial pro­claims, with this kid? Def­i­nitely no “deep couch sit­ting.” Par­ent­ing a wob­bly tod­dler means al­ways hav­ing one arm out to stop a cu­ri­ous child in their tracks.

And the beach house? Not baby-proofed.

In hind­sight, it was hope­lessly naive to think our first fam­ily va­ca­tion would ac­tu­ally be rest­ful. While we still had many fun mo­ments, Oliver was off his game from the start. The long car ride — and many naps — threw him off-sched­ule, and try­ing to put him down for bed ev­ery night tested the fray­ing edges of our san­ity.

He was in an un­fa­mil­iar place with strange sights, sounds and smells, and I tried to be un­der­stand­ing. Be­fore re­act­ing, I dug deep for a well of pa­tience . . . but, de­pend­ing on the day we’d had, that well may or may not have been dry.

It’s hard when the scream­ing starts. Cou­pled with a cough that be­gan al­most as soon as we ar­rived in Kill Devil Hills, N.C., poor Ol­lie was just not him­self. Most of our trip was spent driv­ing aim­lessly so he could get some much-needed rest. Oliver would only sleep in his car seat.

But this was our first beach trip as a fam­ily, and I was de­ter­mined to en­joy it. Even with the cough­ing and sneez­ing, ex­haus­tion, rain and un­sea­son­ably chilly tem­per­a­tures. Even with a pierc­ing 5 a.m. fire alarm that dragged ev­ery­one in the build­ing out in their pa­ja­mas (false alarm). Even while hav­ing to wres­tle a tod­dler who did not want to be con­fined in a stroller or high chair, mean­ing we all took turns eating to keep Oliver from crawl­ing over to steal some­one’s crab legs.

It can be hard for me to dis­con­nect on va­ca­tions . . . but not this time. I didn’t re­ally have a choice. When we weren’t ply­ing Oliver with food and fa­vorite books from home, we were hov­er­ing be­hind as he tried to scale walls and pluck crumbs off the floor. Par­ent­hood is noth­ing if not glam­orous.

It wasn’t the va­ca­tion I’d imag­ined, but it was still great to spend time with my par­ents, sis­ter, brother-in-law and grand­par­ents. Hav­ing four gen­er­a­tions to­gether was a rare treat, and we tried to make the best of the weather and cir­cum­stances.

When the rain fi­nally broke last Tues­day, our first warm and sunny day of the trip, we suited up and schlepped our stuff down to the shore. I slathered my unim­pressed son with sun­screen and ea­gerly gath­ered with the fam­ily to watch his re­ac­tion to the At­lantic Ocean. Which was . . . mixed. As I’d sus­pected, he wasn’t pleased by the sand. The roar of the waves made him cover his head. But Ol­lie was cap­ti­vated by his dad’s sand­cas­tle-mak­ing skills, and the plas­tic shovel ac­com­pa­ny­ing his bucket was a hit.

It’s funny to con­sider the world from a baby’s per­spec­tive: how bright and strange it must seem. The beach is a hot, gritty place filled with sharp ob­jects and sweaty, sleepy peo­ple. But oh, we love it so: a place of peace. Tran­quil­ity. Fun.

When Oliver is some­day com­ing from a nine-to-five, wor­ry­ing about a mort­gage and slather­ing his own fussy baby with sun­screen, well . . . he’ll get the al­lure, too.

Un­til then, I’m dig­ging deep for that pa­tience as we fol­low him around. Some­day he won’t need or want us to wipe sand from his lit­tle hands, so I’d bet­ter hold them as long as I can.

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