A sandy, far cry from vacation
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.