Kids and a carry-on full of choco­late

Maryland Independent - - Classified - Twit­ter: @right­meg

For the first sum­mer in ages, we have no plans to get away. At all. Even for the day.

It sounds tempt­ing to plan a short ex­cur­sion, but I know what will hap­pen. We’ll leave town and Oliver will for­get his blankie or fa­vorite toy trac­tor, prompt­ing an hours-long melt­down; I’ll ac­ci­den­tally leave my glasses at home or for­get the baby’s ex­tra bot­tles and for­mula. My hus­band will try to soothe short tem­pers as we take a wrong turn and, at our des­ti­na­tion, re­al­ize the kids won’t sleep any­where but their own cribs. We’ll pay big money to be ir­ri­tated, get­ting home more stressed than when we left.

All the while, I’ll be bark­ing my new fa­vorite phrase: “We are go­ing to have fun if it kills us!” (And it could.)

Trav­el­ing with one child was com­pli­cated enough. When we at­tempted to eke out a lit­tle fall-themed fun at an Oc­to­ber craft fes­ti­val in Bed­ford, Pa., we spent most of the time con­sol­ing a dis­com­bob­u­lated toddler with my in-laws, who’d come down to meet us. The crowds were in­sane, and Ol­lie was over­whelmed. Ul­ti­mately our trip was cut short so we could get him back to his own bed.

We man­aged OK at Christ­mas, given Ol­lie could run free at his grand­par­ents’ home . . . but the idea of trav­el­ing and squeez­ing four of us into a ho­tel room? Not un­less I’m stay­ing in an ad­join­ing room — alone. With a carry-on full of dark choco­late.

De­spite the up­heaval, Oliver has ac­tu­ally vis­ited quite a few states in two years. But his younger sis­ter? Hadley is go­ing to be our South­ern Mary­land girl, con­tent to dust her dishes with Old Bay and make only the oc­ca­sional jaunt across the Harry Nice Bridge. When she’s 10. Maybe 12. Kid­ding, of course. Sort of. Be­tween hav­ing to pack the con­tents of the en­tire house, lis­ten­ing to car seat-jailed kids howl­ing for free­dom and the crust of cracker crumbs cov­er­ing the back­seat, “va­ca­tion­ing” with chil­dren is cer­tainly noth­ing like the re­lax­ing trips I was used to.

I once thought I needed a break — and I did. But my idea of feel­ing stressed changed around the time I started to un­der­stand that time and en­ergy are not bot­tom­less. We carve each up for our spouses and chil­dren, par­ents and bosses, friends and neigh­bors and sib­lings . . . un­til very lit­tle re­mains for our­selves.

That’s when we re­ally do need a break. But with­out the chance to take one, I have to make one.

With two ad­ven­tur­ous par­ents, I took trav­el­ing for granted. My par­ents love to get away. Dad works on the lo­gis­tics of ho­tels and reser­va­tions, a skill honed from his many days on the road as a sports­writer; Mom finds points of in­ter­est through web­sites and travel guides, an­tic­i­pat­ing what they’ll see and do.

As a fam­ily, we saw many cor­ners of the U.S. — and I’m very grate­ful to my par­ents for tak­ing us along when maybe they could have re­ally ben­e­fited from some peace and quiet. (We’re noth­ing if not chatty.) We took some epic road trips, but many week­ends spent closer to home were just as fun.

Fam­ily ad­ven­tures are some of my fa­vorite me­mories. I still re­mem­ber see­ing Colorado for the first time: the ma­jes­tic Rocky Moun­tains, wholly alien to a 10-year-old from back east with its swamps and flat high­ways. We stopped by the side of a road to ad­mire a beau­ti­ful, icy creek; my dad and a young friend dared one another to plunge their hands into the wa­ter, see­ing who could stand it the long­est. I’d never seen wa­ter that clear. It was July, and we were walk­ing on snow.

And I still bear the scars from a trip to Mi­ami: hop­ing to come home with a Florida tan, I ap­plied the tini­est bit of sun­screen when my mother’s back was turned. I didn’t come home pale, that’s for sure; I was so painfully sun­burned, my legs still have per­ma­nent bald spots. Our next ho­tel in Key West had no air con­di­tion­ing; I re­mem­ber siz­zling in the dark­ness as a lone ceil­ing fan cir­cled lazily over­head.

Trav­el­ing fosters close­ness: ex­plor­ing to­gether as not-quites­trangers in a strange land. So many of our va­ca­tion ex­pe­ri­ences have formed the ba­sis of fam­ily folk­lore, in­clud­ing the time my sis­ter missed out on the “best chicken ever” from Danny’s, a tiny restau­rant in coastal Cal­i­for­nia that I couldn’t track down if a mil­lion dol­lars was re­served for me in a cor­ner booth. (In Katie’s de­fense, she was sick. So that’s pretty mean to bring up.)

My par­ents have al­ways been a cooler ver­sion of the Gris­wolds, you know? And our fun, old-fash­ioned ad­ven­tures are a tra­di­tion I def­i­nitely want to con­tinue with my own kids. Just not right now. When I be­came a par­ent, I was un­pre­pared for the re­al­i­ties of pack­ing. And not just for trips: I’m talk­ing pack­ing to go get milk and bread, friends. Young Oliver couldn’t go any­where with­out di­a­pers, wipes, paci­fiers, back-up paci­fiers, mul­ti­ple out­fit changes . . .

We are bet­ter with Hadley, yes. This isn’t our first time at the prover­bial cir­cus, so I have a bet­ter han­dle on what we “need” ver­sus what could be use­ful only in a very spe­cific, un­likely sit­u­a­tion. I achieve peace of mind with a “car” di­a­per bag — one that holds most of what I want to have “just in case” (ex­tra shoes, emer­gency toys), but it can stay in the trunk un­til we’re struck by a di­a­per dis­as­ter or toddler tantrum.

Ol­lie took his first plane ride at four months old, but I’m not ea­ger to leave earth any­time soon. Too stress­ful. Too ex­pen­sive. Re­lax­ing at home with nap­ping chil­dren, prefer­ably with the TV to my­self? That’s a real break right now.

So Hadley is be­hind on Oliver’s com­pa­ra­ble “states vis­ited” list, but we did take her across the Po­tomac for the first time Sun­day. In Colo­nial Beach, Va., the baby got her first glimpse of the wa­ter (when she cracked an eye open, any­way) as we cel­e­brated Fa­ther’s Day and my grandpa’s birth­day. Oliver was fas­ci­nated by the fam­i­lies bob­bing in the river, cack­ling as beach balls flew over­head.

The wa­ter looked invit­ing, as did the trop­i­cal drinks oth­ers sipped on the restau­rant deck where we’d all gath­ered. But Spence and I kept our chil­dren — and their stuff — on dry land. We’ll get back out there some­day.

Un­til then? Maybe I’ll stick a tiny um­brella in my third cup of cof­fee.

Party on. And don’t for­get your sun­screen.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.