In a few days we are embarking on a family vacation to Hilton Head with my mom, step-dad, sister, and my two adorable nephews. Normally a blog post preceding such a trip would be full of lamentations on the difficulty of toting two little ones on planes, trains, and automobiles. But this is not that blog post. Perhaps I’ve weathered so many shit-storms with these kids that the fecal matter fallout is now woven into the very fiber of my being and I no longer have anxiety about traveling. I’ve become an expert at retreating into myself and avoiding eye contact with strangers when/if things take a turn for the worst, which they very easily can over the course of a long travel day.
Instead this post is about how much I am looking forward to this vacation. Well, duh, you might say – it’s vacation, of course you’re looking forward to it. It’s a break from responsibilities and house work, not to mention much better weather. In theory I agree, but have you ever vacationed with small children? It is far from relaxing. You’re just relocating your three-ring circus of crazy and saying bye-bye to any routines you’ve established and conveniences (AKA baby proofing, endless onslaught of toys, DVR recordings of the exact episode they have to watch every day). Vacation with small children is work. There is most certainly fun and life-long memories, but relaxation is not part of the package.
This vacation is one I’m looking forward to because I cannot wait to soak up all of this wonderful family time starting with our own little foursome. Joe works long hours during the week and then does stuff around the house on the weekends. Quality and quantity time is in short supply. Plus, other than trips home to Ohio, we haven’t taken a family vacation anywhere since AJR was 10 months old. A week together is worth any potential mid-flight meltdowns that may occur.
Then there’s my mom, step-dad, sister, and her two boys. I always miss them, but even more so these past few months with the loss of both my paternal grandparents. Their passing was difficult as they were such a large part of my childhood. However, the mere fact that I’ve been away from “home” for so long made these losses so much harder to bear. In a time where all you want to do is be with your family – to comfort one another, to reminisce – the reality of living several states hits hard.
I carry a tremendous amount of guilt for not visiting more frequently or making more of an effort and their passing really exacerbated that. Day-to-day, you don’t really notice how long it’s been since your last visit. Day-to-day life is filled with so much stuff that it occupies every corner of your very limited brain space and physical capacity. Breakfast to make, breakfast to clean, laundry to do, groceries to shop for, LEGOs to play, kids to bathe, bedtime battles etc. etc. Then all it takes is one moment and the weight of the years that you’ve been gone comes crashing down of you all of a sudden and you’re wondering why you didn’t try just a little hard to make the effort.
As I get older and the kids continue to grow with lightning speed, I realize more and more how hard it is to be away. New Jersey is my home and I am incredibly thankful to have my in-laws a mere 20 minutes away and as I’ve said before, grateful for the community of friends that has become my family away from home. Yet, I miss “home”. This is why this vacation comes at the perfect time.
I want my mom, the kids’ “Grambo”, to have the opportunity to hang with the kids for an extended period of time and make memories with their grandmother. To see them jumping through the waves or helping them to build a sand castle. I want to be in full-on auntie glory with my nephews and see in person how much they’ve grown and interact with the sweet, hilarious, and intelligent little personalities they have. I want the cousins to hang out and enjoy a week where they’re each others’ best friends and playmates. They’re all so close in age that I’m hoping they’ll entertain each other on occasion so I can giggle with my sister and have adult conversations.
I know I’m starting to romanticize the trip already, but I can’t help it. Growing up my dad’s parents booked a large beach house in Nags Head, North Carolina every few years where all of their kids, and their kids’ kids (my cousins) would come and hang for the week. For the adults, I think it was fun, but there was obviously a lot of clashing personalities contained in a house that never seemed big enough. But for us kids, it was a week of bliss. A week of relatively no rules, the beach, and quality time with cousins that we never saw more than a handful of times per year.Those trips are some of my fondest childhood memories. My sister and I never had a chance to see our “Michigan Cousins” very often so to have an entire week with them was one of the highlights of our entire year.
This vacation doesn’t feel just like a vacation, but a chance to recharge my soul with some old-fashioned family QT. That sounds incredibly emo and melodramatic, but it is me after all, so is it that big of a surprise? I need me some quality family time with people who loved me even when I had my mullet. I need a chance for my kids to bond with their cousins and grandma. I need this opportunity to connect with the “home” that I often feel so disconnected from.
So, this is my long-winded way of saying no blog post next week as I will be busy soaking up family time, preferably with a cocktail in hand. Grandma and Grandpa – if you’re listening from somewhere – can you make sure we have a week of sunshine? As much as I’m looking forward to quality time, I don’t want to be stuck instead with a 5,4,3, and 2-year-old on a rainy day. Thanks!