Don't get me wrong. I LOVE summer. I'm enjoying every single minute and am grateful to be moving at a considerably slower pace. I can't express how wonderful it is to have Daniel home for his first summer. I'll share more about these special moments in another post. But as we look ahead at the possibilities for our family, sometimes I just have to look back at the sweet years behind us.
I don't know about the rest of you, but sometimes looking back at photos when my kids were younger is painful. I look at them in all their dimpled cuteness and wonder if I fully appreciated every single minute. And then I look at Daniel and it hits me that I've missed so much of his childhood. But instead of grieving what has passed, I must savor every moment of today. For some day, I'll certainly look at photos from this summer and wonder if I fully appreciated every single minute. I want to be absolutely certain that the answer would be yes.
It's raining here and we are cleaning up and getting started on our summer reading. I came across this piece below that I wrote years ago and it made me miss those toddler days, yet grateful for the stage in life we're in now. It isn't a real account of our family vacation--but instead a caricature of a typical family vacation. I haven't watched the show "Survivor" in years (do they still let contestants have a luxury item?) but the only prerequisite to appreciating the experience detailed below is having vacationed with young children.
I've sprinkled in a few photos of our 2006 summer beach trip. These were taken at Edisto Island Beach in South Carolina. We've taken an annual week-long trip there with my extended family for about 30 years. My girls were 9 and 6 and Brady was 18 months. Daniel was about 4 years old living in unthinkable conditions in Guatemala. How I wish I could turn back time and rescue him from that life sooner. Oh, how grateful I am that he won't miss another summer with our family.
Under the title I've added "Preschool Edition." There certainly should be a "Grade School/Teen Edition" as well. I'd love for you to share your own family vacation stories in the comments or share a link to your blog of your own summer fun.
Survivor: The Family Vacation
I didn't mean to get hooked. I started watching "Survivor" because I heard they were eating things like rats and maggots and thought by comparison I'd get fewer complaints about dinner.
As I watched these contestants brave the elements and each other, I realized this Survivor game is nothing new. It's called the family vacation.
The similarities are uncanny. On the TV version, contestants (known as tribe members) eat almost nothing but rice, sleep in crude huts, and try to get along with people who often annoy them--all for the chance of winning a million dollars. On the family vacation, contestants eat fast food and fried seafood, sleep in crude rental facilities, and try to get along with people who often annoy them--all for the chance of spending what feels like a million dollars.
The latest season of "Survivor" may have ended weeks ago, but for many the adventure is just beginning. I can almost hear the tribal theme song playing as American families load their minivans. Join us for "Survivor: The Family Vacation" where the slogan "Outwit, Outplay, Outlast" has never been more appropriate.
Dad: Official driver/referee. Luxury item: A pair of ear plugs (not necessarily for the pool).
Mom: Official nurse/activity coordinator. Luxury item: Same book she's tried to read the last 5 vacations.
Baby: Most likely to have a diaper explosion after passing sign that reads "Last exit for 57 miles." Luxury items: One of everything sold at Babies R Us.
Two-year-old: Most likely to cause scene in restaurant. Luxury items: Thirty-two of his/her favorite dolls/animals and whatever older sibling has. In spite of limited vocabulary, is able to whine in 16 languages.
Five-year-old: Most likely to pout about above tribe member bothering him/her, restaurant scene runner-up. Luxury items: An assortment of toys marked "choking hazard ages 3 and under" and the one forgotten item that Mom and Dad will hear about all week. Able to kick back of Mom's seat till Mom threatens to strap the young tribe member to the luggage rack.
Mom finishes marathon of washing and packing, finding pet sitters, assigning mail pick-up. The average wedding takes less preparation. Dad is loading the family vehicle--a task that requires an engineering degree and a lubricant.
The tribe will barely be out of the driveway before the two tallest members start to question choosing a destination 7 hours away. The journey will include visiting every public restroom and fast-food play facility that can be spotted from a backseat window. There will a Magna-Doodle incident that will upgrade Two-year-old to "most likely to get head injury."
Mom will offer Dad $100 for his ear plugs. He pretends not to hear over the hour-long rendition of "The Wheels on the Bus" with Baby doing back-up vocals of "Get Me Out of this @*!# Car Seat."
The tribe members arrive (4 hours later than estimated). They have just completed their first reward challenge. The reward is now they can start their vacation with fun things like unloading the van and going to the grocery store.
Mom starts looking for the port-a-crib then Dad explains there wasn't enough room to bring it and his golf clubs. Mom calmly informs that she will not put her cherub in the rental crib/death trap and Baby will have to sleep with them. Dad realizes the only action he'll be getting is with Big Bertha.
Days 2 through 7
On the TV "Survivor" things start to get interesting when the tribes merge. On the family vacation this dynamic unfolds as extended families get the wonderful idea to vacation together. The brilliance of this plan seems to fade as tribes without small children discover they're sharing a confined living space with a traveling circus.
For example, even a simple task like going to the beach/pool seems like a "Survivor" immunity challenge. The first hour is spent applying SPF 430 to naked bodies that only stop running when they hurt themselves. Then parents wrestle with greased piglets long enough to double bag them in swim diapers and swimsuits. Quick call to Poison Control to find out if ingested sunscreen is toxic. Baby due for feeding and everyone else (especially Mom) due for naps.
This tribe finally arrives at the beach/pool armed with a cooler of refreshments and armloads of aquatic accessories. Preschool Tribe will enjoy the sand and surf until someone gets knocked over by a wave, the sky opens in a thunderstorm, Baby needs a new swim diaper, or the children have lost interest and want to do something else. This usually happens in the first 15 minutes.
This same group--as soon as they've been de-sanded and de-chlorinated--will beg to return to the scene of the crime.
This challenge is repeated each day, except the day Dad plays golf. Mom will be the lone child-ranger where the highlight is a special trip to the store for headache medicine. Dad will finish his suspiciously long golf game with an emotional outburst of, "Please don't make me go back!"
Dinner is always an adventure on family vacations. There are two options: an overpriced seafood restaurant where parents take turns escorting children outside for the "Appropriate Restaurant Behavior Lesson" or cooking in a cramped kitchenette where parents take turns escorting children outside for the "Appropriate Kitchenette Behavior Lesson."
The only thing missing from this version of Survivor (other than prize money) is that no one gets voted off. Otherwise Mom would form an alliance with those who can be bribed with candy and have them eliminate her. (Don't judge until you've walked a mile in her flip-flops.)
This is Day 1 in reverse. Except instead of the optimistic dream of a relaxing vacation ahead, there's an overgrown lawn, a pile of mail, 104 answering machine messages, and a week's worth of dirty clothes waiting for their return.
It's a bittersweet good-bye as tribe members board a vehicle that will forever carry a sticky film of snow cones, sand, and sunscreen. (They say a new car depreciates 20% when you drive it off the lot. My guess is that you lose the remaining 80% after a road trip with preschoolers.)
Some may question why this young family would even attempt a vacation if it's so much work. Well, an amazing thing happens as you drive away. You only remember the good stuff.
Little explorers searching for seashells and budding architects building sand castles.
Angels with water wings shouting, "Look at me! I can swim!"
Sweet smiles covered in ice cream,
dimpled legs chasing waves,
priceless commentary from miniature travel guides.
For one week a year, life surrenders to a slower pace--no work deadlines, packed schedules, phone interruptions, endless to-do lists.
It can all wait because this time is reserved for playing,
and feeling blessed.
It can all wait because this time is reserved for playing,
and feeling blessed.
"Do you think it'll be easier when the kids get older?" Dad inquires.
Mom surveys the backseat of little people deep in vacation-induced sleep. She savors this scene knowing how much they'll change by the next vacation--wishing they could forever stay like they are right now because a year of growth couldn't possibly improve on such perfection.
"Yeah, it'll probably be easier," she replies, "but I can't imagine it being more fun."
They extinguish their torches from another vacation. This Mom has spoken.