Tuesday, July 12, 2011

A Different Kind of Vacation

Last week we took our annual trip to Lake of the Ozarks in Missouri. It’s always a fun week of boating, swimming, shopping, eating at fun lakeside restaurants, riding the wave runner, and relaxing by the pool. It’s a typical week-long vacation – you know, a break from the responsibilities and “shoulds” of everyday life. What better opportunity for me to begin working on my little “I’m going to be a more relaxed person from now on” experiment? Let the relaxing begin, right?

Wrong! Unfortunately, I forgot to take into consideration that I am the mother of an active toddler and there is no vacation from that role. There is no vacation from planning her meals and naps, from coming back to the condo early to avoid a late bedtime, from keeping one eye - and also often a hand - on her at all times to prevent her from falling into the pool or eating rocks. When we went out to eat, Matt and I took turns following her around the restaurant as she weaved through all the tables and blew kisses to random strangers. When we went to the pool, we took turns following her around the deck, steering her away from the deep end and the stairs and other people’s beach bags.

Sure, I still got to read a little and jet-ski a little and go out on the boat a little and sit in the sun a little, but I can’t help but compare it to all my past vacations where I did all of those things a lot. Vacations where I got to enjoy a cup of coffee in the morning and a glass of wine before dinner. Vacations where I got to eat every meal without any interruptions. Vacations where I didn’t have to spend time every day in the condo because my kid needed a nap. Throughout the week I saw lots of people reading books and sunning themselves, and I wondered how long it would be before I would have some of my freedom back.

At one point, I was following Reese around the pool deck and people kept making comments like, “Thirteen months, huh? Such a fun age!” An older man hanging out in the shallow end said, “Ah, the walking-like-Frankenstein stage! Isn’t it cute?” Another mom sitting at a table with her kids said, “They never seem to get tired, do they?” After about the 4th comment from an obviously seasoned parent, something clicked for me. I realized that all of these people have done this. They’ve all been here. They’ve all sacrificed parts of their summer vacations during the demanding toddler years. They all probably struggled with the guilt of wishing for a little more freedom. And they all got their wish.

We all get our wish eventually. We all get our freedom back. But all that means is that our toddlers aren’t toddlers anymore, and they’ll never be toddlers again. I had lots of freedom before Reese and I’ll get that freedom back when she’s older, but I only get a short time in this stage. I can read books in the sun for the rest of my life, but I only have a few years of ending my day on the boat a little early so I can go upstairs and feed and bathe and snuggle my baby. When I think about it like that, it’s easier to pass on the extra relaxation time. It’s easier to make those sacrifices. And it’s easier to enjoy the kind of vacation that comes with being the mother of a toddler.

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