It is a summer tradition that publications cajole overworked, harried readers to take a vacation. We need to relax! American readers in particular learn that we tend not to take all the vacation days we are entitled to, which causes much annual consternation.
I do agree that it is good to get away from normal life and see different things. I enjoy my vacations a great deal. I have perhaps written a few of these cajoling articles myself. However, the idea that vacations are inherently relaxing comes from the perspective of those who do not have toddlers.
We spent this past weekend on Long Island, visiting friends who have a vacation house there. We did all sorts of fun things: playing on the beach, having a bonfire on the beach with s’mores, swimming in their pool, eating outside under the trees, watching fireworks.
I love these sorts of things, but picture all these activities with an 18-month-old wriggly child, and the general tone changes a bit. A beach bonfire with a toddler is an exercise in playing keep away. This is especially true if you have a kid who keeps trying to get closer to the bonfire, pointing to it and saying “fire! fire!” He attempted to walk straight into the pool and the ocean at various points. Just toddling around the backyard, he fell over and re-skinned his knee (add it to the pile of injuries, including last week’s stitches!) At least he fell asleep in the car on the way to the fireworks (and stayed asleep during the booms!)
Despite the inherent anxiety in such situations, I’m very glad we went. I have lovely memories from this weekend of flowers and the seashore and great food and friends. My other kids had a wonderful time. After a day of beach going and pool swimming and such, my 4-year-old told me “Mommy, I had a great day.” I try to remind myself during the wretched 5:15 A.M. wake-ups that in another 12-18 months, my life will be different. I will not need to be on alert every second I am with the little guy. Also, I figure out ways to relax when I can. For instance, when he napped on Sunday and Monday, I read by the pool for a few hours. The other kids were given as much screen time on their Kindles as they wanted so they stayed happy. When my husband took the little guy for a walk on the beach, I just lay on the towel and tried to breathe deeply and enjoy the relaxation that vacations are supposed to bring but, I suspect for those with toddlers, is simply intermittent. It’s like a weather forecast: mostly high-alert, with periods of relaxation. You have to seize those little bursts when you can.
12 thoughts on “Vacation and relaxation”
I’m glad you were able to find some moments of joy and relaxation. I was definitely in the same boat this weekend. After finishing my side-hustle work, I finally went outside to enjoy a bonfire. However, the “enjoy” part definitely consisted of scattered moments when the 15-month old was being entertained by things away from the fire including: (a) a cooler full of ice, (b) waving a flag around, and (c) a ladder golf set.
@Harmony- sounds like we were dealing with the exact same problem! Fires are great. Water is great. Sand is great. They just all have their issues with small people.
There is always the option of plunking him into a playpen, but then he’s just going to miserable watching the big kids running around. And, I’d rather have him walking around and interacting with outdoors things. Maine should be interesting when we go in August.
Amen to that!
The issue can be compounded by the problem of too many adults – everybody is “watching” the kids, so nobody is exerting any reasonable level of supervision… Thus it all falls on good ol’ mom to keep multiple children out of fire, ocean, etc..
Now that my little one is older (3.5) it is such a joy to sit (with a tea) and watch her play. Not having to be a arm’s length all the time is a bit of a relief.
Each age has its pros and cons. I find I’m enjoying each and every age!
I think those that say vacations are relaxing don’t have any kids! I have 5. Although they are no longer toddlers, just going away for the night (or out of town for the day for that matter), takes an enormous amount of planning! Therefore, we find ourselves taking mostly “staycations”. Fortunately, we live in a beach town, so we can have a little “vacation” everyday!
@Mary Beth- living by the beach would make a staycation more exciting! But yes, I agree that the idea of a vacation allowing for a constant state of relaxation is a mindset of people without small kids. Same concept that home is relaxing and work is not.
Even though we’re past the toddler stage, vacations still can be a lot of work. I recently said no more to over nights at his family’s mountain cabin. While it’s nice to go for a hike or sit out on the deck for a bit, it’s not worth all the work that I end up doing plus the lousy sleep. There may come a time when I am willing to go again, but without indoor plumbing, I don’t think it will be while the kids are still young.
@Calee- I’m not sure I’d ever get over the indoor plumbing thing, at least not for any length of time. And yes, packing up, both directions, is not relaxing either!
When my kids were younger, a relaxing vacation for me was going away without them. 2-3 times a year I would go away for a weekend with friends or just my husband. That was rejuvenating. A few years ago we discovered cruises and find those to be relaxing as well even with school age children. We just returned from 10 days touring Italy. It was a great vacation, but not relaxing. There is too much to see and do and we love exploring new places. My children are older so I didn’t have to worry about them much and we were with a group so lots of the details were taken care of, but physically we walked/hiked/climbed 10-15 miles each day in 90+ heat. We will hopefully get some relaxation in later when we visit family at the beach for a few days.
Absolutely! We’ve just plunged back into the toddler stage again. After getting used to the ease of only having an older (7 year old) daughter, my one-year-old son racing around the place trying to eat snails and stones and who knows what is a definite change of pace! Am currently very grateful that we’ve scheduled our summer vacation at the coast with grandparents and uncles on hand to take their turns at toddler-wrangling.
I agree with the toddler statement! Especially the terrible twos. Uggh. I felt like my face aged 10 years during this period! hahaha. Good thing I’m over it. At least I am able to relax better.
I’m glad it went well for you.