Historically, I’ve been one of those people who holds high expectations for things. Parties, family gatherings, weekends away, gifts. But in my advanced age, I’ve learned to tone it down a bit. Because more times than not, I would end up disappointed when something didn’t turn out as expected — especially when it was left up to someone else. It’s just too much to ask of other people to do what I would have done when I can be an insanely detail-oriented over achiever. Not everyone’s like that.
(Except when it comes to birthday gifts from my husband. For whatever reason, I still hold him to a standard that’s probably too high. Maybe it’s because we’ve been together for 13 years and I just expect him to know what I want for my birthday when I give him a really vague answer about how I want something that’s special, and personal to me, not something for the house. I mean, don’t we ALL expect our husbands to read our minds and do something fabulous and extravagant, even when we tell them not to because we can’t afford it or we don’t need it? WHEN WE SAY THIS, IT MEANS DO IT ANYWAY.)
Sometimes you have to roll with the punches. When life throws you a curveball make the best of a bad situation (incidentally, do you know how many books and self-help related Web sites there are devoted to this topic? Apparently I am not the only one grappling with this issue.). When life gives you lemons, make lemonade. I mean, the glass is half full, right? Work with what you’ve got. Love the one you’re with. How many more clichés can I throw in here. The point is, I’ve learned to be more flexible. Mostly because I hate being disappointed. So rather than be disappointed, just lower your expectations!
I swear, I did not have inflated expectations for our family vacation. In fact, I knew it was going to be really, really hard with a four-month-old who still takes 2-3 naps a day, and a “spirited” toddler. That’s why we brought B — a college student who my husband used to coach when she was in high school.
But even with B along to help, I’m still not sure I had fun. I mean, it was fun-ish. There were moments of fun.
I expected a normal amount of temper tantrums. I just didn’t expect to see my normally good-natured two-year-old turn into the temper tantrum monster and have a hysterical meltdown for more than 25 minutes because Husband took away a bar of soap. Like the most hysterical meltdown I’ve ever seen in my life. Like, she became possessed by a demon. After denying repeated offers to help her calm down, we put her back in her room (at 10 a.m.) and she fell asleep after another hysterical 25 minutes and slept for an hour. And when she woke up she was just the happiest lil’ camper around.
I also expected a certain amount of disruption to their daily schedule — either because we were disrupting their schedule with too many activities, or because the surroundings were unfamiliar. But I wasn’t expecting Bean to go from two-hour naps to 30 minutes, and I wasn’t expecting Monkey to refuse to nap altogether. Plus, that’s why we brought the lovey, and the blanket, and the stuffed animals, and the fish tank soother, and the sticker chart — made especially for Door County!
Why didn’t my girlfriends warn me about this? Something along the lines of, “You know, it’s really not a great idea to go away for seven days when the kids are that little. How about a couple of daytrips, intermixed with a couple of days at home, so their schedules don’t get completely messed up.” Why didn’t they say that?? SO PEOPLE. THAT IS WHAT I AM TELLING YOU. GO ON A FEW DAYTRIPS. SAVE YOUR MONEY.
After the fact, my friends were full of advice. After we were already on the trip and had spent all the money.
According to my mom, our vacation was “About as much fun as you’re going to have with two kids that young.” Hello? Mom? Why didn’t you tell me that BEFORE?
My BFF said, “ Yeah, after you left me that voicemail (wherein you berated me for not giving you a heads up) I do remember A turning into a horrible monster.”
Apparently, according to another friend, I am going to forget all of the horrible things and only remember how much FUN we had. I just have to wait a couple of years.
Honestly, I’m not even sure why I was constantly losing my cool. Especially because last year when we went on a family vacation with just Monkey, and I was four months pregnant, I was the one telling my husband to “Relax! This is what kids her age do!” It was a total role reversal this time. He was the calm one telling me to relax.
I hope this is what I will forget:
Our day at the beach. Okay, I admit it. This is the one thing I had high expectations for. Last year we discovered the best beach in Door County, Whitefish Dunes State Park, on the last day of our trip. I was so disappointed that we didn’t find it earlier, so I spent the past year dreaming about how we would go back to this beach on a beautiful warm summer day and enjoy its pristine white sand, rock-free beach, with sand bars that allow you to walk 100 feet into the water.
Image in my head: We would spend the whole day at the beach with the fancy $1 beach chairs that I scored at a rummage sale, our gigantic outdoor blanket, the sun dome for the baby, our rolling cooler, the noodles, the sand toys, the beach towels, etc., etc., etc.
Before this vacation, Bean would fall asleep anywhere, anytime. She would just put herself right to sleep. “She can just nap at the beach,” I thought. “We’ll lay her down right there in the sun hut. Maybe we can even get Monkey to take her nap in there so we can spend the whole day at the beach.”
HELLO? WAS I TEMPORARILY INSANE?
Reality: The day we picked to go to the beach, after watching the weather forecast ALL WEEK, turned out to be 62 degrees and overcast. It was supposed to be 72 and partly cloudy. To me, partly cloudy also means partly sunny. Not so much.
The other people on the beach, were dressed in LONG PANTS, and SWEATSHIRTS. Meanwhile, here we are. In swimming suits. Oh yeah. Got our beach towels. We’re all laid out like it’s 95 degrees and sunny. I’ve got my icy cold beverages in this here rolling cooler. I’ve got my snacks. We’re all set. I felt like I should proclaim extra loudly so everyone could hear, “Husband, aren’t you glad we decided to vacation here? Isn’t this beach nice? It’s so warm in Wisconsin COMPARED TO ALASKA WHERE WE’RE FROM.”
So the weather was our first strike.
Our second strike was that we brought a baby to a beach. The baby who formerly would fall asleep anywhere, anytime, but turned into Miss Curiosity when she turned four months old and suddenly WOULD NOT fall asleep anywhere, anytime. Quite the contrary. On our trip she became so over stimulated in public places that she would fight sleep and only succumb after ridiculously embarrassing episodes of loud crying and massive freak outs, followed by more ridiculously embarrassing episodes of shushing, rocking and jiggling. And then she only slept for 30 minutes.
Plus we had a baby. On a beach. It’s kind of like that line in Sweet Home Alabama – “You have a baby! In a bar.” Who brings a baby to a beach? Especially a four-month-old who can’t even sit up on her own yet. We were at the beach for all of 90 minutes when the massive freak out occurred. No amount of shushing, rocking or cajoling was going to convince Bean to stop crying. Plus Monkey was starting to complain that she was cold. I DON’T KNOW WHY.
I think everyone was happy to see the crazy Alaskans with their freaking out baby and wagon train of provisions leave.
These are the things I hope I’ll remember:
Explaining to Monkey the difference between peeing in a lake and peeing in a pool. Don’t worry, I draw the line at pooping in the lake (yes, and the pool!!)
Speaking of poop (don’t all parents?), the heavily-dyed blue moon ice cream will turn your kid’s poop green. Or maybe it was the mint chocolate chip.
After said child takes a green poop, for the second day, she may proclaim: “Now I’m gonna poop a purple one.”
The go-kart track where I couldn’t beat Husband OR B. I am telling you, their karts were faster than mine.
Our hike along the water in Peninsula State Park. It was beautiful, and relaxing. And on the way back, Husband had the best one-liner of the trip. After asking him repeatedly NOT to carry Bean in the front pack with Monkey on his shoulders, he said, “Why not? I’m as sure-footed as a mountain goat.”
In fact, our whole day in Fish Creek where we enjoyed a leisurely walk around the town and I got to visit my favorite chocolate shop. Hands down, best day of the trip.
The awesome date night I got to have with my hubby at the outdoor theater while B stayed back with the sleeping kids.
Okay, I guess I did have fun. Just in small, bipolar-infused chunks. Still, I think we’re going to take a break for a few years and just do a couple of daytrips next time. Probably until next year, when I forget all this sh*t and remember, “It wasn’t THAT bad.”
So what about you? Have you taken a vacation with little kids that, in hindsight, probably wasn’t a great idea?