Summer is slowly slipping into fall. From my office window I can see the green embankment of trees across the river splotched with yellow and red. The sun is still warm but the air is just a bit cooler. I am sorry to see this summer go. This was the first summer that we were “out of the fog” so to speak. It was the first summer since we had kids that we were willing and able to take them on short family vacations.
My kids are little enough that I can still remember when vacation was sand between my toes, a good book, staying up late and sleeping in, sunshine, mountain or ocean air, a cocktail before 5:00 PM, someone else cooking and dare I say it, sex in the afternoon. I remember returning refreshed and relaxed, sometimes with a healthy bronze to my skin, although this likely tainted with a hint of nostalgia.
My aunt wisely calls vacation, “relocation”, which is an apt description. Once I had kids I no longer go on vacation, I go on relocation. You see, when I travel or head to the coast or head out camping I do all the same things that I do at home, just in a different location. I am just relocating my family and all the chores and responsibilities that go along with them. There are different beds, different schedules, different climates, different foods and sometimes different time zones. Other than that, it is really very relaxing for the five minutes that I get to sit down by the campfire before someone gets sand in their eye or a diaper explodes.
We spent this summer relocating around Oregon and Washington in our mini-van towing our shiny new pop-up tent trailer behind us. It was exhausting. At the outset I think my husband had a harder time with relocation than I did. He still expected vacation. He still expected to sit by the fire and have a beer, to have an entire uninterrupted conversation, to have normal bedtime and a full night’s sleep and he somehow expected that the kids would behave better than they do at home! He eventually came around, but it took a “gentle” talk about I already had three kids and I didn’t need another pouting child to deal with.
The truth is, kids don’t want to go to sleep in a tent when it is still light at 10:00 PM. But, they still wake up when the sun comes up at 6:00 AM. They still poop in their pants, but they do it in the woods when there is no running water. They still refuse to wash up even when they have sand in their ears, between their toes and in their nether regions. They still have tantrums and believe me, it is still embarrassing when people pack up their campsites and move to a different area of the campground just to avoid us.
Relocation is a lot of work. Maybe even more work than being at home. We definitely got less sleep than we do at home. Despite that watching my kids running on the beach with the ocean waves sparkling behind them, watching them laugh with their heads thrown back, watching their eyes light up when they got to eat something that I would never give them at home (a corn dog for example), watching them chase after the big kids on their little balance bikes and seeing the sand in their sweet little ears while they were sleeping was so worth it.
It was just a matter of changing our expectations. Relocation is pretty great, but it’s no vacation.