Over the years I’ve learned a few things about how to make a vacation as beneficial as possible. Working right up until we leave- bad idea. Going back to work almost as soon as we get back-bad idea. Expecting to come home and feel refreshed and energized- that’s really funny.
When you travel as a family with small children, vacation is a lot of work. There are a lot of supplies that are better to bring with than to buy later. Awkward, large items. When we would go to the camp grounds that I’ve been going to since I was a kid with our own babies, we had a pack ‘n’ play, a stroller, toys, nursing towels, pads for me, enough diapers to last at least a few days, wipes that we used for everything, … I definitely feel like I’m forgetting half the list of baby supplies.
When they get older, you think maybe there will be less stuff to pack. There isn’t. Their clothes just get bigger. They still need spares of everything for how dirty they get. Then they have their own books, toys, and crafts they want to bring. And they want to pack it themselves. How dare I check to make sure they bring more than two pairs of underwear and three shirts, or make them put back two of the four pajamas, three of the eight skirts, and five of the nine books they packed! Or, heaven forbid I make them pack any socks and shoes at all! I mean, it’s not like we go trekking through muck and on difficult terrain on these trips. It’s not like we’re the rustic type or anything. (Just in case there was any confusion, we are the rustic type).
And it’s not just the packing before a trip. It’s eating leftovers and striving for the fridge to be barren before we go. It’s keeping up with the dishes and ensuring there is no place for mold to colonize in our absence. Sweeping and vacuuming until you are sure not to convince rodents that you are leaving them a buffet. It’s keeping the kids from sending themselves or each other to the hospital in their excitement for our trip. And trying to figure out how to get them to fall asleep in the two weeks leading up to your trip. I gave up the last several days this time.
It’s chaos. It’s beautiful. And it’s exhausting- before we even leave. I start with big lists of everything that’s going to get done to get ready, then finish with a much smaller list of things that absolutely have to get done and the rest can wait until whenever. We all get really excited and anxious. We all have trouble settling down to sleep. I’m always in awe of those times I’m reminded we are a family. A unit. A team.
I’m a lot more relaxed about packing to get home. Usually the day before, I start weeding out all the things that can be buried deep in the car; dirty laundry, finished crafts, extra toys and activities, anything not being used. I really feel like we’ve got it all under control when I go to sleep on the last night.
Then I wake up and it takes twice as long to get everyone moving and ready. Everything seems to have exploded again, and there are all kinds of bits left that I hadn’t planned for. My OCD gets mad and frantic, then my anxiety kicks in because I feel like I’m losing control. Then it all gets done and the drive home is lovely because I can start relaxing again.
When we get home, I go through bursts of unpacking, laundry, dishes, and cooking, with spells of sitting and knitting or staring off into my thoughts. By the time I head back to work I feel more acquainted with reality once more. The kids seem to enjoy the extra time with me too.