We recently returned from our summer family “vacation.” I use quotation marks because we all know the term “vacation” is a joke if young kids are involved. I’ve stayed home all summer with my three girls, so our vacation was just me doing the same things but in a different state. The trip consisted of a trek across eastern Texas to visit family and friends that we haven’t visited in years. It was the hottest week in the history of weeks and not relaxing in the least, but it filled a space in my heart that had been aching for a while.
That feeling of exhausted happiness got me thinking about why we go on these “vacations” in the first place and what the ultimate endgame really is. I’m sure it’s different for each family, but I was able to come up with a few of my favorite things about family vacation with young kids.
1 – My husband gives me his undivided attention while driving. Matt doesn’t mind driving on road trips under nine hours, and I certainly do not mind letting him. So during this iPhone- and ESPN-free time, we chit chat the day away while the kids watch movies. We talk about nothing and everything, and I love it.
2 – Each kid has at least one personal victory. Have you ever noticed how kids tend to have breakthroughs on vacation? My oldest swam underwater for the first time and one of my twins finally stopped being a barnacle on me in the pool. I’ve taken my girls swimming on my own all summer, but one morning in the pool with their dad and their cousins was all it took.
3 – The kids sleep in. One morning on the trip, Matt woke up to the sound of church bells. Without opening his eyes, he counted the rings and was amazed when they stopped at eight without a single peep from the kids. That is the work of vacation magic. Unfortunately, these late mornings tend to be the result of long days and late nights, but I don’t mind because that’s more my style anyway.
4 – I don’t have to work too hard to kill boredom. There were new backyards to explore, new people to meet, and new toys to play with. Even bedtime was exciting because they had different beds to sleep in or because they got to camp out on the floor. We packed three Dollar Tree magna-doodles and one stuffed animal per kid on this trip and never once heard the words, “I’m bored.”
5 – I get to say “yes” to my kids. One of my least favorite things about being a parent is constantly having to regulate my children. Being consistent is the only reliable tactic for raising well-adjusted kiddos, so I have to say “no” a lot. But the truth is, I want to say “yes.” In fact, I love saying “yes.” So on vacation, I give myself a break from the word “no.” Powdered donuts for breakfast five days in a row? Yes. Late night woodland fairy trail? You got it. Seven straight hours of screen time on the road trip? Please do.
6 – It makes me appreciate our simple little life. By the time our vacations are over, I am more than ready to get back to our daily routine. The kids are exhausted. Matt and I are delirious. Nothing sounds sweeter than a chicken nugget dinner and an eight o’clock bedtime.
So after pausing regular life and living our best life for a week, we are ready to enter a new school year with a suitcase full of personal victories and memories, both good and bad, of our family vacation. And we need the bad memories just as much as the good ones, don’t we? How else are we going to label the years when we look back on them? “Oh, that happened the year mom found a dead roach in her bed on vacation.” Yes, it happened. No. I don’t want to talk/laugh about it … yet.