As Moms our lives can be so. incredibly. repetitive. It’s a never-ending cycle of cooking, cleaning, grocery shopping, tantrums, laundry, dishes. When it’s done? Rinse and repeat. Because joke’s on us: It’s NEVER done. And some days you can just get lost in that feeling of the endlessness of it all. And we desperately need to not get lost in that feeling.
When I was three years and three kids into Motherhood, I embarked on one of my most exciting journeys. A trip the HELL out of dodge. Without my husband. Without my kids. Just me, a cruise ship, the open ocean, and 9 of my best Mamas.
I was excited and apprehensive and happy and nervous and all the emotions. To be honest, I love to WATCH a Mom vacation a la Real Housewives of Every Single Franchise Ever, but there was always a part of me that was like, “why do they want to go out of town without their families so often???”
Now, I know.
But I’m getting ahead of myself. Because unlike the Real Housewives of Everywhere, the drama surrounding my trip happened entirely before we set sail. Basically, the moment I told anyone I was going somewhere. If I had a dollar for every time someone asked me, “Who’s watching the children?,” I could probably have paid for the entire trip. If I got another dollar every time someone had to pick their jaw up off the floor when I answered, “Uh….their father,” I could have covered my bar tab. Which, for the record, ended up being a very significant total. But I digress.
The people around me were VERY concerned with me going on this trip. Offers to assist Chad flew in from every corner of my universe. I could leave confident that no one would go hungry, because the neighborhood was going to band together and bring a collection of casseroles and baked goods. His arms would never ache because the biddies at church all volunteered to come over and “just hold the baby” while he tended to the other children. Other people got fancy with their plans. “I’ll take Evie, we can do something fun! Then see if your Mom can take the baby, that way Chad can just hang out with Cole! Guy time!”
Basically the message was this: If Mommy was irresponsible enough to just go and LEAVE her children with a practical stranger their Father, then my village was going to step in and provide backup.
Perhaps this leaves a questionable perception of my husband. By all accounts, he’s a pretty hands on Dad in every day life. He changes diapers, he plays and reads, he knows his way around a onesie.
But I get it. Three days is a lot of time with the kids. He isn’t as used to doing everything day after day after day. Alone. Let’s be real, three days would be a lot for anyone.
Know how I know that?
BECAUSE MY HUSBAND HAS TO TRAVEL FOR WORK AND I DO THIS ALL THE FREAKING TIME.
When he went to Wichita for three days, where was my casserole???
When he went to Utah for a week, who was coming over to hold my baby???
When he left to Connecticut for two days when our third baby was TWO WEEKS OLD who the EFF took the reigns and doled out my other children so I could focus on the tiny ball of NEED???
So I stood there, patiently listening to all the concerned voices and when they felt like they’d said their piece, I told them all the same thing, “Thank you, that’s very generous, but he’ll be fine.”
As I sit here in our staycation suite, thanking the little baby Jesus that I somehow – finally – MIRACULOUSLY got all three of my spawn to nap at the same time I can’t help but reflect on the past couple of days…and how freaking good they went. Sorry, this is going to be a straight up BRAGFEST up in here. Because my husband and I just spend three days at “The Happiest Place on Earth” and it was actually the Happiest Place on Earth. At least most of the time. Which got me thinking – why???
What did we do to deserve this? Was karma just on our side? Had we had enough shit shows at Disneyland that we were simply due? I felt like I HAD to pin down the reason – hopefully to replicate it! As I reflected on our day, it came down to three things:
Yesterday we were in line to meet Mickey and behind us was the grumpiest person in Disneyland. Yes, Grumpier than Grumpy himself. She grumbled all through the line to see the Mouse about how terrible the day had been. Someone asked her if it was the people? The crowds? No, it was EVERYTHING. Well listen, we go to Disneyland a lot. And yes, it was hot as hell and it was crowded and I’ll give you that it ain’t cheap. But it surely couldn’t be that everything is terrible. Take a minute to enjoy something.
That place is CLEAN. Like, a first time Mom that’s a germaphobe could probably let a baby eat a cracker off the floor kind of clean. And there is such a meticulous attention to detail there’s lots for your eyes to enjoy everywhere you go. Chad could spend hours just checking out the plant life – but he’s a nerd like that, so I cede that isn’t everyone’s jam. I just don’t know how someone could HATE absolutely EVERYTHING about Disneyland. So I’ve got to assume this chick needed an attitude adjustment. If you’re grumpy and miserable, nothing’s going to make you happy – not even a corn dog or a pineapple Dole whip!
Okay, this may be controversial. But YES, parenting CAN have an influence on how your kids behave. It would be lovely to think that it was all a crapshoot and we were never responsible for our kids bad behavior, but tragically, it’s not true.
My husband does storytime with the Bigs before bed while I’m dressing/diapering/feeding the baby for her bedtime. Recently, I’ve overheard him reading “The Berenstein Bears Get the Gimmies” and talking to them about the Gimmies (“gimme this toy” and “gimme that candy” type of stuff). I was always like, “Hell yeah! Teach the kids to knock it off with the Gimmies!” Then one day my kids asked me to read the book. And, spoiler alert, it’s totally the parents’ fault that Brother and Sister Bear have the Gimmies in the first place! SO, moral of the story: Parenting. Dang it.
Back to Disneyland…
The most commonly used four words to end a sentence at Disneyland? “….Or we’re going home!” As in, “knock it of or….” and “stay in the stroller or…” and “stop licking your sister or…..” And guess what? The kids know that it’s all BS! Cause you’re not gonna do it. So your threats mean nothing. Find a threat you can stick to. There with multiple adults? How about “….or you can’t go on X ride.” Yep, cause let me tell you, you only need to make Evie sit aside and NOT ride The Little Mermaid about once before she realizes you’re not playing. My kids will never remember where they left their shoes, but they will never forget that time their siblings got to ride without them.
Will this one trick solve all of your Disneyland woe’s? No. But don’t let your awesome parenting lag just because you’re shelling out a downpayment on a car to meet a mouse in a costume.
Look, it may have seemed like I talk a big game back there in the ol’ “Parenting” section. But let’s be clear. I don’t actually know what the F I’m doing. I also know that you can be a black belt ninja in parenting and still have the world go against you. Good parenting cannot make sure you get the exact color Teacup your son will die without getting. Good parenting does not prevent your daughter from spilling her brand new popcorn all over the place. Good parenting does not help when your 2 year old is to small to go on all the “good rides” her 4 year old brother is going on and the ONLY thing in the world that will make it better is riding on The Little Mermaid ride – again – and it breaks right before she gets on. In that case? You’re just screwed.
Use all your tricks, bribes, food, distractions and pray you can turn that juju around, because luck is definitely the most critical component for success.
But, if you have a great attitude and you find your inner parenting blackbelt and karma is on your side, maybe just maybe you can get a great day at Disneyland.
So I’m not trying to brag or anything, but…well I totally am. I’m shamelessly going to proclaim myself the queen of taking road trips with kids, because everyone has gifts, and this may well be mine. My family ROCKS at road trips.
No, I’m just kidding. I’m currently writing this while draped over my crying one year old, making shushing sounds in his ear. So for sure I don’t have it all figured out.
But I will say that my kids have been road tripping since infancy. We drive two hour stretches very often, like monthly. And we’ve taken many, many 9+ hour trips, from when we had one tiny baby to today. Like, TODAY today.
Anyways, so I’m not an expert, but I am very experienced. Here’s a few tips, so you can gain from my wisdom learn from my mistakes.
Once upon a time, Chad and I used to spend lazy summer weekends at his family cabin in the Sierra’s. We would pack up the car, drive a pleasant few hours, and plant ourselves in hammocks. I’d bring a stack of library books, eagerly anticipating lounging in the late morning quiet by the small river, devouring each book one by one. We’d live off chips, beer and s’mores. We’d take casual hikes through the giant majestic trees surrounding us. And we’d be completely cut off from communication with the outside world. No tv. No wifi. No cell service. Just one old rotary telephone in case of a dire emergency.
As I sit here today, I find myself wondering how the HELL that paradise became the four day trip that has me so anxious I want to cry/vomit/run away. Why is it that all I can think of now is how fast the river is running this year, how bad the mosquitoes are, will any of the kids get carsick on the windy road, how there have been rattlesnake sightings on site. Rattlesnakes. And all. That. Prep.
The lists in my head are ridiculous. The food, the toys, the clothes, the repellent, the sunscreen, the medicines just in case because there’s NOWHERE to buy anything, the diapers, the wipes, the snacks (very different from “food” of course), the car activities, the STUFF. Endless, endless stuff!
But of course, I know why. Kids. They turned the vacation into a trip. On vacation you lounge and eat what you want, when you want, where you want – preferably at a restaurant or somewhere you don’t have to clean up afterward. On a trip, you’re still cooking for everyone. And doing dishes. And hunting down a thousand water cups for tiny hands that have misplaced theirs. Because apparently kids can’t live off chips, beer and marshmallows alone – though to be fair I haven’t tried…..
On a vacation, you go on a hike, taking breaks where you want and you sit and take in the beautiful views. You can walk at your pace because there’s nothing (no one) slowing you down and nothing (no one) to chase. You bring a book because you might find a perfect spot to spend the afternoon. On a trip you have one kid strapped to you and two more running in opposite directions. You have to bring a thousand snacks because they can’t go five minutes without food. One of the walkers decides halfway that they’re going to die and throw themselves on the ground saying they’ll never walk again.
On a vacation you bring that thick 600 page book that you’ve been waiting to crack into, because you know you can dedicate all the time to getting hooked on it. You spend the rest of the day falling further into the fantasy world before you. On a trip? Bring a magazine. Maybe. Or something that hooks you right away and is only about 150 pages. Nothing with confusing characters or plots or you’ll spend most of the time re-reading pages you already read because you were interrupted by cries of, “Moooooooommmmmm! I neeeeeeeed youuuuuuuu!”
And did I mention THERE’S NO WIFI???
So maybe for me it will be a trip. But I can still keep it a vacation for my kids. Read them all the books. Let them hike and get dirty and find bugs and explore. Make them eat real food, but also go nuts on the s’mores. Help them make memories so they’ll one day talk about the awesome vacations they went on.
And then, after I’ve sufficiently worn them out, tuck them into bed, grab my book, go out on the porch, grab a beer and sneak a few minutes of vacation before morning.