Don’t Call it a Vacation

Most of us are just coming back from summer break, a time that often involves traveling to visit relatives or setting off on a family adventure. We post pretty pictures of our families looking gloriously happy on our social media sites. It looks like we are having an amazing time. But here is what the photos don’t tell you: traveling with kids is not a vacation. Those photos? Lightning in a bottle.

I love to travel. Before I had my daughter I used to get “itchy feet” when I would feel like I had to get on a plane and go somewhere. Then I had my daughter, who is mostly rad when she is not having a full-blown threenagner tantrum. Now I would rather just stay home.

But every year we get on a plane to go and visit her grandmother. I am almost embarrassed to tell you where we get to go. In our case, my daughter’s grandmother lives in Hawaii. I know.

Everyone says, “Oh, Hawaii! That must be so wonderful and relaxing.” And yeah, I am madly in love with Hawaii. It is one of my favorite places on earth. So here is the problem. When you travel to one of your favorite places on earth with a small child, it becomes less wonderful. Sometimes it even becomes a hassle. All of the wonderful things I love to do there—surf, hike, snorkel, take a yoga class, lie perfectly still on the beach under a shady tree—are not really possible with a toddler.

We have moments of fun where we take my daughter to the beach. We go at eight in the morning, to get a parking space and beat the heat. We build sand castles. We splash in the water at the shore. And then we are home by ten. By 10:30 a.m. we are kind of at a loss for what to do for the rest of the day. My mom generously babysits so we can get in a yoga class or a hike, but then it is back to the house to find ways to entertain a toddler. I’ll be honest: there was a lot of television.

On this vacation, it just kind of felt like everyone was making sacrifices all the time, my daughter included. I couldn’t swim as long as I like, my husband couldn’t linger in the guitar store, my mom couldn’t watch grown-up TV (it was all Peppa Pig and Paw Patrol). I started to notice we were even leaving the beach before my daughter was ready. The adults were getting too much sun, or we didn’t want her to get so much sun, or we were hungry. I felt bad for her, too.

That is not to say that we didn’t have lots of wonderful moments. We did. My daughter spent time with her grandmother having tea parties and talking story. The whole family played at the beach and ate shave ice. My husband and I spent loads of quality time with her and were able to show her some of the things about Hawaii that we love.

But there were lots of shitty moments too. Like when she had a full-blown tantrum in the parking lot of the fancy hotel because I brought her the wrong t-shirt. Or when we were stuck inside all day because it was raining. I almost had to laugh when my husband and I traded off taking laps with her outside our favorite restaurant because she didn’t feel like sitting still.

None of these photos were posted on Facebook. We fooled you. That cool picture of my daughter riding on the front of the paddle board with my husband? She was on for like thirty seconds before she was screaming to get off.

Then you come home and everyone experiences the vacation hangover. We got to enjoy two weeks of my daughter waking up four or five times a night. Everyone in the family was grumpy for weeks. I know we are lucky to be able to travel and have loving family to visit. I know I should be grateful. I try to be—really I do. I find moments of peace and serenity, but then my daughter decides she needs to use the bathroom once we have finally gotten all the way down to the beach and the restroom is way up at the top of the hill. At times like these, I think we should have just stayed home.

We totally need a vacation from our vacation.

And still, we will board a plane again next year and do it all over again.