Today I remembered a lesson I learned on a vacation many
A vacation with babies or toddlers is not really a vacation.
In fact, when you have babies and toddlers, vacation is like real life…only
harder. You’re in a strange place that isn’t baby proofed, following a schedule
that is nothing like home, and to top it off, you’re doing it in front of
family members you don’t see very often.
Vacations won’t always be like this, but for a season (more
like two or three years), they will be. For the past two years, every one in my
family looks forward to the beach but me. They see no chores, hours of play and
free time, and precious time with cousins and family. I see struggling to get
the baby used to a new sleeping environment; chasing her around at the pool, on
the beach, in the park, and in the house; and dealing with the seven of us
sharing one bedroom (even when their bodies are on couches, their stuff is
I’m ashamed to say that all too often my time is spent
dwelling on this. Perhaps this is a result of having the last four or so
“pre-Felicity” vacations being absolutely wonderful. I could sit by the side of
the pool while all the kids swam or get in the pool and play with them. I could
ride the waves in the ocean by their sides or sit in a chair and read. The
evenings were filled with family games and long conversations. I dare say, it
was actually relaxing.
Today as we trudged to the trolley stop to go to the beach
in the stifling heat, I found myself carrying a 26-½ pound baby in one arm and
a beach bag that weighed almost as much in the other. As I sat on the bench
waiting, fighting with Felicity to stay with me in the shade, I looked at my
sister-in-law and said, “I think next year will be the year it gets a little
easier. I thought it would be this year, but I was wrong…very, very wrong.”
That’s when I remembered that the summer Dawson was almost
three, something changed. It was the first family vacation I didn’t have to be
in the pool holding one of the kids. I remember that moment because I was
fighting the nausea of pregnancy and wondering why in the world I had talked
Nelson into baby number four. I don’t say that to mean that I didn’t want Max
(I really, really did!), but to draw attention to the fact that as much as I
wanted this baby, I still realized how hard life had been up to that point and
how much it had suddenly changed.
There are still plenty of great things about vacation. I
only have to cook one night the whole week. There are other people to help
clean up. I have the best brother-in-law in the world – one who takes all four
of my big kids to do things while I’m with the napping baby. And of course, I
see the value of building precious memories with family members. My kids have
something I never had.
There is also one small thing about this vacation that is
absolutely glorious. Our condo has a pool…in the backyard. That means that
while Felicity is napping, instead of being tied to the house, like I am at
home, I simply turn on the monitor and head to the pool. She is absolutely worn
out from the day’s activities and sleeps for a good two and a half to three
hours. That allows me time to swim laps (exercise is my Prozac), swim races and
play with the kids, and even read a few pages in a book. Those few hours are
That’s when it occurred to me that I’ve gained a bit of
wisdom through the years. I was swimming laps, thinking about nothing much
other than what number lap I was on, watching the bubbles of people swimming
past and under me, and being amazed at how much I love swimming, when I
thought, “Thank you Lord for this opportunity.” In that moment a sincere and
tremendous sense of gratitude came over me. Here I was, doing what I loved, in
the middle of the day. Felicity could have decided not to nap. The
thunderstorms could have rolled in early. The pool could have been too crowded.
Instead, God cleared a path and gave me a gift. The difference, where the
wisdom comes in, is that I saw it.
Tonight I chased my busy toddler around while everyone else
enjoyed the outdoor concert. I didn’t love that, but I didn’t hate it either.
It’s where I am. It’s a season and next summer will be better; but tomorrow, I
just might get the chance to swim laps again.