Once you have kids, summer vacation is a whole new ball game. There are playpens to pack, slippery kids to corral, miles to drive or fly with something to occupy the kids, and more gear than a pro hockey team. Restful? Not really. Fun? Yes, if you can play your cards right, but it will never look like your vacations before kids.
- You now need a wheeled cart instead of a bag and a cooler to bring everything to the beach.
- You choose vacation restaurants based on the quality of their chicken nuggets and plain pasta.
- You buy the normally forbidden individual boxes of sugary cereal at the vacation house because it buys you an extra 30 minutes of sleep.
- Building sandcastles takes the place of reading or napping in your beach chair.
- Remember those overstuffed cars you’d make fun of in the summer? Now, that's you.
- Your road trip playlist includes The Wiggles, the latest Kidz Bop and Raffi.
- You spent sleepless nights trying to think of more ways to get sand off a kid’s body.
- You're taking pictures constantly, reminding yourself that all this work is for "family memories."
- You've been in the freezing cold indoor pool at 7 a.m. every day of the week.
- You've actually said, "Don't make me stop this car!"
- Your week away generally (hopefully!) includes an activity with a princess, talking animals or dancing food.
- You realize pounding holes in jar tops is worthwhile when you see the kids’ joyous faces after they catch their first firefly.
- Your new idols are the people who created sidewalk chalk, popsicles, sprinklers, sun hats that tie on and spray-on sunscreen.
- You’ve had that moment at the top of the pitch-black, five-diamond water slide your children just disappeared down, when you’re holding a rubber tube for dear life and wondering how the heck you got there.
- Putting sunscreen on the wiggly, whining kids is what you now consider self-torture.
- You have driven miles on a beautiful day to find a go-cart track, special mini-golf course or water park -- that you wouldn’t have been caught anywhere near before.
- The idea of a rainy day makes you want to cry.
- You’re as excited as the kids when the bumper car operator lets the whole family go around again even when it was supposed to be the last ride.
- You’ve actually wondered why those people outside the hotel are still making noise at 11 pm – shouldn’t they be sleeping?
- You’ve rediscovered how much fun glow sticks are.
- Fireworks and penny candy make the day complete, and you can’t remember anything better.
- You come home needing a vacation.
Clearly family vacations are worth all the blood, sweat and tears (even if they’re yours), since you’re truly making memories you -- and your kids -- will cherish for a lifetime. I know, action-packed, sleep-deprived, occasionally bickering-filled family vacations might not resemble the laid-back pre-kids vacation when your toughest decision was figuring out the best angle for your beach chair. But you’ll treasure these weeks. Each summer brings the stark realization that your kids won’t be little forever. There’ll be a time when you’ll want to recapture their joyful shrieks, the cozy weight of their sleepy bodies when you carry them to bed after a day of adventure and the pure thrill of seeing the world through their unjaded eyes.
When the teachers ask, “What did you do this summer?” your child might proudly stand and recall riding waves and rollercoasters, eating larger-than-life ice cream cones and watching booming fireworks fill the dark sky. With each of those out-of-the-ordinary days, summer vacation takes on a whole new meaning and layers memories of family vacations as special, magical and fleeting times. I hope you can make some great summer memories on your own vacation this year.