Vacation with kids still means no obligations…but the responsibilities remain.
I’m writing this, literally writing, with a pen and paper, looking at the Atlantic shoreline as viewed from Sandbridge, VA.1 All of my OmniFocus projects are deferred until my return and the only Context active is “Beach” which has no tasks in it. I am without obligation for an entire week.
Well, that’s not entirely true. I have my children along.
And while vacationing with tiny humans is still a vacation, it’s certainly different that those described by our peers who don’t have (or bring) younglings. They describe a time free of responsibility and obligation, of doing something or nothing, of staying up late talking over a bottle2 of red wine, of sleeping until you don’t and waking to find another day in front of you to do nothing or everything.
Kids change that. There are still no obligations, but the responsibilities remain. The children still expect to be fed, to be amused, and to not drown. If the kids want to go down to the beach, it’s still A Process. Chairs, towels, and buckets need to be gathered. Swimsuits need to be found and adorned. Even if we ignore that stuff, the girls have to be sun-screened.
Putting sunscreen on my girls feels like it takes hours.3 Imagine trying to put sunscreen on your own back. First, your back decided it would stay home, but changed its mind as you were on the way out the door. Now, imagine that your back is moving randomly, covered with scratches from where it tripped, and is yelling at its sister. And remember, once you’re done, you’ll have to do it all again in 90 minutes.
It does get easier as the girls get older. Last summer, the then three-year-old used the occasion of our beach vacation to declare that she was Done(tm) with diapers. Absolutely great news, but it did mean someone had to be ready to get her back to the house at a moment’s notice. This year, that’s not even an issue. And our seven-year-old, in previous years so timid, has become a fan of challenging the waves.
Then there are the moments you wouldn’t get if the kids were at home. You get to bask in their joy as they see the ocean for the first time. You get to jump joyfully at the edge of the surf. You get to carry your child past the breakers while she triumphantly sings “Let It Go” from Frozen. You get to build sandcastles,4 and mean it.
I’m sure there’ll be trade offs as the kids get older. The ability to put on one’s own sunscreen will probably have teenage surliness along for the ride. I won’t have to walk the kids back and forth to beach house, but I’ll have to beg them to leave the air conditioning at all. Hopefully, as my kids start to acquire obligations, they’ll appreciate the time without any.
I’ll bask in this beach chair for a few more moments. Soon, the children will realize they are hungry, and I’ll walk them back to the house, hose them off, make sure they are underpantsed, and make them some lunch. With any luck, we’ll all take a nap. And by “we” I mean “me.”
Photo by: Phalinn Ooi
- Robbers take note: by the time this is published, I will be back in my well-armed Richmond domicile. Just kidding, I don’t own a firearm…or do I (I don’t). ↩
- Or a box. I’m not fancy. ↩
- It probably takes 5-10 minutes. ↩
- It’s next to impossible to construct sandcastle components that do not resemble human anatomy. ↩