Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Holiday Packing!

Before I had children, 100 years ago, the word Vacation meant just that: rest, relax, unwind and feel that sand between your toes. Carefree days with a tropical breeze in your hair and a pina colada in your hand. Or two.

Oh, how we remember the lessons we learn the hard way. I can be as dense as a plank, and for that very reason, I never saw it coming until it hit me like a 2x4:  Children, Vacation. I do not think it means what you think it means.

When you are a mother, the word Vacation doesn't come along and take your status away. There is no vacation away from being Mother. Days spent out of your residential state don't take away days of responsible adult care taking of your children. Responsible means in charge of. Your sandals and lacy tank tops don't get thrown in a fancy carry on bag along with deep tanning accelerator, and voila! Hola Mexico! You are now and forever, the mother, the one who gets things ready for this quote on quote Vacation. Pack for yourself? Maybe after you pack for the others in your tribe.

What to take, what not to take, looking into the future for what needs there may be: Tylenol? Better bring it along. Which reminds me, throw in the ear thermometer, too. Maybe some Benadryl, oh, and then that itch cream should really come along too. Things to pack and things to do. Kids aren't really happy staying up late having umbrella drinks by the pool until 1 a.m. and then sleeping in with shades pulled until noon. That's not going to fly. So aside from packing, you now need an itinerary and activities! One that isn't comprised of wine tours.

I remember my first vacation as a mother and how all of this shocked the heck out of me. Why didn't I know? I don’t know. I surprise myself about a good amount of other things on a daily basis, too. I mean, who did I think was going to do all this Vacation packing when I became a mother? It all goes back to the vacations when I was a kid. Who got things ready then? It was some kind of magic. HA!

Magic as in the magic that comes from what must have been our mother staying up until 4 a.m. packing for six children and then somehow having everybody ready to go that morning. Wasn’t I watching back then? Didn’t I even think for a minute that someday, when I was a mother, I’d be packing up the house for the kids to head out for a week?

Why didn’t I realize the amount of serious work that lay ahead? Who the heck knows and that’s an issue for another day but in the meantime, my point here is HOLY COW is that first vacation as a mother a brutal awakening. I mean, here you are, finally going someplace after being a mother for the first time in your life and you couldn't be more excited about getting away until it dawns on you...  someone has to get things ready. Which basically means you pack up the house while you try to picture yourself wherever you’re going and crystal ball it for what you’ll need.

Our first vacation with our then 8-month-old baby was over Christmas, to my in-laws in California. I’m just going to tell you this as fast as I can because I feel my heart starting to pound faster already with the trauma trigger of this subject. We were living in Wisconsin and I didn’t want our baby to be *cold hot sweaty chilly shivery damp uncomfortable scared take your pick* while gone from home so I began thinking of everything I might need for California.

Not need but might need.

I began with emptying out the linen closet in our hallway of every thickness, weight, weave, and plushness of blanket. I didn’t stop until I had worked my way to the silverware drawer in the kitchen for small spoon, bigger spoon, medium spoon, spork? and emptied that drawer out, too. I continued on through the house acting pretty much like there weren't any stores in California. My husband, on the other hand, pulled out his itty bitty black carry-on, threw in his Bruce Springsteen T shirt, and a toothbrush. I think I may have seen a flash of his comb in there, too.

Dad with baby. Our first vacation as a family. See the small black bag hanging on his hip? That would be his suitcase.
After staying up all night packing as if we were going to a Himalayan Mountaintop Sherpa Convention instead of a condo in LaJolla, we drove to the airport with my eyes swirling red and white like a hypnotist ad from the back of a comic book. My husband had to talk me through boarding since a serious case of sleep deprivation psychosis was beginning to show its face. With our baby attached to my chest in the Bjorn carrier, he took my arm and led me to our seats. Half conscious, I shuffled down the aisle, muttering “I think I’ve got everything I hope I got everything I should have everything Do I have everything…”

Right before I passed out in my seat, [versus fell asleep, two very different things] I remember my husband saying, “Honey, RELAX. We’re going on vacation."

Vacation? I do not think that word means what you think it means.

* * *


  1. I remember the first time I traveled with my daughter. I packed so many activities for her to do on the plane. Heavy, heavy activities that I then had to carry in my carryon bag all around three airports because it was just the two of us traveling. I also had to carry her when she got tired. And a car seat. And her carryon bag. And the shoes that she inevitably did not put back on after the security check that did not fit in our stuffed carryons. It was a nightmare.

    No. Vacation does not mean what it did when we were young and child-free.

  2. Tracie, we make ourselves laugh, don't we? HAPPY HOLIDAYS TO YOU, my friend. xo

  3. OMG it's so true. Ugly true. My family is taking a trip to Australia this spring. As soon as Christmas is over, I'm going to be panicking about what on earth we need to take on a 24-hour plane flight to visit a country that will be experiencing late summer… while I'm living through winter. Nobody should have to worry about swimsuit shopping in January. Except mothers.

  4. haha...yes, vacation def takes on a different meaning...and a different level of packing having kids...i kid my wife often as we leave a shell of a house in our wake as we are leaving with bags strapped to the roof and sides of the van...lol

  5. I was deceived because our first parenting vacation really was one. Juliet was 6 months old and we were in Florida. We napped when she did, hung out in the pool when it was not so hot, went to the beach in the evening, and brought a sleeping baby to a quiet Columbian restaurant where we ate aMAZing food every night.

    But our second trip when I was pregnant and throwing up, our toddler was now running everywhere, and we were growling at each other because we weren't getting to relax . . . that was NO vacation!

    PS Are you dreaming about vacations because it's cold? ;-)

  6. We leave tonight for two weeks in Israel. It's a dream, a goal of mine and my husband's, to do this trip. But the packing and scheming to pack have nearly undone me. Just get me on that airplane already.

  7. My husband always wondered why I was so stressed out but he time we arrived at the airport. He hadn't planned the whole trip and packed up our entire house into a couple of suitcases.
    It's easier now though, with older kids, right? Except now the hard part is finding time for a trip amongst five separate schedules.

  8. So many memories here! I remember the first time I packed just for me. It was a very odd feeling. I still wanted to throw some toys and snacks in there!

  9. When my son was a baby, travel was relatively easy. He slept more and pretty much anywhere. When my son was three months old, we moved from Boston to Buffalo. I stressed about the move and the plane trip endlessly. But he was blissfully wonderful on the plane and through the whole move. Traveling with a toddler? A whole other ballgame. Suddenly he has opinions, and he's none too happy when his routines get disrupted!

  10. Now that they're in high school, my kids pack for themselves. Finally.
    Of course, sometimes they end up somewhere with four pairs of pajamas and no socks, but still.

    I count it as a success. It's why our family motto is Lowered Expectations!

    p.s. At first, I thought the opening sentence of your post said "VATICAN" not "VACATION." Re-read it substituting Vatican and you can imagine my initial confusion :-)

  11. Oh how I do remember those days. Yikes! Being less tired when I was at home, but now I miss them....sorta... ; )

  12. I am almost to the point where I can just pack for myself when we travel (see how I said when we "travel" not "vacation"?)

  13. Oh, this made me laugh! My kids' dad loves to travel, and I can relate to every single word. When ours were 10 months old (twins), we also took a Christmas trip to California to see the babies' grandparents. People turned and stared at us as we made our way through the airport with 2 luggage carts filled with (in addition to luggage) 2 car seats, 2 portable high chair seats, and a COOLER because I made all their baby food and was worried that eating store-bought food might somehow create unmanageable problems and negatively impact our "vacation." It was filled with a week's worth of their food. Oh, and there were two babies in a huge, double-wide stroller. No wonder people stared! :-)



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