VACATION: a respite or a time of respite from something; a period of exemption from work granted to an employee; a period spent away from home or business in travel or recreation
TRIP: voyage; journey
We did it. One car, two kids, three states, four national parks. Was it a vacation? Not exactly. I prefer to call travels with children “trips.”
You see, “vacation” implies time for reading books, people watching, sipping adult beverages, and leisurely conversations. Vacations transport you to a different world and make you lose track of the time and date. Vacations are extinct in my world; a relic from the BC (Before Children) era.
Now, I take trips. Trips are similar to vacations in the essentials – they last a set period of time and require leaving home. But, the similarities end there. The books are now board books and animal life-cycle encyclopedias read at an awkward angle over the seat of a moving vehicle or by headlamp in a tent. People-watching has been replaced by child chasing. Sippy cups are seen more often than wine glasses. Most conversations are interrupted by animal facts or random demands. And while I may lose track of the date, it is always clear when it is meal time or nap time. For more information on trips, check out the “Endurance Tourism” section of your local library.
As a new mom, I remember bursting into tears part way through our first family vacation. As I sat in a beautiful bed and breakfast, exhausted from a string of all-night nurse-a-thons, I realized that becoming a mom would mean years of working vacations. I would be doing the same thing that I did at home, only with less comfortable sleeping arrangements and more logistics. It wasn’t easy, but I have learned to enjoy trips with children. Like most parenting successes, this was a matter of lowering my expectations.
Much like our experience camping earlier in the summer, I think this year marks a turning point in our statistics. This summer’s trip was more pleasure than pain. Fewer screeching to a stop on an off ramp potty breaks, fewer pulled muscles reaching for treasured toys in the back seat, fewer camping neighbors wakened by our screaming offspring. Hurray for progress!
Son and Daughter remained relatively charming for all 2,654 miles. The mix of white boards and dry erase markers, ZooMorphs, and bribes – together with a peppy soundtrack prominently featuring Casper Babypants – proved to be a road-trip winner. We managed with respectably few Pixar-induced comas.
Son and Daughter had fun outside the car too. They marveled at big trees, enjoyed cool rivers, spotted a bear, yelled “Elmer” with gusto, climbed tall rocks, turned every log into a balance beam, roasted the largest marshmallows I’d ever seen (courtesy of fantastic camping neighbors), listened attentively to ranger programs, consumed heaps of sugar on a Jelly Belly tour, held on tight to the standing-room-only Powell Street cable car, ate their way through San Francisco’s China Town, soaked in the playful attention of relatives, sniffed wine like pros, frolicked in every available swimming pool and solemnly swore to do their duty as Junior Rangers for Kings Canyon, Sequoia, Yosemite and Redwood National Parks.
Husband did the lion’s share of the driving and deserves the credit for making it home with no tickets, crashes, or wildlife casualties. That’s no small accomplishment given the roads we travelled. We travelled through hundreds of towns with elevations that exceeded their populations and I suspect those towns’ general funds depend largely on tourists passing through at 31 rather than the posted 25 mph. Then, there were the roads that were so bumpy/curvy/undulating that we actually had to laugh out loud. It was as if some twisted highway engineer had swapped out a plan sheet with an M.C. Escher sketch and nobody noticed. Unlike previous road trips, we did not kill any fowl with our bumper or windshield. Hurray for Husband!
So, here we are safely home from our trip and surrounded by dust and laundry.
I’m ready for a vacation.