family vacays are for the strong-willed

by mari

toddler running to the lake

I know that traveling with kids is a pain in the rear of our “high expectations”. And yet, I had them anyway. I had big hopes for our quickie weekend into the Northern wilds of Wisconsin. It’s the trip my honey and I have made since we were dating (and he was going long before that). It’s always been a highlight of fall. The trip is usually laid-back. We watch the uber-dedicated mountain bike racers which just reinforce how blissfully lazy we really are. We wander around the silly small-town sappy shops that keep my jaded big-city views in check – you never know what goodies you’ll find. We eat at the oh so good Angry Minnow Brewpub and the Chippewa Inn Steakhouse, and we drive around the surrounding lake areas on the hunt for an impossibly perfect piece of land that we won’t actually buy.

But this year? In one word? Birdie. Between missed naptimes and the non-existent toddler attention span, all the lazy bits of the weekend were reduced to nearly nil. Except when we spent Saturday night in the big hotel bed watching The Princess and the Frog in an attempt to make her sleepy. Which, of course, didn’t work, she just fell in love with the frogs and started jumping up and down and trying to pet the damn laptop screen. That’s what began filling my head this weekend, that it was her fault that things had changed. But the reality is that I’d put far too much weight into what the weekend should be.  The hubs and I are both so busy right now, that when we finally have some family time together I immediately expect some kind of movie magic to happen. But I should know better by now. Reality is messy, and teary, and filled with dirty diaper changes perched on some luggage in the backseat of an SUV. It’s not my daughter who made the weekend a little rough around the edges – it’s me and my expectations.

So pretend you didn’t read any of that middle paragraph above, and let me tell you what an amazing weekend we had – filled with all of the above and wrapped in sun-filled trees lining long winding pine-scented one lane roads, while Birdie snored in the backseat.

{ 14 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Samantha September 20, 2010 at 8:25 am

Oh Mari, I love this post! So honest and true to this period in our lives. I totally hear you on the diaper changes in the back of the car… I keep telling my hubby we need to “embrace” these crazy times as we’ll have our youth only once in our lives and while our kids are still “little”…… Oh what a beautiful post. <3


2 Miz Big September 20, 2010 at 10:31 pm

Thank you darling! I agree, trying to live in the moment is the key – but it’s an impossible one sometimes. I guess if we all try just a little bit then we’re better for trying. Convincing my husband may be beyond my realm of influence however!


3 the milliner September 20, 2010 at 8:28 am

Oh yes. We had a similar experience at the end of August when we did a little family vacation to NYC. I thought I had lowered my expectations enough. Alas, what I didn’t realise, was that I needed to have NO expectations. As you point out, not so easy when it’s so hard to carve out vacation & relaxation time. To sum up our trip? A 12 hour drive that should have taken 8 hours, poured rain most of the time in NYC, fried my phone getting soaked in a downpour (luckily resurrected after being submerged in rice for 2 days), toddler meltdown on 5th ave, etc. etc. I know we’ll look back and laugh at all of the misadventure, but man, it’s hard to realise that at the time! Glad to hear I’m not the only one who struggles to keep it all in perspective at times. p.s. that photo of your daughter asleep with the crooked glasses is SO cute!


4 Miz Big September 20, 2010 at 10:32 pm

Glad you like the photo! It certainly gave me a good laugh. And you’re right – we will laugh at all of it in a couple of years. Memory is so subjective – the sooner we can change our attitude about an event, the easier it is to move on!


5 Laura September 20, 2010 at 5:20 pm

Hi Mari, Yes, it’s crazy, but possible. Surviving a family vacation may feel like finishing a National Lampoon’s movie but makes wonderful unforgettable moments! Great post. Thanks.


6 Miz Big September 20, 2010 at 10:33 pm

That is a great comparison Laura! SO fitting.


7 Esther September 20, 2010 at 7:50 pm

… and that’s why (every so often) one must escape without the kiddos– tho we love them so much. It’s amazing how much more quickly you can get through an airport without kids :-) — like to Las Vegas!


8 Miz Big September 20, 2010 at 10:34 pm

haha! Nicely veiled plug for the ABC show Esther! We haven’t flown with Birdie yet, but I can only imagine the catastrophes, and then probably multiply them by ten.


9 Cassie September 28, 2010 at 10:10 pm

Can I offer a non-parent comment? Expectations have to change for friends of people who have kids too. I got together with old friends who are now parents to a super adorable 15 month old. It was almost impossible to have an uninterrupted conversation. Sentences stopped mid-way and trains of thought were brought to an abrupt halt. Catching up is harder to do when you have to factor in the cute but non-stop interruptions. It’s not terrible, just different :)


10 Miz Big September 28, 2010 at 10:53 pm

It’s so true Cassie. And it’s rough from both sides – I’ve lost touch with some friends unintentionally because I know it’s just too hard to make them put up with the kid interruptions. You can tell when someone is willing to put up with it, and when they’re not. And the friends that are willing? They’re INVALUABLE!
What’s funny, I remember being the non-parent, and how shocking it was to try and do anything. But as a parent, you grow so so accustomed to it you don’t even notice!


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