When he announced the plan to me, I looked at Dennis as if he had just beamed in from outer space. What on earth could he be thinking? Us, two babies, his brother and his wife, their two kids (ages 6 and 9),
But we were poor, hadn’t seen the grandparents in a while, and I was trying hard to be a good sport.
So under much duress (including a heated discussion in which I dissolved into tears), off we went. Every seat in the van was taken, and suitcases and coolers took up every inch of floor space. There was no such thing as in-car video systems or portable
Then, as if to punctuate the ill-conceived nature of this trip, Allie had just been prescribed her first pair of glasses. All through the trip, we put the glasses on her. She ripped them off. We fished for them from among the books, toys, Cheetos and sandwich crumbs on what little of the floor was exposed. We put them back on her. She ripped them off again. On and on it went…for s.i.x.t.e.e.n. h.u.n.d.r.e.d. miles.
When we got to
In my attempts to make the trip tolerable for the kids, I succeeded in making it miserable for everyone else, including the most important person in my life, my husband. So much so, that, when my mother-in-law offered to babysit the kids while Dennis and I went to dinner and a night in a hotel to celebrate our tenth anniversary, all I could do was talk about the kids, and how "off" they were. I was so exhausted (and still secretly seething about all I had to go through with the trip), I chose to ignore the romantic implications of our night together. We kissed goodnight, and then [awkward silence here]…I rolled over... and went to sleep. On our tenth anniversary!
Even now, TWELVE years later, I blush with embarrassment thinking about my poor husband. He admits now, that, yes, it was a crazy trip to attempt. Why didn’t we just fly – it probably would have cost about the same, since the two were under age two? We were cheap ("What could we save, $25? Okay, we'll drive!"). We were dumb. But even under the worst of circumstances, Dennis didn’t deserve the way I treated him. Not just in the romance department (which showed the depths of my utter selfishness), but also in making him put up with my sorry attitude. The. Whole. Time.
I started telling this story because we are getting ready to take this same trip in a few weeks (this time it will only be seven of us, in an airplane, for four hours – what a breeze!). I was going to write up a few tips, a sort of ¨What Not To Do¨ for traveling with kids.
Instead of the usual "be flexible," and "keep your sense of humor," I think I will just give you my finest tip of all:
Even if it’s a “family” vacation, don’t forget your husband.
Surprise him with a little romance. Respond enthusiastically, even to his fumbling attempts to take you out of "mommy" mode. Plan something special, just for the two of you, even if it's just holding hands across the table while chaos ensues at the other end of it. The kids will get over it if the schedule is not perfect, or if you don’t get to all the activities you had planned. Chances are, they will not even remember it.
Yes, you will still be exhausted. Every vacation with kids is a “working vacation.” Just embrace it.
But I’ve noticed that a romanced husband makes an even better dad, which makes for an even better family vacation. It just took me a very long time (and a few more trips) to figure that out.