The Un-Vacation: A Dose of Perspective for Planning that Family Trip

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Let me just preface everything I am about to write with these words: I love my kids dearly. Yes, I love them oh so much.

But . . .

Yeah, I know. The very fact that I had to preface what I’m about to write, and the very fact that I’m following it up with a “but” is grounds for my parental rights to be terminated.

However. Is that better?

What I’m trying to get around to saying is that I love my kids, but the essence of vacation cannot, at this point in their young lives and my newly-single-parent reality, include us being together in any one place at any one time where I have to do any of the following:

…clean up after anyone.
…unload a dishwasher.
…wipe someone’s rear-end after their third poop for the day.
…clean throw-up off the carpet.
…cut up meat into tiny little bites.
…tell a child to be quiet, calm down or stop interrupting me.

Need I say more?

Over and over again, I am stretched as a parent, and over and over again, I feel like I fail miserably. My patience wanes. Heck, my patience is flat out non-existent. I snap, I snarl, and sometimes I yell. I feel fried, burned out, tired in a way that I cannot put words to. In fact, I’m too tired to try.

There’s a collision I am caught in the middle of between my expectations and desires for rest and the anything-but-subtle reality that I am a mom, and a single one at that.

The other night as I packed for our short weekend trip to the beach, I felt like a modern pioneer woman. I hauled bikes to the shed to store them away while we were going to be gone. I pulled out sand toys, packed bags, prepped the car and packed the car. I broke a sweat. For a moment I felt proud of myself, only for a moment. Hours later I was hollering at my kids, ordering them here and there, barking at them impatiently for the slightest missteps. I’m aware, however, that what I’m experiencing is not unique to me. There were once real pioneer women who would put me to shame with their carrying-babies-on-their-backs-while-thrashing-wheat, slaughtering- pigs, and churning-butter-all-in-one-day ways. No, my experiences of hard work and little rest are not unique to me.

I think the rub is with my expectations. I expect perhaps more than I should from myself and from my kids for that matter. I expect boundless energy and patience from myself to be lavished upon my children who are exceptionally aware of the challenges their poor, tired, mom is facing. I expect myself to be perfect. And I expect, even though reality dictates otherwise, that vacation would feel like vacation. But it just doesn’t. And it just hasn’t, not so much since becoming a single mom but, rather, since becoming a parent.

So for my own record, I am duly noting this. I am tucking this away for the moment when I have a few extra bucks and can either, take my kids on a vacation somewhere someone else is doing all the work–the care-taking, the snack-getting, the butt-wiping. Oh, wait, no one wants to do that? Alright then–I am tucking this away for my own future vacation-planning to remember that I need to, first, adjust my expectations if my kids are coming along. Secondly, plan a vacation for myself that doesn’t include them. God knows I need it. And God, my kids, and I will all be happier with my overall parenting performance as a result.
(This was originally written and posted in June 2013.)

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