After what seemed like weeks of preparations, my family hit the road last week for a lot of rest and relaxation.
We spent seven days and nights in one of our favorite, secluded spots along the coast – Emerald Isle, N.C. – with close friends. What a wonderful family vacation it was.
When you are a new parent, which I still consider myself after 17 months, right or wrong, there are many moments when you can’t help but notice how much life has changed along the way.
Planning and taking a vacation with a toddler is certainly one of those moments. A couple years ago, a planned hiatus from the newspaper business and a chance to get away from home would mean an island vacation somewhere, maybe Aruba, Mexico, Puerto Rico or southern Florida.
We knew this year we wanted to put a family vacation on the calendar and the chance to meet up with old friends at a quiet beach town seemed a good fit for us.
We left early on last Sunday morning and had an exit strategy in mind. My wife did much of the packing for herself and my son the day before and early on the day of departure. At some point, I haphazardly threw some things together that basically represented my concept of packing.
While my wife was finishing up the packing on the morning we were to leave, I kept Beckett, who had no idea what was going on, occupied with breakfast and an adapted version of tag that he and I play during goof-off sessions. Once everything was packed and ready to be loaded into the car, my wife tagged me out and I went about packing up the “family truckster” (token “Vacation” reference) for the seven-hour road trip.
Since we were going to be staying in a six-bedroom beachfront house for a week, we did not even think about packing light. Nonetheless, I was still surprised with all the luggage and bags we crammed into the Tahoe that morning. A quick rundown from memory: three suitcases, one for my wife, one for Beckett and half of one for me with the other half used for my son’s incidentals and toiletries; a load of beach chairs and toys and an umbrella; three other bags containing my son’s favorite toys, sippie cups, food and other must-haves; two Pack-n-Plays; a gate for whatever danger the house posed; and my son’s favorite floor chair. (Oh yeah, in the interest of full disclosure, two cases of Corona Light made the trip as well.)
The vehicle was loaded to the tilt, to be sure, and thanks to a morning nap and some handy videos, Beckett made the road trip south without much of a fuss.
Upon arrival, for the first day or two, it was interesting to watch the kid dynamics unfold in the house. There were three kids under 3 years of age in our beachfront house. There were two, 17-month-olds (separated by less than a week) and a 2-year-old. As to be imagined, there was never a dull or quiet moment, at least as long as they were awake.
Early on, the pure volume factor got to Beckett, who was also dealing with some teething issues (the dreaded molars). When the 2-year-old would run around in excitement or screech at something that either frightened or delighted her, he would cry hysterically, the crocodile tears variety.
On the first day, I took Beckett in the pool and he wanted nothing to do with it because Molly, the 2-year-old, was splashing and laughing and squealing with her father. She was having a blast and simply enjoying herself, but he was startled and not coping well at all. Fortunately, by the next day, he was screaming right along with her and having a blast. They quickly became buddies.
It was interesting to watch the kid dynamics at play. This trip represented the longest period of time my son had been around other kids. There was some adapting, including many opportunities to give some lessons on sharing and hopefully some realizations that he can’t push, pat and lean on kids like he does his parents. However, I can easily say after seven straight days and nights with other little ones, we noticed he learned a lot and picked up some new words. It was good for him to be exposed to some people his own size for this extended period.
As to be imagined, once all the little ones called it a night, a big sigh of relief could be seen on the parents’ faces (insert Corona Light here). Three active and excitable little ones in a new house with a heated pool and beach 20 yards from the door can be quite exhausting. That’s why you can bet every parent in that house had no problem putting his or her little one down for the night. Playing and exposing your children to new adventures is a wonderful and cherished thing, but it can be quite draining.
What my wife will most certainly remember about this trip is that it was truly the first time her son started calling out by her name. Previously, when she would point to herself and say, “who am I?”, he would always say, “dada”, or maybe even a “dodo” (Diego). Somewhere along the way in North Carolina, he started calling her “mama.” However, what was funny about it was how he said it.
Now, when she points to me, he says, “dada” in his usual tone and manner. These days, when she refers to herself, he says, “mama” in a high-pitched sweet way, strangely enough the same manner in which he meows like a cat. It’s hilarious and something that unfolded while we were oddly enough 400 miles from home. That’s a memory that will stick with us.