(Editor’s Note: This article was reprinted from October of 2020, as the writer is on vacation.)
Last week, we packed up the family and headed south for a week to our favorite regional destination – Emerald Isle, N.C.
This has become a tradition for my family as well as two friends’ families.
Over the years, our group has expanded.
Last year, there were six adults and three kids. This year, the parental advantage was narrowed to the slightest of margins – six adults and five kids.
That’s a significant change from last October, and we probably never realized then how easy we had it when the parents doubled up the young ones. The change brought on by the two new babies was palpable, but the larger adjustment was the addition of another year for the older kids in the house.
As you can imagine, times got a little hectic and loud on this trip, not just on the seven-hour commute but also during the seven-day stay at an enormous eight-bedroom, oceanfront house, which by the end of the week actually seemed a little cramped.
Family vacations are wonderful and I am excited by the many that lie ahead. However, and I think most parents would agree, they are not what I would call relaxing most of the time.
It was not a vacation to get rejuvenated or refreshed. It was actually exhausting in many ways, but I wouldn’t change any of it.
All of the trials and tribulations that come with five kids in one house led me to wondering if perhaps a week away for the parents sans the kids may be in order in future years.
It’s a week tailored for the kids. All aspects of every day revolved around them, and that’s how it should be, but that sort of fun does not usually result in a peaceful hiatus from real world life.
The dynamics of the house were compelling and, of course, dominated by the goings on of the five children – the so-called “big kids” comprised of a 3-year-old girl and a pair of 2-year-olds boys and the “little kids,” an 11-month-old boy and an 8-month-old girl.
It was interesting to watch as the “big kids” interacted with each other. There was a lot of running and too many modified games of chase and tag to count. It was great to watch them entertain each other and how much fun they had. Each played with the others’ toys. They swam in the pool together and hit the beach at the same time. Each went for bike rides. Each had a blast, and you could see it on their faces.
On each step of the way, the parents were involved, needless to say. While the “big kids” in the house like to think they are independent, they still needed to be watched carefully, as they were prone to sneak off at different times to explore various areas of the house without their folks. They were in perpetual motion and with that came a lot of parental monitoring, and that can be strenuous.
With all that said, there were some moments of relaxation. Naptime for instance was amazing. When the kids were down, hot tubs, pools, sun and beach were all to be enjoyed with friends – pretty much my idea of bliss.
And, oh yeah, when all the kids were napping or sleeping, there were five monitors nearby humming the sweet sound of white noise. That was ever so delightful and cheered by us parents.
What was immediately noticeable was when one of the “big kids” woke up, all the others typically followed suit. Nobody wanted to miss anything.
It really was a fascinating week to observe the kids at play, and the “little kids” were just along for the ride. As is usually the case, they were simple to care for compared to the “big kids”. They just did the usual – eat, play and sleep to be followed by more eating, playing and sleeping. Along the way, they observed much of the big kid fun nearby.
If the “big kids” wanted to swim in the pool, the little ones were hanging around watching the fun. If the bigger ones wanted to hit the beach, the littlest among us came along. If the “big kids” were having a meltdown, the “little kids” stared in bewilderment, as if to wonder what’s up with them. It’s worth noting I often think the same thing.
Vacations are usually about rest and relaxation, but the kids prevented that from happening when they were awake. That was fine by me because having fun with my family is what life is all about to me. However, there was no vacation from parenting on this trip.
For instance, on many occasions, I found Beckett, my 2-year-old, standing on the second-floor deck with a baby monitor in one hand and a remote control the other, preparing to launch them over the railing to the pool below. That was a fun game for them all. Fortunately, I was able to block that attempt. We were not so fortunate with a few puzzle pieces, cups, trucks, sandals and crayons, all of which found their place in the bottom of the pool at one point in time.
One of the recurring and interesting aspects with the “big kids” was the sharing aspect. Some were better than others, and I would have to rank Beckett toward the least willing to share. That’s something we have to work on, as we knew it was already an issue with his younger brother, Carson.
What seemed to result in this inability was a constant stream of “Beckett wants …” when we got home. For some reason, he has taken to referring to himself in the third person, which makes for some interesting comments along the way.
All in all, it was a marvelous time. Seven straight days of all-kids was incredibly memorable, but I returned more tired than when I left.