We went on vacation with Tom’s family a few weeks ago and it was, um, full. Full, which is a euphemism for crazy, exhausting, hectic. Hectic. That actually nails it. Synonyms for hectic include: frantic, frenzied, feverish, manic, busy, active, fast and furious, fast-paced.
But instead of hectic, I’ll get back to that euphemism. It was full, full to the brim. And that positive spin is absolutely necessary because of the contents, the fullness, that which made our vacation so full.
Six kids ages four and under. That many toddlers could take over a small country, so it’s no surprise that they’ve completely upended our concept of vacation. They make the week more fun, and I say that sincerely. But they also dictate a schedule for every day (wake up, meals, naps, play, bath, bedtime) and that schedule includes at least one activity for every minute of the day.
Our crew included two newborns. Two. Babies are cute, but there’s a reason they don’t hand you a newborn baby when you land in Turks and Caicos for a luxurious beach vacation. It’s because babies do very little to enhance rest and relaxation.
Every morning started before 6 a.m., except for the nursing moms. For us the night or morning or evening neither began nor ended; it all just sort of blended together. The only time of day that meant anything was when we realized it was a socially acceptable time to have a glass of wine.
After breakfast we were at the dock most days by 9am. That’s especially impressive once you factor in the 45 minutes it took to apply sunscreen (Come here so I can put sunscreen on you. Stand still. Come back. Why are you walking away again? We aren’t done. WHAT IS GOING ON? JUST STAND STILL FOR THIRTY SECONDS ALREADY!), put on bathing suits, gather life jackets, walk down to the dock, and then walk directly back up because everyone needs to go to the potty.
We spent most of our days down at the dock. The kids are all growing so much in their independence and confidence in the water. And even so, the adults spent the whole time scanning the water, counting to be sure there were four little noggins bobbing in the water. Four noggins and one giant inflated duck float.
One of the best things about spending a whole week together is watching our kids’ relationships. Caleb adn David are so different and so similar (as most best friends are), and have had a best friendship since the moment they noticed each other. Every year their friendship grows and matures as they do, and it’s incredible to watch them encourage and influence each other. Even more astonishing was to see these two little boys hop up on paddle boards and suddenly, somehow, look like teenagers out there.
The two little girls have been on the outskirts for a while. Mary Virginia is only just now old enough to keep up with Berkley Grace, who’s been a great sport, happy when the boys include her and content to read books with her mama when they didn’t. Now the girls are forging a friendship of their own. They play with dolls and love playing games and eating snacks on the dock. In the lake they grimaced when those rowdy boys splashed them, and spent their time twirling, giggling, and saying, “I’m Ariel! I’m Ariel!”
It was full. From the moment we got there until the moment we left. Not one second of our vacation time was wasted. That’s what you get when you bring kids along. You suck the marrow out of each day, you get the most out of your vacation. You really earn that three minutes at the end of the day when you finally get to put your feet up and watch the sunset.
Because our kids are so young, every year at the lake looks very different. One year the little ones are content splashing in a baby pool and swinging in a baby swing, and the next year those same kids are jumping off the dock and catching cat fish with their bare hands.
But we are enforcing one tradition: every year, after we pack up our bags and load up our vehicles, then just before we leave we pile the kids on the couch for the annual cousins photo.
And then at the end we slap hands and give hugs all around, because we made it. We survived another vacation with all these kids. But we didn’t just survive, we had a great time. And we can’t wait for next year.
Watch the couch fill up: