My family and I recently got back from our annual “escape from this horrible winter weather” vacation (or trip as I like to call it because is anything really a vacation when kids are involved?!) in Florida, and as per my usual motto these days, I’ve been trying to do a little reflecting on my experience to see if I’ve learned anything. Now I’ll start by saying this is the fourth year we’ve done this. I can honestly say I don’t think I’ve ever pictured myself as the suburbanite mom vacationing with the herd down in Florida every year, but here I am…living the all-American dream. I suppose I vaguely remember the years spent daydreaming about wandering the countryside in Europe or experiencing some exotic safari in Africa. Now my daydreams consist of a flight where A) no one screams, B) no one gets sick and/or especially C) no one has any blowouts. Oh, times have changed.
Anyway, I digress. Now this time around, I decided to truly take a step back from my insane preparation. In the past, I’ve literally started packing a month in advance. With three little kids, it’s amazing the amount of shit, that for some reason, we as parents think they actually need. Even though they really don’t. So not only did I decide to scale it down this time, I also decided to procrastinate and wait until the last minute to pack. (I’m starting to sweat just thinking about how crazy I’ve become!) Last minute. Bare bones essentials. And yet I still remembered to pack that thermometer just.in.case. And believe it or not, not only did my new packing technique work, but I was also amazingly less stressed. So there’s my first lesson I learned from this trip: Calm the F down, girl. You’re going to Florida for a week… NOT the Arctic for a year. If you forget something, you can always *gasp* just BUY IT.
The next smart move I made on this trip was that I made NO plans. That might seem crazy, because who goes on vacation and doesn’t make plans or research for weeks on all the different must-see places to visit?! I don’t know if I was just too busy this go around or just didn’t give a rats ass, but who cares. It was glorious. We did check out a few beaches (that I spent about 20 minutes looking up the night before) and found a gator place for the kids, but that was the extent of it. And every time we asked the kids what they wanted to do the next day, all they ever said anyway was POOL DAY! So every morning when the first kid would wake me up at 6:30 am begging to watch the iPad, after being woken up anywhere from one to three times in the night due to someone needing covers, someone needing their baby or someone just wanting to tell me they pooped, it made it all just a little bit easier knowing that I had no place to be that day. So, lesson number two: ease up on the planning. No one gives a shit if you drop a few hundred bucks to check out some tourist attraction. Everyone is just as happy (and the parents are way more relaxed) practicing cannon balls in the pool all day.
Now, with all this extra time on my hands I found myself doing two things. First, reading. Can I just say I read over two entire books last week… in the daytime! It was heaven!! I highly recommend it. Secondly, I found myself actually watching my kids. Now this one was a hard thing for me to truly recognize. Because sure, of course I watch my kids 24/7. But I don’t really see them. I learned there’s a huge difference. I watch them to make sure they don’t hurt themselves. I watch them to make sure they’re behaving (well enough that they’re not killing each other). But I don’t always watch them closely enough to know what they’re thinking or feeling. This past week was different. I took the time to listen to my two girls sing the chorus – well “let it go, let it go, for the first time, let it go, let it go” to the song “Frozen.” Over and over. I watched my middle one confess her love to her younger sister and try to hug and kiss her. I watched my youngest then swat my middle child away. I watched my son push himself until he was able to swim the length of the pool underwater. Last week I admittedly saw a lot go on with my kids. And I loved it. But I feel like on any other given day, most of what I saw might go unnoticed or pushed aside by whatever first-world, stupid problem I think I have at that moment. So my third lesson for the week is to simply slow the hell down and take a look around me. Focus on what’s in front of me and not just what’s next on the calendar.
I feel like so much of my time is spent running here or there, focusing on what each kid has coming up next and who needs to be where that I’m never actually focusing ON my kids themselves. Additionally in between the daily chaos of life, I’m always waiting for that next “big thing.” When is the next kid getting into school? What are we doing for the summer? When is the registration deadline for X, Y or Z? And it goes on and on and on. My husband thinks I’ve gone deaf lately because most of the time when he says something to me, my first reaction is, “what?” And it’s not that I don’t hear him, it’s that my brain is split into so many directions at all times that it just takes me a second to process what he just said, find an answer, all the while I’m still thinking ahead to the next thing I need to be doing.
Our lives are only so long and our memories (at least with a brain like mine) can only hold so much. Sure, there’s definitely some big events that are worthy of an entire page in our life’s scrapbook. But I’ve realized there’s also so many small things that are just as deserving. I don’t just want to remember that we took a trip to Florida in 2018. I want to remember my little girls singing. Or my son as he cheered with pure jubilation that he beat his mother at bags. (I blame the beers.) I even want to remember my son screaming in the way back of our rented minivan (because that’s what everyone wants to drive on vacation) that the shell he had coveted from the beach earlier that day had a live creature, and it was attempting to escape. (Poor guy never dreamed he’d meet his demise in the Publix parking lot.) While small and seemingly meaningless, these moments comprise the true pages of a person’s scrapbook. They tell the real story, something a date in the calendar can never do.