Vacations with Kids

Last night was Happy New Year – and my two year old decided to stay up for it.

Where she got all this energy, I have no idea. We’ve been hiking and ice skating and playing non-stop. But, she did it, and then proceeded to ride the adrenaline high all the way to 2am.

Yes, you read that right. My two year old stayed up until 2am.

I wish I could say this was the most challenging night of the vacation, but it wasn’t. The first night there was no heat in the cabin, so the kids slept in our bed while we slept on the couch.
The second night one of the kids fell off the top bunk, and the baby was up at 5am.
The third night the baby woke up at 3:30am and refused to go back to bed.

In addition to this we’ve had tantrums, sugar crashes, missed naps, sibling fights, kids refusing to have “fun” after we’ve already driven to and paid for said “fun activity” and a 13 hour drive that was supposed to only take 10.

I’m not sharing all this to receive your sympathy. If you are a parent and have ever tried to take a family vacation – none of this sounds unfamiliar to you. It’s just the reality of this season with littles.

Having said all of that – this has been the MOST FUN, rewarding and beautiful vacation we’ve ever taken as a family. (Oh, did I mention, we are also sharing a cabin with extended family as well??)

How? How is this vacation so fun -even- with all these crazy (but actually normal) kid-issues??

It me.
I’m changing.
I’m more connected to myself, I have a deeper understanding of my triggers and my kids (and how the two interact).

I’ve been fascinated with this idea that parenthood is more enjoyable when I become more self-aware, and have greater self governance (aka – I actually become a grown-up) and I wanted to see if this would be true for this vacation – a time where I have typically not been my best self and have often exploded or just been grumpy and not a fun person to be with.

This trip I wanted to implement all I’ve learned. I arrived more prepared, both practically and mentally and because of this and no joke, I am really LOVING our vacation, and almost don’t want it to end. (who even AM I?)

Here’s what I’ve implemented that I hope can help you as well:

1) Expectations

I no longer see these trips as “vacations” – because, it’s not going to be a restful time. Instead my expectation is that we will make amazing memories and explore new places and enjoy new experiences together as a family. Nothing about it will be easy or peaceful or in any way catered to me and my ease. If anything, vacations are MORE work than regular life. The schedule is off, the diet is different, the atmosphere is not our normal comfort zone, there’s packing and travel and lots of moving parts.

Having this mindset shift has been KEY to enjoying these trips with my kids. My husband and I get on the same page about it – we know what the objective of this “mission” is and we are prepared for the combat we have to encounter to achieve our mission.

It’s actually way more fun this way. Leaning INTO the hard and embracing it.

2) Schedule Breaks

Because vacations (or should we just call them missions?) are actually MORE work with kids, we need to schedule breaks. I will arrange with my spouse or another family member, to get a morning off, or an afternoon nap. I will BURN OUT if I am always on high alert because the hotel or condo or cabin is not baby-proof or kid-proof or my kids are extra cranky because more sugar + less sleep. It’s a recipe for disaster if I fail to schedule breaks.

Continuing on with the combat theme – soldiers need to be pulled off the front line every so often to keep them fresh and battle ready. Stand up for yourself, ask for a break – IN ADVANCE – make it clearly known that you need this – you aren’t being selfish, just smart.

I actually had to do this, after being up since 3:30 am with the baby, I NEEDED a nap around 4pm…and I took it, and no one said ANYTHING negative, but I still felt incredibly guilty for doing so. I needed to talk myself out of some shame for a minute. I know it’s hard, but when I woke up I was a DIFFERENT mama, and had a blast with my family – no nap Vanessa would have been a VERY different story!

3) Be Proactive with activities and outings

If my mindset is “vacation mode” I don’t want to plan a THING. I want to sit in front of the fire, go shopping in the cute little downtown whenever I feel like it, and drink a few glasses of wine with dinner (which will be served whenever I start feeling hungry).

Taking THIS mindset on a vacation with kids is DISASTROUS. Do not – I repeat – do not try this on your family vacation (I may or may not be speaking from experience and I may or may not still be traumatized from the chaos which followed that course of action)

What has been more helpful for our family is to be proactive. Once again, seeing it as a “mission” to create wonderful memories with our kids. We look up things to do, we get groceries with specific (easy to make) meals for us and the kids, we bring toys that the kids can play quietly with when we need some down time. We give them clear directives for when things are happening and when it’s resting time, so they aren’t anxious and constantly asking to do things when it’s not the right time.

Yes, it’s work, but remember the objective for this mission is a wonderful family memory, connecting with our kids and each other and exploring a new place we don’t normally get to see.

4) Have an arsenal of Gospel Truth when ish gets REAL

No matter how much I prepared my mindset ahead of time, or planned out activities and brought along toys and crafts and scheduled times of rest – there were STILL moments when I felt frustrated and discouraged. An afternoon I thought I would get off to go to a winery, kid-free, turned into me staying home with the kids and getting peed on by my *mostly* potty trained, two year old.

Here are a few of the gospel truths I have, ready to go, because sleep-deprived, stressed out, stuck in a mountain cabin on a rainy day with hyper, kids Vanessa doesn’t always have the best scripture or truth at the ready.

“His grace is sufficient for me and His power is made perfect in weakness.”

When I come to the end of myself, He fills up what I lack. When I’m beyond tired, feeling frustrated or disappointed and there is no relief or escape, I have full access to his grace and power.

“To everything there is a season.”

This is a season. A SEASON. This is the season for SOWING. For INVESTING in my children. I cannot expect to reap a harvest of a beautiful and strong relationship with my children if I am not willing to invest in that relationship now. Not that I have to be perfect, but I do need to be in the game. Engaged. Trying. Willing to show up, even if I fail.

“My life is not my own, I have been bought with a price.”

Not only is this “mission” (aka vacation) something I will enjoy more when I come at it prepared to sacrifice and work hard for the good of us all, but motherhood in GENERAL is always more enjoyable when I realize this life is not MINE to live only for my own purposes, comfort and happiness. Of course, I believe in self-care, making myself a priority and maintaining my own identity, but at the end of the day, sacrifice is a HUGE part of motherhood – I can grumble, moan, complain and roll my eyes at every little thing – or I can believe that there is joy and fulfillment IN the sacrifice.

Unless a seed dies, there can be no fruit.
Unless I am willing to sacrifice, I will not enjoy the fruit of a wonderful season with littles and God-willing, a lifetime of strong connection with my children.

These four things made a WORLD of difference for me this vacation. It’s been absolutely THE most fun vacation we’ve ever had, and this may be COMPLETELY vain of me to say, but I think it has a lot to do with my attitude, planning and reliance on God – the mama sets the tone for the home and the vacation – amiright?

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