On Acceptance (or, Planning Your First Vacation with Kids)

In 2009 my husband and I took the vacation of a lifetime. We flew into Portland, Oregon and drove south for two weeks until we hit San Francisco. We ate to our heart’s content–we joked that we were never, ever hungry and that was the truth. We visited the Oregon State Aquarium in Newport, drove along the stunning coastline, climbed through caves, tasted wine at vineyards, hiked through redwoods and in the Columbia Gorge, ate tapas and drank Sangria and sherry until I thought the staff at the restaurant would have to roll us up the hill to our hotel. We stayed at cute, out-of-the-way places, little B-n-Bs and inns as unique as each owner. One even had llamas and alpacas on the property, which was situated just across the road from the Pacific.

I mean, really? When I remember that vacation it seems like we visited a fantasy realm.

So, when I began to get itchy feet we decided that we’d go to Oregon again. J has family there, and we wanted to test the waters of traveling with a kid.

But as soon as I started to plan the trip all of these old (and firmly settled) feelings of ambivalence and bitterness towards being a mom resurfaced. Scratch off days of vineyard-hopping! And say goodbye to all of those cute places–none of them allow children (and who could blame them? Babies =/= peaceful.) Plus–the extra plane ticket, food, bigger car rental–the trip was just going to cost more. Which was less money for the fun stuff.

As I began to plan the trip I just wasn’t excited. In fact, I didn’t want to go. In my intuition, I felt that we, as a family, were not going to go on the trip that I was currently planning.

Yesterday, I called my own dear mom feeling completely frustrated. As I vented my own feelings…

Me: “Would a standard studio hotel room be that bad?”

Mom: “Do you really want to go to bed at 7?”

Me: “But suites are more expensive!”

Mom: “Haven’t you learned anything about parenthood in the past 10 months? It’s always more expensive.”

…She asked me some really pertinent questions. One, what was I expecting out of this experience? Why was I so set on going? Would it just be a waste of money? And might it not be better to take a shorter trip but fill it with more quality experiences? She also said that vacations with kids aren’t really vacations, they’re just parenting elsewhere.

Finally, in her own way she said this: Just Accept It. If you can make peace with the fact that this trip is different and it can’t and won’t be the same, then it’ll be fine. If you can make decisions based on reality, not the past, and not fantasy, you’ll have fun.

When I hung up the phone I sat at the computer and began to type in Suites, Cabins, Vacation Rentals. J and I decided to chop four days off the trip. As I figured out the itinerary I decided that we shouldn’t go to so many places, instead, we should stay for longer at places that have more to do.

I began to get very, very excited. This! was the trip my little family was going on. We’re going to stay in a centrally located suite in Portland so we can walk to attractions and fit C’s nap time in. All the places that we’re staying in have a bedroom separate so she can sleep and we can hang out. They also have kitchens so we can eat more cheaply. Fortunately, we’re visiting family in one city so that’s free lodging.

J and I will still get some adult experiences–some vineyards are just glorified picnic areas. Hiking can definitely be a family adventure with a Kelty carrier or Ergo.

And somewhere inside, on yet another level, I’ve accepted that fact that I am a parent. It’s kind of crazy that even 10 months later there is still all of this…accepting…that has to happen. As different situations come up I realize that…oh yeah, I can’t–or shouldn’t–drink four Chuys (or El Chile’s…mmm…) margaritas, because I have to wake up early even if it’s Saturday.

Just, you know, for example.

It feels good to have shed another layer of resistance to change, to reality and to life. It’s kind of amazing that once we remove these mental barriers we have what opens up to us. At the same time all of the above was happening, I felt so much resistance to how I had to schedule my day, but now it just seems like…not a big deal. So I have to write at different times than I used to. Big deal! So I have to exercise when I won’t fry like an egg…it’s summer, don’t be so bitchy!

I don’t know how to end this post, really, but just to say it feels good. It feels like a weight off my shoulders. When I look at our travel plans I get genuinely excited. When I sit down to write at 10 a.m. instead of 10 p.m. (when I’m in bed!) I am still productive. It all works out. It’s all just…fine, you know?