And it was not a small hotel. In fact, resort would be the more apt description. It went something like this. She was up late the evening before because we hosted for Thanksgiving. After being put down for a nap in the hotel she had been sleeping roughly an hour when the neighbor’s very loud industry type door (I said it was a resort, I didn’t say it was super classy) slammed and woke her up. She cried and couldn’t get back to sleep. So, that evening, she woke up around 11pm inconsolable and screamed bloody murder for an hour or two. She was super over tired and when she’s like that nothing makes it better but time. You can hold her, hug her, give her something to drink, bring her in your bed and it will all work for two seconds but when she hits the almost asleep phase, she screams again. So, after two hours of this and knowing we were getting mental death threats from everyone on our floor, we decided the next day we would have to be diligent to get her rested up again.
Here’s what I learned.
1) Let go of things that are less important but guard the things that are highly important. At home I make homemade baby food for my 7 month old. I just think it tastes better, it’s less expensive and it just seems easier. While we were gone we bought baby food. In my mind, a weekend of baby food out of a jar was not a big deal. I knew he wouldn’t mind and I wasn’t going to be OCD about it because I knew it’d be a pain. Her naps, however, ARE highly important. It is important to me that she doesn’t wake up in the middle of the night screaming because she’s over tired. When she’s well rested you never hear a peep til morning. So, the next day we decided to guard her nap like watchmen. We put her playpen in the bathroom hoping for an exhaust fan. When there wasn’t one, we turned on the tumble dryer up high and closed all doors that would possibly let in other noise. Daughter sleeping in the bathroom? Weird? Yes. But you know what? She “slept like a baby” and couldn’t hear the loud doors closing or even her little brother making all sorts of noises. Guarding the nap kept the rest of the weekend enjoyable.
2) Don’t go thinking you’ll “relax” when you have small children. My husband had an epiphany while we were away and he was attempting to watch football (American) and cricket (Australian). The kids were loud, our toddler was running around and saying “schwebe” which is her word for swimming until she was red in the face. He said he realized that pre-children a vacation meant relaxing to him. When you have children you don’t really relax on vacation, he said. And then I reminded him, uh, honey, do we relax at home with children? No, not really. It was a mindset shift. When we go away it may possibly be even more stressful, but it isn’t about finding serenity. It’s about spending time together, making memories and getting away from the everyday humdrum normalness that can really get a mother down (more on that here).
3) Embrace the phase of life you’re in and don’t worry that it’s vastly different from your previous and future phases. One evening we decided to go out to eat. We went to a nice, but family friendly, Italian restaurant to get some authentic pizza. It was fairly expensive (at least for two pizzas and one order of focaccia bread) and on the way back we came to a mutual understanding. Going to a nice restaurant with small children is not worth the money for us. We spent the whole time making sure our toddler didn’t break the plate and trying to distract her from pouring her water all over her pretty dress. She was well enough behaved, but it was just not a good time for the effort. The pizza was good and she snarfed down her focaccia, but we could have had less hassle, saved lots of money and had just as good of a time if we had eaten a burger or cheap pizza. We decided, instead of regularly being disappointed that eating out didn’t feel like it used to, we could have just as much family bonding by ordering take out or eating somewhere cheap. We’ll save money and then, later, when they are older and calmer and will enjoy the expensive food themselves (instead of finding it good, but no better than McDonald’s chicken nuggets) then we can resume eating out. Eating out is our example, but I’m sure every family has their own. Sometimes we just need to realise that baby and toddler phase is fleeting. So is preschool and elementary school phase. In fact, it’s all fleeting until BHAM they go to college and you wonder what.the.heck.happened.
Even without the relaxation, with the screaming, and watching her soak her new Laura Ashley dress (at least it wasn’t juice) I was happy we’d gone. I want my kids to have fun memories of family times. They (whoever they are) say that is what keeps families close well into adulthood.