Everybody say OH WELL
When traveling with children it's inevitable that:
- Someone will fight
- Someone will cry
- That you won't be able to afford certain souvenirs
- That you will get lost trying to find your hotel, then need to switch rooms, and then still have to order more coffee, more shampoo, more blankets, extra towels, and an extra room key.
- The jacuzzi will be out of order
- You will lose your parking ticket
- You will park fourteen miles from any attraction you have to walk to
- There will be no bathrooms anywhere when you need them
- No one will agree on what to have for breakfast, lunch, dinner, snacks, drinks, or dessert
- The minivan will amplify the sound of children approximately 100 times
- You will all wear on each other's nerves
- At some point in the vacation you will swear you need a vacation from the vacation, and that you are never taking one again
A father is often the intervention, and he is almost always the comic relief. While a mother spends her time patrolling the world and her children, on the lookout for misconduct or potential disaster, the father somehow accepts the existence of both, the likelihood of each, and still manages to enjoy the times in between.
It is my most critical lesson as a Momdad. To exist in those spaces.
On my Momdad vacation I managed at last to do that. Perhaps because I had been in a hospital where children were dying. I saw them with my own eyes. Kids with bald heads, and wasted limbs; parents with haggard faces and empty arms.
Somehow, through some miracle or sheer luck...I have four...FOUR children, who are healthy and whole enough to spend an entire day playing with me... running, jumping, fighting, eating, wetting their pants, screaming at each other, finding excitement at new discoveries, laughing, and stopping to tell me that that they love me.
We walked out of that hospital together, and somehow as soon as that sunk in, the trivial inevitable mishaps of life didn't seem like such a big whooping deal any more.
I managed to experience everything on the list above and say "Oh well."
Those are not the things I will remember about this vacation.
I will remember that in the spaces between those things:
- We played in the pool without looking at the clock
- We shopped for breakfast at the farmer's market, my teenager like the chef she someday wants to be carefully selecting each mushroom, each piece of fruit delicately and deftly, silently thrilled by her own knowledge and skill in the matter
- We learned that cherries taste better when they dribble down you chin
- We walked to the famous Arch, it's slender arcing curve nestling just a small coal of pink light before the sun went down. Underneath it we lay on our backs and watched the sky. And then we walked down fifty steps to a flooded street, a surreal scene with puddles of street lights, and signs cocked at an angle and staked in the river. My children waded up to their knees in the Mississippi where the road used to be, delighting in the strangeness of the moment, in the way the water hushed and hid things that they knew had been there. It was my favorite moment of the trip, maybe even one of the best of my life. We had come upon a unicorn, unexpected magic spilling into the everyday.
- At the zoo I rented a stroller that would have been worth my last penny, it held all three little kids and I could have pushed it with one finger. The animals were all out right on cue. We pet stingrays, laying on the wall on our bellies, reaching out while the Rays nuzzled us and splashed and jumped. We could have spent all day there, connecting with something unexpected. I followed the Middle Littles as they ran from exhibit to exhibit, equally excited about lions, chimpanzees, penguins, snakes, sea lions, birds, and even bugs on the ground. Insert all the cliches about experiencing the world like a little child here.
- We sailed home without a hitch, stopping halfway to get a pizza. Instead of eating in the car or the restaurant we took dinner to park. And then after we had eaten, even though it was dark and we were exhausted and road weary and hours from home we stopped and played until late at night, trying rock climbing walls and teeter totters and the tiny tots playground, and the big twisty slide.
We played until there was no way we would get home before midnight.
Don't sweat the small stuff
Be able to tell the difference between the small stuff and the big stuff