When our daughter was 18 months old, my husband and I took her on a long road trip with his family to South Dakota to see Mount Rushmore, Crazy Horse Memorial, and downtown Deadwood. One night during the middle of the trip, my husband and I sat on the deck after a particularly long day of driving and sightseeing, and felt beat up and so exhausted. It was our first long family vacation with a child. Talking that night after the toddler went to bed, we realized there that we weren’t on vacation–we were on a trip.
In our pre-kid days, vacations used to be relaxing and recharging. We realized, though, that vacations with a young child in tow don’t really exist.
They become a trip instead of a vacation. You are just parenting in a different location.
In some ways, with an 18-month-old, parenting on a trip was harder than just parenting in our normal day-to-day lives. It was difficult to bring her along for extended driving and touring days and figuring out how to handle naptime. It was hard to readjust bedtime to a pack-and-play and figure out mealtime outside of our usual schedule. Diaper changes were always inconvenient.
We accepted that “vacations” would just have to be like this for a while. The next year, she was in the midst of potty training during our summer trip. The year after that, she was in the midst of the “three-nager” attitude. Both were extremely hard phases that didn’t lend themselves well to travel.
However, this year, things finally seemed to be different.
Our daughter is almost five and this trip was much easier and much more relaxing. We were finally on vacation again instead of a trip. She’s phased out her nap, doesn’t wake up at night, and can be more flexible about varying mealtimes. She’s much more agreeable and reasonable. She has the energy for fairly long days. She’s vocal about when she needs to use the restroom and doesn’t wait until the last minute to tell us.
It was so refreshing to see the light at the end of the tunnel after a few years of rough trips that left us ragged. We’re glad we went and made the memories with our families those previous years, but they were tough.
I don’t think we are done completing our family yet, so we’ll be back to difficult trips again at some point. But it’s relieving to now know that the phase will be temporary, and after a few years we’ll have nice vacations again. And while I have just one child that’s getting older, I’ll relish in the peace that I have!