“Let’s GO CAMPING!!!” said no mother who stopped to think about it EVER.
Ok – maybe that’s just me. Let’s run this through the JOYFILTER (this is a thing) – copious amounts of work to load and unload the RV, cooking, cleaning, watching kids who have death wishes and adventurous spirits, cleaning, meal prep, fighting over bedtime so I can eek out some semblance of an evening while enjoying my rye and Coke around a fire with my friends or just an alone evening with my husband. Shushed voices so the camping police don’t kick us out -again, hungover mornings (cuz one rye and Coke does that to me now) cooking breakfast, cleaning breakfast, arguing with my tiny terrorists that marshmallows ARE NOT breakfast. Throwing out breakfast, making lunch, sending the kids to play at the park so that dad and I can “do” the “dishes” J, then prepping dinner, and have I mentioned Cleaning (SO. MUCH. CLEANING.) Sand in all the places, kids fighting over the one “good water gun”. Cold nights sleeping in my sweat pants, sneaking into the RV to have shushed quiet sex (TMI? … Moving on) cooking, laundry … oh right … piles of laundry that are in garbage bags to rot, wet towels in the middle of the black monstrosities that get warm with bacteria growth – and, when we get home, it’s all dumped on my list of things to do. And people call this a Vacation? They even call it a “rest”? I’m baffled.
On the flipside, there are all the memories and experiences – the first time Chrystina made a fire with Dad, rolling down the hill with Papa, BBQ’ing farmer sausage with Grandpa Jim, waterskiing, Grandma’s first and only time on a tube (because Kaylee asked), playing cards into the late night, hushed stolen intimate marital moments ;-), hot chocolate with grandma Dot. The lost shoe of 2009. Placing the tiny kids in the cargo holes to sleep. The warden trying to kick us out (but the gates are locked – nobody is allowed in or out of the park after 11 – those ARE the rules, so technically we are not ALLOWED to be kicked out). Flying kites, riding bikes, joint potluck dinners with Cheetos, stolen moments after dark at the park, skinny dipping in the moonlight, tubing down the Cottonwood River … all of these experiences I would never trade – we have made some AMAZING family memories and have had SO many fits of laughter.
We then tried a tropical VACAY… that HAS to be better, right?
The first time we went both kids were little; they were not allowed to drink the water, which made bath time SUPER stressful as the girls’ favorite game was to drink the water out of the facecloth or toothbrush. Mosquito bites were potential disease sites, we had an armed guard escort us everywhere as the girls were young and apparently the sex trade is a real thing and the area we were in the girls are blonde and would fetch a great price (insert shocked face and big gulp here). We put the girls into the rainbow jail (tropical daycare with a rainbow fence). Well, Kaylee wasn’t impressed and needed her swim suit so she left. I found her at the bar two hours later wandering the resort, lost) The food was “different”, so they ate nothing but French fries. Meal times were SUPER stressful making sure they got a protein and a veg and not salmonella. My head was always with the kids making sure they were rested, sun-screened, shaded, hydrated, nourished, safe, life-jacketed by the pool or in the ocean. Restful or vacation would not be words I would use to describe this experience.
On the flipside, the girls on the giant pirate ship walking the high wire with the net beneath them, the zip lines and the guides being the kids’ guardians. Swimming with the dolphins (the only thing Kaylee asked to do), Chrystina finding baby “tilly” and acting as guardian #warmedmyheart. The copious amounts of “chicken photos” that were taken, their fist time on a huge stage as they performed a dance for the Barcella guests. The New Year’s Eve party where they got to have their first “disco” experience and we all danced until 1 am as a family. Morning wrestling as the girls jumped on our bed waking us up because the SUN WAS up. (Ok, that could be on the flipside, too). The first time the kids saw the ocean and ran in with their clothing on (we had arrived late at night), and you couldn’t wipe the smiles off their faces. we have made some amazing family memories – so many fits of laughter.
So this last year we had a brain wave that we would take our older children on a tropical vacation – THAT would be restful. We wouldn’t have to worry about them escaping from rainbow jail, drinking the water, or drowning. I wouldn’t have to always be “ON”. Except now that I had teenage girls, I was all of a sudden very hyper aware of every leering eye, every drink the kids had, every inch of coverage (or not) provided by their bathing suits. If they got up to play volleyball with the guys from Germany. I was not sleeping on the beach. No, I was suddenly aware and VERY awake. Mike and I walked the beaches and reminisced about previous trips with only adults, only to return to our teenagers to find that a very nice gentleman had made friends with them to protect them from the overly flirtatious bartender that understood the word “virgin” in Kaylee’s drink order to mean something else. *SIGH* And I am ashamed to say as I saw this lovely “protector” from a distance he seemed ill-fitted, seated next to my girls on the beach in his yellow shorts, and I quickened my step to get to them, judging myself the entire way that we should not have left them, we SHOULD be supervising, what kind of a MOTHER am I ??? AAARRRRUUUG. Even now the thoughts hit me in the gut. My wonderful husband wanted nothing more than for me to relax and for us to have fun and lots of “marital moments”. I.WAS.TOO.STRESSED.OUT!!*Ps that is a picture of my daughter talking to some nice gentleman from Ontario #whendidIgetsoold
Then, we saw them. As we stood on the balcony, we watched this family of five coming back from breakfast (we assumed). The mom was pushing the baby carriage and herding the toddler like a stray cat. In my mind’s eye there were six kids, but I know for true there were only three. The dad walked along holding the eldest’s hand, and (meaning no disrespect) we commented that the dad had his own tuba soundtrack as he dope-de-dooed along completely unaware while his wife (to her own sound track of “The Flight of the Bumblebees”) got the stroller stuck and unstuck, stopped the tiny toddler from eating a bug and petting the stray (we assume) cat, rocked the carriage, stuffed a bottle in the carriage (we also assume there was a baby in there), dropped the dragging baby blanket, rescued it from the puddle, stopped the toddler from escaping down a path to the waiting ocean, encouraged the toddler to NOT go in the swimming pool only steps away, stuck a soother in the stroller, took the ingested flower out of the toddler’s mouth and finally, when the toddler bit the dust tripping over her oversized sparkly light up sandals, mom yelled, “HELP!”. Dad turned around to his red-faced wife and put his hands up like “What?”. She equally threw her hands in the air and looked around like “Don’t you see?”. And that’s when the fight started, and we don’t assume, we could hear them from our balcony.
Male and females are so different. The male often looks around and says “What? Everyone is happy and healthy and all is well.” So here’s an overview – females are in and through every detail; they are IN IT. Looking at all the scenarios and all the possible outcomes, I admit sometimes we stress about it too much, and that’s when we NEED our masculine counterparts to take us out of the moment.
My favorite thing is when Mike helps me out of the moment. He does this in a number of ways (depending on my approachability). First of all he joins me in the moment, assuring me that my perspective has value and he understands. He places his hand on my face, or he holds me until I lose my edges, until I breathe into the embrace, and relax into it – he won’t settle for a fake hug or a cheek kiss. We have realized the value of family experiences and vacations, that they are TWO different things for us. I do not believe that I am alone. I LOVE all our family experiences and vacations AND I need to get away, to gain perspective and look at things from a distance. I need sometimes to be reminded that I am more than a mother, wife, business owner, friend, or any #Label. I AM WHO I AM. At my core, I am feminine (and sometimes masculine) energy in motion. I am love and light, and I am lovable, and I can relax into that. The beautiful thing that transpires – I relax, I find my sense of humor, I become more attractive as I remember ME as I become that girl again, the one he fell in love with, the one that I love. I rediscover femininity, my sex drive awakens, I become impassioned about life and all things. I am able to take this into my everyday as I find “her” – in a hot bath, in a walk in the crunchy leaves, in morning stillness, in my breath during conflict ;-).
So I invite you to share this with your counterpart and communicate what you WANT or NEED in order to connect with your core self. There is something amazing that happens when we are given the opportunity to sleep through the night, or sleep until we wake up on our own, or have a bath without a) listening to kids fight down the hall b) seeing their little fingers curl under the door or c) hearing nothing and wondering if they are dead. There is something amazing that happens when we can go for a special coffee without first having to strap a kid into her safety seat. Or when we can watch an entire program without getting up to wipe a butt, blow a nose or fix a snack for anyone other than yourself.
And if you are the masculine counterpart, I invite you to accept. What I mean is you may be looking around, throwing up your hands saying “what?”. Everything “looks” fine. Just accept the fact that there might be some things going on that you didn’t see. And don’t take it personally – it doesn’t mean that we don’t want to be moms or that we don’t love our lives, or that we don’t love our kids or YOU for that matter. All it means is that we haven’t mastered the art of caring about our family without constantly carrying them and thinking about them.
Please send me on an actual vacation where I can cast away all my cares and just rest, where I can remember my sense of humour, my sensuality, my smile… where my burdens fall off me and are carried by the wind and water, where I can just pee alone and rest without interruption.