A couple of weeks ago, my wife and I took a 15th anniversary trip to the beach in Florida. It was a fantastic and much-needed time of relaxing and breathing deep and being away from kids for a few days. And now, some thoughts regarding the entire process of going on vacation and leaving your six kids at home:
1. No matter how much you plan and prepare and set up child care and book condos and rental cars and arrange rides to and from school and sports and set out clothes and stock up on every medicine known to man, something can and will go wrong before you leave.
2. Case in point: when you have six children, a simple stomach bug becomes immediate cause for concern because who know how many children it will infect before it runs its course. The answer in this case, starting a week before we left and running until the day we were supposed to leave: all of them.
3. A 13-month old throwing up in the middle of the night is one of the saddest things you have ever seen. Her tiny little body somehow makes the exact same throwing-up noise that adults make. And yet, she probably handled it the best out everyone.
4. Six children all have different throwing up styles. (I promise to stop talking about vomit soon.) Some are quiet, some are loud. Some are independent, some need their heads and their buckets held in the just right position. Most did pretty well hitting the toilet and/or the buckets. (Nothing will ever be as bad as the time a few months ago when one of the little angels made it as far as the top of the carpeted stairs before losing everything. Down the stairs.)
5. Okay, moving on. Thankful for both a rental place and a mother-in-law with the flexibility to move everything back a day. Alabama is a long state to drive from top to bottom, but time on a road trip to decompress and actually talk to your spouse without being interrupted and listen to cool podcasts is really nice. Also, I’m not sure who in Alabama is causing so many injuries, but there are approximately a million billboards advertising personal injury attorneys throughout the entire southern half of the state. I advise not hurting anyone there.
6. There is nothing like the ocean to remind you of God’s might and man’s smallness.
7. A few days away from the responsibilities and urgency of everyday life does wonders for your soul. There’s value in slowing down, in not having to be somewhere every second, in giving yourself time to breathe.
Having that time with your spouse is important too. You can laugh at each other’s jokes, you can sit in silence without feeling like you have to say something every second (when usually if you don’t say it right now you won’t get to say it because the munchkins will drown you out), you can remember what you like to do together, you can just be in each other’s presence. Your kids and their needs are important. So is your marriage.
8. The sound of the sea waves breaking on the beach is the best sleep aid there is.
9. You get to meet and watch interesting people on trips. Just ask a question or two – people like to talk about themselves. People like Mister Ed, an 84-year old veteran from St. Louis who has been married for 61 years. He and his wife retired to the beach and he has to visit the boardwalk to grab the railing with both hands and lean, stretching out a bad back as a result of getting hit by a bike. He’ll order better weather, he tells you with a smile and a nod at the cloudy sky.
People like the tan 20-something college kid named John who sets out dozens of beach umbrellas and chairs every day, every motion practiced, efficient, deceptively simple. He’s been doing it since he was 12 and is now saving up to finish college. He wants to be an engineer, loves to surf, loves baseball and is ready to get out of a town everyone else wants to visit.
People like the older couple who spent their beach vacation putting together a puzzle of a town on a mountainside in Italy. They glued it together and are taking it home, pushing it out to their car on a flat cart.
People like Charlie, who moved to Florida from Illinois eight years ago. He and his wife came so much on vacation, they just told their kids they were moving. He runs a hole-in-the-wall breakfast joint that sells the best coffee and breakfast in town. We went twice.
People like the older folks at the beach who have zero flips to give about life and could not care less what you think about them. Their wrinkled skin and pot bellies and tattoos and gray ponytails and vapor pens and yes, even their bikinis, tell you they are confident in who they are, they have lived their life and now they are going to enjoy the beach.
People obsessed with their looks, people chasing kids, people splashing in the waves, people hunting crabs at night with flashlights, people who give you restaurant recommendations, people who have never met a stranger and talk to everyone they meet, people who hide behind their books, people who fill up the thousands of rooms and houses at the beach, people who dangle giant fishing rods off the pier, people who are like you and people who are not. Made in the image of God, every one.
10. When parents go on vacation without their kids, you know what they talk about the most? Their kids.
Thankful for 15 years of marriage, for time away, for six crazy kids and especially for two sets of parents and a few friends who watched the shop while we were gone. Who’s ready to watch them again??