Written by Emily
I’m writing this post on Wednesday evening. Having returned Saturday morning from a week-long “family vacation” with three children for the first time ever, I am only now returning to my former self. Only now, four days later am I speaking to my children in a voice I would not be embarrassed to use in public. Only now has my jaw relaxed. Only now am I thinking rationally and seeing clearly. Four days post “vacation” and now I’m dressed.
Needless to say, this vacation hit me hard. I was cold-cocked, really. I’ve known since I had Noah that my days of nodding in and out of sleep on the beach and paging through brain-candy reading material were numbered. I’m not that much of a rookie. But I wasn’t prepared for this aftermath: the imbalance that ensues as we all attempt to get back into the groove of living without constant stimulation and excitement and “YES!”
I should have known. I was given ample foreshadowing when Noah was little. It took him a few days to even out after an overnight trip. His nights were more sleepless. He was a bit clingy. He was just out of sorts. I knew that about him and expected it. Now, I know that my entire family experiences this–myself included. After an entire week away, it’s been hell here! I couldn’t even answer the phone for fear I would beg the caller to rescue me.
And while I was in pretty bad shape–exhausted and reeling over the bags to unpack and the laundry to sort and the kids to ease back into some semblance of a routine–my husband, the poor guy, was worse. He probably googled the definition of vacation 75 times to make sure he had not been mistaken. Nope. But in his defense, there is no real definition for a family vacation with small children (n: a stint away from home with greater expectations for entertainment and fun that leaves parents and caregivers hopelessly spent and dizzy with exhaustion.)
Our relaxing get-aways as a young married couple played on repeat in his mind’s eye like an old movie montage, and he was in mourning. He rolled in the sand, splashed in the waves, played football, chased the kids, slid down water slides, threw children in the pool until all of his energy was completely zapped. And then we came back home to our lives with three children who, when we returned, wanted nothing more than to roll in the sand, splash in the waves, play football, get chased, go down slides and get thrown again and again and again. And I should mention that my husband works from home, so escape is futile.
The most difficult thing about this post-vacation experience is that my husband and I turn to each other for support, for a hand through the rocky bits here and there. I liken us to wrestlers who get to tag their teammate into the match when things start to get tough: “You’re in!” This time, though, neither one of us had the energy to help the other. We were just too damn tired. Meanwhile, Noah and Chloe were playing dress-up and running laps around us in knight and princess costumes, while Sylvie produced a frenetic display of all of her developmental tricks. And we stood in slump-shouldered shock.
But now, four days have past. My breathing has become regular. We made it. And I can say that the vacation aftermath did some good for me. I’ll admit, there were moments I questioned the life I chose, but I determined, after four days of pulling myself from the wreckage of a family in post-vacation shambles, that no matter how ugly this gets, that I am going to be okay. We all are. And it made me realize that there is no one else I’d rather stand with amid the rubble than my husband. So I chose well, I think. And that’s reassuring.
It’s also reassuring to scoot next to my man when the kids are all tucked in and plan the vacations we’ll take in 18 years or so when the kids no longer want to be seen with us.
I think we’ll still want to be seen with each other. I think.