“Vacation” and “toddler” cannot be used truthfully in the same sentence. You may be on a trip with a toddler, and you may even enjoy your trip, but you are definitely not on a vacation. You may even take a trip without your toddler, but you are still not on vacation. Once you have a child, you are never again on carefree vacation.
Until last month, we had not taken a real vacation since before May of 2003 when I found out I was pregnant. At the time we were holding American Airlines “non-refundable, non-transferable, we-got-your-money-and-there’s-nothing-you-can-do-about-it-nannah-nannah-boo-boo” tickets, which by the way, is actually in very small print on the back. My obstetrician forbid any travel of any kind — no planes, no trains, no automobiles. Sure we have traveled since Sean was born, and as I said, vacation and toddler are by their very nature, mutually exclusive concepts, sort of like science and religion; sure you can put them together but never in a way that makes sense.
Before Sean came along, Antique Daddy and I used to take a lot of vacations. Those were the days of abundant sleep, free time, and brain cells. That was before our thinking, vocabulary and budget revolved around all things “diaper”. One of the things we really enjoyed was hiking in national parks, especially Yosemite. Waterfalls, canyons, rapids, bears, national park hotdogs – nothing could deter us being the risk-taking thrill seekers that we are, uh, were. These days a risky thrill is letting the boy run around the house after a bath au naturel or as we say here in Texas, nekkid. The hard part of planning a vacation in those pre-diaper days was narrowing down the many exciting possibilities.
Now vacations are a different sort of experience. First of all, the list of things you can do — or I should say, would be willing to do — with a toddler is much smaller. After reviewing our list of one option, we settled on a beach vacation. We figured after Katrina, how much damage could a 2-year-old do to the Gulf Coast? And even better, we managed to get another family to go along with us, with the idea that Sean might enjoy playing with someone under 45.
As a couple, travel was a simple affair. We each packed one bag and one carry-on and that was that. But the boy requires more. The boy requires a staff that includes baggage handlers. After packing a U-Haul with a full pediatric pharmacy, nursery and life-time supply of diapers, wipes, creams and more diapers (pull-ups, pull-downs, over nighters, swimmers, convertibles, some that even change colors), Pack-n-Play, car seat, toys, umbrella stroller, clothes, books, blankets and food we headed for the airport and made our way to the Sunshine State.
Once we arrived at our lovely condo, we couldn’t wait to take Sean to the beach to see the ocean. We spent an hour lathering up our fair-haired boy with SPF 4000 and loading daddy up like a pack mule with all the beach gear. As we made our way toward the beach, I was recalling photos tucked into Christmas cards that friends had sent of their children enjoying their beach vacation – happy little children in teeny tiny swimming suits, wearing funny little sunglasses and hats, playing in the sand with brightly colored buckets and shovels. I was already composing our Christmas letter in my mind detailing our fun beach vacation when we finally stepped foot on the sugar white beach of Destin, Florida.
Was that the screeching call of a lonely sea gull that I heard over the mighty roar of the ocean? No. It was my son screaming in terror. “Pick up! Pick up!” (translation: Pick me up! NOW!) Like some psychotic crab, he clawed himself half way up my legs before sliding down to my ankles in a sad little foamy slather of SPF 4000 taking a portion of my swimsuit with him. Using a mountain climber’s grip on my C-section scar, he climbed his way up my torso using my breasts as footholds until he made it to the top of my head. I was just glad he didn’t have a flag to plant. Holding on to my eye sockets for dear life, he lodged his bony little knee firmly in my solar plexis and screamed “Ho! Ho! Ho!” (translation: Home! Home! Home!).
Not exactly the pose I had in mind for our Christmas card.