So, this is part 'Mom Tip', part beach vacation post. It makes sense in my mind to post them as one because this was a trip we...I especially...have been hesitant to take for a while, but no longer! Just in case you are a 'mom of many' also hesitant to try the beach, or travel far at all, here's this Monday's tip....GO!
The Florida beaches, out West, New York....Just go! We have only been traveling for vacation with our kids the last two summers. Other than that we've made a few trips to my hometown in Oklahoma when the kids were younger and just this spring for my sister's wedding. Trips when they were younger are one of the reasons we'd put off an actual vacation, but last year, with one of my sisters in NY for only one more year, we knew we needed to give it a go and head North to visit family and do a little sightseeing in the City. We planned, we packed, we prayed...then we loaded and left with our travel plans in one hand and our bailout plan in the other because, let's be honest....10 days, 7 states, and thousands of miles with 4 kids = plenty of opportunity for the proverbial wheels to literally fall off. But the strangest thing happened.... It was one of the most gloriously fun ten days of our life as a family! The kids were amazing travelers, they were kind to each other, they listened to us and they soaked up every ounce of fun and adventure they could. Their wide eyed wonder at the sight of the Statue of Liberty thrilled me almost as much as she did, as it was my first time to see her as well.
So what did we learn? To go.
Maybe it was lucky, maybe it would never be that wonderful again, but we knew we had to go. Is it a bit of a pain to find accommodations for our large group at a reasonable rate? Yes. Is meal planning a bit of a chore? Not much more difficult than pleasing everyone at home around our own table, but yes. Is packing for four kids and myself a pain? Yes and no....Walmart is in every nook, so if we forget it, they have it. Does every mile take longer with six people? Yeeeessssss. But we did finally make every destination. Is it imperative to plan leg stretching stops? Oh yeah! Did we laugh more? And lighten up on routine? And buy more ice cream and snacks? Yes, yes and yes, and it was so much fun for all of us!
After that trip we immediately set our sites out West....Mount Rushmore, Badlands, Yellowstone.....but due to unforeseen circumstances late spring, we felt we needed to reroute for this year. We landed on either St. Louis or Panama City. I wanted St. Louis, Scott was leaning toward the beach. My own fear that they needed to be stronger swimmers was keeping me from the water, but he found a great deal on a condo, so..... the beach it was!
No worries! My laid back, fly by the seat of my pants self (everyone who knows me just LOL'd!) got tips from friends, switched gears and got busy on a packing list. If honesty is required here, I must say, I was a little uneasy about my kids getting in the ocean even as we hit the FL state line. Sure, we had built the excitement and I couldn't wait...it had been almost 20 years since I'd been....but my worrisome nature couldn't get past the potential of them drifting out to sea, getting caught in a rip tide, or some other statically improbable situation.
When we hit our destination, it was all we could do to get trunks on them before heading to the beach....they were SO excited and it was catching. I couldn't wait for them to feel the sand, or to see the great expanse of ocean before them, or to feel the waves crash into them. With our sunscreen drenched, lifejacket clad, wagon packed with beach chairs, towels and toys, circus of six, we crossed the street and the small boardwalk and took our first steps onto the sand. Their faces!! And they had hardly looked at the ocean yet! The boys loved the feel but Sophia just stood in it with her arms out shouting, "I can't, I can't!", "Help me, hold me!". But then as their sights set further out, in every direction, at the waves crashing as far as they could see, they yelled and took off, "Come on!! Let's get in!" My goodness, did they love it. Each in their own way, the older ones swimming just beyond the cresting waves, to try to ride them in to shore, and the younger ones just in the surf where they could feel the waves crash against them, but still had their feet on the sand. They loved it and my fears were silenced.
I won't go into the showers with sand in every crack, or the seafood, or the thrill of bunkbeds in the condo, or the Naval Air Museum, or the tropical storm that hit pushing us to leave a day early.
But I will tell you something I've noticed about mom's with lots of littles....there are those that go all the time, packing all their little people and navigating the world around them, and there are those that don't. That feel the weight of that previously mentioned list and the certainty they will need to use that bailout plan. That either through fears, anxiety, lack of motivation, or myriad other reasons, just don't go....You are whom this tip is for today. That was me. I dreaded losing a kid, or being on the road with crabby kids, or having one, or all, of them get sick, or the risk that they would be disinterested, bored, or ugly. I would plan, but never execute. We would price, but never follow through. If this is you.....GO. Plan it, price it, pack for it, and go. Go on the cheap, go all out. It doesn't matter. The kids don't care about that stuff anyways. They just want to be with you and you will LOVE sharing the experiences and witnessing their joy.
It's all worth it, the risks of sick kids, bored kids (which they won't be), and God forbid there ever be a lost kid. For all the love, pack away your fears, silence your anxieties and your devices, load the kids and get out there.....it's an amazing wide world, so go see it!