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Monday, June 27, 2022

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Parenting on Vacation

I’m in the middle of a lovely two-week stay at a beach house rental in the Outer Banks. We’re lucky enough to go every year, and it’s generally a great time. I get to spend time at the beach and get a good amount of reading in. I get to enjoy some good food and good drinks. But it’s different than vacations without kids. A LOT different.
I read somewhere that taking your kids on vacation isn’t actually a vacation—you’re just watching them in a new location. That’s pretty much true in my experience. The carefree days full of relaxation are long gone. You’re a parent now, so your days are much more focused on your kids. It might be planning outings, or making lunches, or slathering on sunscreen, or trying to get them to go to sleep. But that’s OK! It’s sad that vacations aren’t as relaxing anymore, but you can still have a really good time. These are some of my suggestions to bring you success on your family beach vacation.

Set Your Expectations

The most important thing is to set your expectations for the trip and know what you’re getting yourself into. Until they’re asleep, your kids are going to be a key focus of your day. So in your definition of success, you should include quality time with them. Construct a sand castle on the beach. Build some legos. Do a puzzle. Make dinner together. Or, go on an outing, go shopping, play mini golf, or get ice cream.
Do carve out time for yourself. This is supposed to be a vacation, after all. You deserve some time reading on the beach, or tanning by the pool, or drinking a beer in a comfy chair overlooking the ocean. And, you deserve to do it unmolested by your tiny screeching offspring. This part can be tough; you’ll need to be on the same page with the other adults and get them to watch the kids for a little while so you can relax. Then make sure to return the favor and spend some with the kids while mom sips some wine by the pool. I highly recommend trying to get at least one date night out just with your partner. If it’s just you and your partner this can be tricky, so that’s why my next piece of advice is:

Bring Your Village

It takes a village to raise a child. Or in other words, if you’ve got a village with you then they can watch your kids for a bit so you can get some *%$^& peace and quiet for 30 minutes. Right now as I’m at the beach house with my wife and two kids, we’re accompanied by my father- and sister-in-law, and a niece and a nephew. We’ve had some friends stop by for a few days too. All these people are able to help out with watching the kids. It gives a release valve for the stress and pressure that build up from getting screamed at all day by my children who are beautiful but so very, very loud.

Just make sure you set boundaries. Your immediate family is used to each other, but staying in a big space all together with your extended family can frazzle nerves pretty quickly. Make sure you know who’s going to be making dinner, who’s going to be doing the dishes, who gets which rooms. Most importantly? Get your own bathroom. Wheedle and lie, cajole and threaten, but DO WHAT IT TAKES. Burn those bridges, baby. You want to be able to do your business without interruption.

Be Mindful

Be mindful when you’re spending time with your kids. This time is out of the ordinary and special. When you’re out on the beach playing with your kid, it’s easy to fall into the same routine as usual—half paying attention and half feeling tired and stressed. Do your best to push that feeling aside and really cherish the time you get with your kid, whether it’s building sand castles, going on a walk, or playing in the water. If they’re at an age where they’ll play with you, take advantage of it fully, and be aware that it won’t last forever. I don’t know about you, but keeping that in mind helps me appreciate the time I have with my kids.

If you’re lucky enough to get some time off this summer, I hope this advice can maybe help you out a little bit to keep your sanity. It’s so easy to get back from your trip and feel like you need a vacation from your vacation. But set your expectations, get help from other adults, and be mindful in your time with your kids, and maybe you’ll get some good relaxation and great memories out of your trip.

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