Normally I would say that I do not recommend traveling with a child under the age of 6 months, whether it’s to visit family members far away or to take a family vacation. Because usually it’s not a vacation. For anyone. No matter how hard you try, or how many positive thoughts you send out into the universe, things very rarely go smoothly. My husband and I just took both our kids, (3 1/2 years and 3 1/2 months), to Murrells Inlet, SC for a much needed family beach vacation. We decided to go for the same reason that all families decide to go somewhere- so that my husband could spend a little more time with the kids and I could spend a little less time with them.
I was looking forward to the ‘vacation’ and the ‘beach’ part, but not looking forward to the ‘family’ part, to tell you the truth. Don’t get me wrong, I want to spend time with my family, I just don’t wanna get my hopes up by calling that time a ‘vacation’. In the past, before our daughter was born, whenever we attempted a family vacation, I have not slept a wink and neither has our son. I have never been able to relax, and then couldn’t wait to get back home where things would inevitably be more relaxing.
So… I had a lot of anxiety about this trip, (which is not really surprising if you know me at all). We were going to be in the car for 4-5 hours, with the dog who refuses to sit anywhere but in the driver’s lap, the 3 year old who gets car sick, the 3 month old who hates the car, the mommy who gets car sick, all the crap-loads of stuff you have to bring to go anywhere with children, and the daddy who desperately tries to keep everyone happy and healthy.
The car ride there was actually a breeze, all things considered. We had to stop only once for us all to stretch our legs and allow me to feed the baby, and I had to ride in the back seat for awhile, squeezed tightly in between my children, until the baby fell back asleep again, but that’s all. Once we got into town, we needed to go to the grocery store, and I had the brilliant idea that I should take the baby (who had just settled in to another nap) to the store while my husband and our son unloaded all of our stuff at the house. I would call him to come pick us up when we were done shopping and then we could all get started on our vacation(!).
The second I unsnapped the infant car seat and began to carry her inside the store, her little eyes popped open. This 3 month old was wide awake and my heart began racing. It was almost time for her to eat again and since she was now awake, my grocery visit was about to get really complicated. We made it through the produce aisle, all the way up to the bananas, when she started to cry. I decided I should take her out and put her in the front carrier thingy and ‘wear’ her for the rest of the time. She did not like that one bit. I think once I took her out of her seat, she thought she was about to get fed…then when that didn’t happen, she told me, very clearly, that she was not happy with me.
I bounced her and tried all my mommy tricks to get her to quiet down, but nothing was working. I also think she was freezing, considering she was dressed for a car ride in the 95 degree heat, not for the 50 degree grocery store weather. So I’m still stationed in front of the bananas and now had crowds of South Carolina old ladies stopping by to either offer their services or supply me with never-ending compliments on how ‘cute’ my screaming baby was. It was very sweet, but unless they were able to shoot breast milk from their compliments, I had no use for them. Finally a manager came over to help when I was trying to simultaneously bounce my unhappy baby and bend over in a short skirt to put the car seat under the shopping cart. She took the car seat and told me she would keep it at customer service until I was done. As sweet as that sounds, I really think she was just trying to expedite my trip so I would get the hell out of her store. What I didn’t realize at the time, was that when she took the car seat, she also took my cell phone that was inside of it, so there went my chances of calling for rescue.
My daughter is officially freaking out by the time I get to aisle one. So I take her out and hold her with one arm, while pushing the cart with the other. This seems to help a bit, but not enough. I’m trying to reach things in high places, while also trying not to drop my screaming child. I do manage to drop several grocery items from the shelves and am shocked at the amount of people who look at me, and continue to walk by instead of stop and help me pick up my things that are now scattered across the aisle. It was a disaster. Poor thing though, she was scared, hungry, and freezing. Believe me, I definitely considered whipping out the feeding bags right there in the coffee aisle, but decided against it since I was only going to be there for a little bit and she takes so long to eat. The only time she calmed down was in the wine aisle. (That’s my girl…)
I finally finished, and surprisingly made it through check-out very quickly (it’s amazing what you can get away with when you’re holding a screaming baby). I eventually was able to call my husband to come get us and once we walked back outside into the 98 degree heat, she immediately stopped crying. Of course.
For the following couple of days, things couldn’t have gone smoother. It was fantastic! I got to watch my son make buildings out of sand and we giggled until our stomach’s ached while I hoisted his tiny body over too many ocean waves to count. I even got to lay out by the pool, all by myself. In order to do this, however, it was necessary that I wear a bathing suit. Ha. Yeah…. I just had a baby Three months ago. Who, in their right mind, chooses to put on one of those things after ‘just’ having a baby?! (Freaks of nature like supermodels and my daughter’s Godmother excluded). When I was packing my suitcase for this trip, all my cute little bikinis just sat there and mocked me. They, and all my tiny shorts and mini dresses laughed so hard at the very idea that they would be coming along on this trip with me. So I found myself doing the one thing I vowed never to do as a mom or a woman. I had to put on the one article of clothing I swore I would never own. A tankini. I totally understand why these things exist now. Except I was (and still am) a little unclear as to how they work exactly. While laying out by the pool, I still wanted to get a good tan with no visible tan lines, so I removed the straps and tucked them into the top of the suit like I have done all my life, but the tankini revolted and every time a gust of wind blew through the harbor, my right breast came out and winked to all the other tankini-wearin’ mamas and their tankini-wearin’ daughters.
Both kids slept perfectly all night, every night, naps included. I actually got to relax on this vacation AND get a tan for the first time in over a year. I got so relaxed, in fact, that I forgot to flip over while tanning so now I look like Ross on that episode of Friends where he gets a spray tan and doesn’t know how to count to ten. We accomplished a lot on this trip- My son fell in love with the ocean, I got to both look at and speak to my husband like a normal human being, we ate great food, watched many beach sunsets, and my 3 month old daughter laughed for the very first time. (OK, so it was actually the second time. But no one else was around when it happened the first time and I could never get her to reenact it. So everybody thought I made it up.) It ended up being the perfect family vacation.
As we walk through life and grow older, graduate from school after school, we think all of our studies have ended, and that there is nothing left to learn. The truth of the matter is that the lessons just keep coming and coming and they get harder and harder. It just becomes more and more difficult to spot them when they show up. I have learned that I need to allow those lessons to teach me something, and to not ignore that hard knock of opportunity on my door or I may miss something fantastic. Going on this vacation with my family, my perfect quartet, taught me to open that door a little more often. It taught me that we all four work so well as a team and that we can now take our show on the road whenever we want. I just hope that next time I can bring my cute little bikinis, because I really do miss them.
*The Droege Family’s Fried Grouper Cheeks
-Go to your local fish monger, on the day you are planning to cook, and ask for the freshest grouper cheeks they have.
-Rinse them off in cold water and blot them very dry with paper towels.
-Place the cheeks in a large bowl and coat them well with House Autry Seafood Breader.
-Shallow fry the cheeks in some vegetable oil until golden brown on all sides.
-Remove and drain on paper towels.
-Season with kosher salt.
-Serve with lemon slices.