The Family Vacation: Why We Do It Every Year

Every summer my family joins my sister’s family for a week at the beach. Cousins can’t wait to see one another and do exactly the same things as last year. Dads man up to see who can find the most sea glass or the coolest treasure. (The taunting started around Christmas.) Us moms just look forward to sitting and doing nothing against the backdrop of a blue sea.

Then we arrive at the beach cottage and reality sets in. The kids run free like the wild horses on one of the islands, and we kind of still have parenting to do. And four kids somehow seems unequal to four parents who desperately want to relax.

Day 1: There was no denying when our troupe of eight arrived at the beach. As my brother-in-law put it, we looked like the Griswolds with our beach paraphernalia strapped to backs and shoulders: chairs, buckets, shovels, umbrellas, coolers, boogie boards, a skim board, towels, a football, and whatever else the kids snuck in their bags. Anyone in our vicinity who wanted peace and quiet was in for a rude awakening with all the shouting, flying sand, and obnoxious laughter.

Day 2: The expensive umbrella we bought for last year’s trip didn’t last through last year’s trip. We bought a cheap one this time. We were driving down the road our second day and fwoomp!everything on the roof had blown off. My sister’s umbrella and boogie boards landed in the middle of a five-lane road. So of course at the beach that day, my umbrella kept falling apart and hers stood strong.

Crappy beach umbrella,

This may account for some of my sunburn.

Day 3: “Red Solo cup. Let’s fill it up. Let’s have a paaar-teeee. Let’s have a paaar-teeee.” Every year, everyone thinks it’s clever to latch onto one song so it gets stuck in everyone’s head the entire week. Four kids singing (the wrong lyrics) off-key day after day became mind numbing. When I heard it on the radio today and realized it was a real song and not some silly words the kids strung together, I nearly fell off my chair.

Day 4: Riding in a van with eight people can be lots of fun. When four of them are kids, it can also not be. At times I’m certain there were eight different conversations going on. I’m not sure how that was possible since I wasn’t part of any of them. My favorite was “Let’s copy Karen” and the kids would repeat everything I said. I hate that game. Then we played the quiet game and my husband gave the winner a quarter. Kids really aren’t so good at that. I got the quarter.

steamed crabs,

No reason to feel crabby at the beach, right?

Day 5: My kids have never been taught proper beach bathroom etiquette. I grew up near a beach. If there weren’t bathrooms, you simply got up, waded into the ocean, and did your thing. My kids think this is disgusting. The same kids who lick their shoes and eat things from their nose. Seriously. Go in the water along with millions of marine wildlife.

Day 6: The kids and their cousins begged us to go go-karting. This activity provides no thrills for me. It’s not NASCAR. It’s not bumper cars. My kids fight over who has to ride with me because I always finish last. I don’t want to shell out $20 to drive my kids around a track so they can complain about it. I do that at home for free.

Day 7: Packing up, the kids got in some last games together. They told one another good-bye. And the adults were already making plans for next year’s trip.

We came home exhausted, filled with sand, and covered in peeling skin. A mountain of laundry sat as tall as the washing machine. The refrigerator held nothing for dinner. Normal life had returned.

But when we looked at the photos, we remembered: that first year when the kids were so small, songs from years past, giant sea glass, running down the dunes, and always getting soaked that first night on the beach. Every year the kids get older and bigger. So do the memories.

That’s why we do it.



Filed under Everyday Life

19 responses to “The Family Vacation: Why We Do It Every Year

  1. great way to relax in the sun

  2. You’re braving than me!! We talk about a family vacation but our kids would start WW3 by day three of being together. Also the red solo cup song was a shock to me too the first time I heard it on the radio…

  3. What a great post! I am the oldest in my family and I am just starting to see the potential for family vacations like this. I long for these days!!!! I’m sure I’ll have the same moments of annoyance and frustration, but at the end of them you know it’s worth it. Just like all of motherhood.

  4. That’s hilarious you mention beach etiquette. We just came back from our first family vacation on the beach. My 7 year old over heard a girl talking about always using the bathroom in the ocean but, not in the pool. He was totally grossed out. Then we heard some other people talking of the same subject. He says I guess that is what we are supposed to do.

    • Normally we don’t, but if there aren’t bathrooms around you don’t have a choice. It came up because one of my kids had waited all day and couldn’t wait anymore. I mentioned that in that case you just have to go in the ocean. It didn’t go over well.

    • That was my favorite observation of the trip! “Beach bathroom etiquette.” Love it.

  5. Great post! I’m amazed at how memories can outweigh all the big and small annoyances of family vacations. My husband and two daughters got violently ill on a recent trip to San Diego (my 8 year old puked on a TSA agent’s shoes at airport security!) and I look at the pictures from that trip and remember every moment of it as happy togetherness. Selective memory is genius! Thanks for the reminders.

    • That it is! We can look back and laugh. Of course, with our group, we laugh as we’re going through it too. At one point in the van, it was so crazy my brother-in-law looked in the rear-view mirror at me like “what in the world is going on in here?” I just shook my head. You can’t escape a moving vehicle.

  6. lisa

    A once wise friend told me – vacationing with small children is just a change of scenery.

  7. I love this, this is great. Submit it to Southern Living. I keep telling you, poodles are much easier than kids, but you just won’t listen.

  8. I wrote a piece for my daughter’s preschool newsletter about why we continue family vacations, stress and all — I’m already looking forward to our next road trip in March, despite that last March when we returned from a road trip I thought, “Never again!”

    I’m all for them peeing in the ocean! I hate helping kids pull down wet suits to pee. That and beach bathrooms are both more gross than peeing in the ocean.

    Glad you survived a nice vacation, Karen!

    • I have to mentally prepare for a trip beforehand, but I’m a homebody anyway. There are just so many factors with taking kids on a trip. But it’s the element of surprise that leads to memories later I guess!

  9. As tiring as vacations are, I totally think they’re worth it too.

  10. We our crazy as parents for putting ourselves through these things. 🙂

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