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June 22, 2010

A Vacation They'll Remember

I marched up the sandy hill, in what must have been my fifth trip heading back to our rented cabin on Lake Michigan. I was thirsty, my skin an itchy mix of sand and sunscreen, and I was hungry. I sighed loudly, shaking my head with the thought of "this is a vacation?"

As I trudged onward on sand filled watershoes, I could hear the joyous shouts of 5 boys recreating battle scenes on the beach behind me, armed with water cannons.  "Sure, " I thought, "of course they're happy. I'm doing all the work, where's my vacation?"  I had to laugh at myself, I fell into this trap every year. Every year that we summer on this beach in Michigan, I begin the first day of our vacation, with these types of thoughts.

I quickly remember back to my first vacation as a parent. I naively thought back then, that vacation with family, would mean vacation for me.  I wondered why no one had warned me that those days of having things done for me while on a family vacation, were gone.  I was now the mother, I was now the one who made it all happen. Who did I think was going to do all the packing, and bed making, and sweeping, and cooking? 

I am able to laugh at myself now, and to laugh at myself back then, so many years ago. Yes, it is a lot of work, and there are hours that go into creating this wonderful time for our children. But, I realize, someone did it for me when I was younger. Now, I am the someone, we-- as parents-- are the someone, who make it magically a memory. We are the ones who provide the fresh sheets on the beds, the cold popsicles brought down at just the right time, we are the ones who take care with the sunscreen and reapply throughout the day, just as the bottle instructs us to.

We are the ones who will have lunch ready and waiting just as their thoughts turn to, "I wish it was time to eat!" We will pick the dishes and glasses up, and put it all away, while they return to their work of being who they are, and of filling me with unspeakable heart bursting joy at the sound of their games.

Becoming a parent means growing up, and growing as a person in so many ways. It means realizing that it is their turn now, not ours. I think it's normal to be shocked that very first vacation as a parent, to perhaps feel disbelief, and wonder that you never realized this is what it would be like. After that first baptism by the fire of the first vacation with you in charge, you come to appreciate your role. The role of the one that is going to be forever in the memory of the childhood vacations at the beach. The one who provides the orange and blue popsicles that stain their lips, popsicles that arrive at just the right time. The one who magically sets up the shade tent by laying blankets across beach trees--the very same shade tents that will soon enough serve the dual purpose of an "army barracks" to 5 boys.

Growing up means giving up many things, but it also blesses you with the role of being the one privileged enough to create such magic in a magical time of life: childhood. When a conversation with a new mother turns to the subject of vacations, and I hear her lament of the amount of work involved and the "vacation she'll need after the vacation," I feel the camaraderie of someone who knows. I laugh and say, "I remember my first vacation as a mother, I really thought I would have a vacation, too!" Soon, we are both laughing, and realize this is another sweet pass into the club of motherhood.  

This is an original post to Alexandra blogs at her personal site , where she writes of life raising boys in a small town along Lake Michigan.You can also follow her on Twitter.