As my husband carried my screaming toddler out of the arcade and I wore our baby on my chest, we passed another mom with a toddler who said (not unkindly), “It’s almost not worth taking a vacation, right?” And she’s right. Almost.
It wasn’t easy, that’s for sure. I started making a list of what to pack back in June, right after we sent off the first check for the rental home on Martha’s Vineyard. My former college roommate and still BFF suggested back in May that we rent a house together. Her son is a week older than mine and we thought it would be fun for all.
Packing for my 7-month old and 2-year old was painstaking in and of itself. We needed a separate suitcase alone for the diapers and wipes. And another one for the sand toys. And another for bedtime books. Then there were all the things we needed for the house–a knife (because the NYTimes says you should always bring along a sharp one to a rental), Apple TV (a genius move on my part) and lots and lots of wine (another genius move on my part). No wonder I only managed to pack two t-shirts for myself. (Oops!)
Despite having to leave our home in Connecticut at 4 a.m. to catch our 7:30 a.m. ferry (the only one available on that day when I booked three months out), getting there was actually pretty painless. The bummer part was having to wait around once we go to the island for five hours before we could check into our home for the week. We got breakfast, drove around and I took the kids into the very lovely Vineyard Haven Library for a few hours while my husband slept in the car.
Once we finally were able to get into the house, we realized there were a few problems with it. The largest one being the death trap staircase.
There was no way our 2-year olds could navigate it. And though I remembered to pack a no-slip mat for the tub, I didn’t bring baby gates. We set up a blockade of suitcases at the top, carried the kids up and down the stairs (3 out of 4 bedrooms were on the second floor) and were hyper-vigilant about making sure the kids didn’t start to explore them.
Then, there were the hardwood floors that were not made for a baby who is a champion roller and trying really, really hard to crawl. We brought her bouncy seat, but we really also needed her exersaucer and an over-size playmat. This meant we had to spend a large portion of the time holding her. Don’t get me wrong, I love to snuggle Nola, but there’s not much you can accomplish holding a nearly 20-pound baby nonstop.
Next there was worrying about Leopold and my friend’s son. We’ve predetermined they are going to be besties, but that didn’t stop me from worrying that Leopold would tackle Blake, steal his iPad or bite him. (Guilty on 2 out of 3 counts).
Sleeping was pretty horrendous too. Nola had literally just started sleeping through the night two nights before we left. Needless to say, that did not continue on our trip. My husband and I decided that given the stair situation, it was best to divvy up the kids and sleep separately. Which meant there was no sexy time on the trip.
We did attempt to sleep with all four of us in one bed one night in the bed that my husband dubbed a “California twin” for its diminutive size. Needless to say, that didn’t go well. When my husband was in a surprisingly good mood the next morning, I asked how that could be after the torture we just endured. His response, “It’s over!”
Finally, there was the beach. The beaches in Martha’s Vineyard are plentiful and not crowded and the water is pristine. And there’s a lot of sand. A lot of sand for a toddler to play with, a lot of sand said toddler can get all over himself, his sister, the car and my own bikini bottoms. I’ve always said a large part of motherhood is enduring discomfort and this goes double at the beach. The entire experience made me long for the days when I would vacation at swank resorts with my girlfriends and drink banana daiquiris for breakfast.
So why was it worth it?
Even though it is unlikely my son will remember anything about the trip and a given that my daughter won’t, I’m happy we went. It was worth it to see my son’s smile as he played atop a tractor at the agricultural fair and to hear his hysterical laughter as we bumped along a dirt road in search of a secluded beach. It was worth it for my daughter to dip her toe into an ocean for the first time. It was worth it to see Leopold and Blake chase each other around the yard. It was worth it to get away from home for the week and go somewhere that life is a little bit slower and the people are mellower and to have an excuse to ruin my appetite for dinner with a 4 pm serving of Snickers Ice Cream from Mad Martha’s.
Most of all, I do believe that traveling–even at such a young age–helps my kids to expand their minds along with their worlds. So yes, it was worth it, tantrums, sleepless nights and all. We can’t wait to do it again next summer–and next time I’m bringing a baby gate.