Before we had children, my husband and I used to love traveling. By the time we had been married only five years, we had visited New England, the California coast, the Pacific Northwest twice, Canada, and Jamaica. As two kids who grew up in rural North Carolina, where a once-a-year trip to the beach was the extent of our childhood vacations, we wanted to see as much of the world as possible. We wanted to fly, go on a road trip, make a mixed tape for the occasion, overpack, overplan, the whole nine yards.
We were the parents who thought we wouldn’t miss a beat when kids came along. We’ll just take them with us, we reasoned. We can buy cute travel luggage, bring along activity packs for long plane rides, plan trips around their interests, seek out every local children’s museum, you name it. We might be forced travel a little differently, but we still wanted to get out there. We still wanted to go, see, do. So, when our two kids were one and three, we planned a little jaunt to the mountains, about four hours away.
It was as though the universe knew this was a pretty crazy idea. One was still nursing, one was running all over the place. Both were still in diapers. We got up there and within 24 hours, both had ear infections, my husband caught a stomach bug, and I was the only one well enough to pack everything up, call a spade a spade, and make the trek back home, my brood healing in the back.
We arrived home around midnight, and I put everyone to bed. No matter how long you’re away, there’s just something about sleeping in your own room, with your own pillow, in your own covers. Thankfully, their health was restored relatively quickly and we can all look back on the short trip and laugh a little now. Time gives you such perspective, it turns out.
Yet, I learned something throughout that failed adventure. Namely, I learned that there is a season for everything. There was a season for my husband and I to be green newlyweds, shocked and overwhelmed by the beauty of this world. There was a time for us to rent a convertible, take a drive down the West Coast Highway 1, stay up far too late exploring the waterfalls at Big Sur, take a leisurely stroll through a street market in Santa Fe, discover new cultures and cuisines, and spend all our discretionary income on experiences and thrills.
Now? Now, we’re in the season of young parenthood. Now, I savor an evening at home with him on the couch, bottle of wine and box of pizza between us, more than any four-star restaurant in a new city. Now, I’d rather take my kids to the playground down the road, where they know every monkey bar, slide and swing like the back of their hand, than on an epic road trip where they’ll be in the car the entire time, barely able to see out.
Don’t get me wrong -- I am so looking forward to the days when we can all travel together. I desperately want them to see and explore all that this big, beautiful world has to offer. I’d love to show them Monument Valley when they’re older, and the sunrise over Sedona. I can’t wait for Disney World, island getaways and hiking expeditions that I know we’ll enjoy together.
For now though, while they’re still so little, we’re more into staycations. And while there is plenty of advice out there on how to navigate a family vacation away from home, we’d rather dig deeply into that comfortable nest we’ve created for them. We’d rather rent a movie, pop some popcorn, and enjoy a flick that’s been out of the theaters for months than take on the challenge of wrangling two feisty kids in an unfamiliar setting.
There is a time and a place for everything and I can’t wait to go, see and do everything imaginable with them. But right now, they love to race to the front door after school, find me in the kitchen over a pot of soup, and sink down comfortably onto the family sectional, and I can’t think of anything sweeter or more memorable than that.