My trip to Texas taught me a lot about how I’m going to approach travel with young kids for the next few years. There are people who take their children to Disneyland, and talk in glowing terms about nothing but the smiles and laughter and first encounters with characters who previously existed only in a virtual world. I know that a trip I took to Disneyland with young kids would not be summarized with a Pollyanna attitude. There would be meltdowns and missed naps and obscene amounts paid for messy popsicles in the shape of Mickey’s head. I don’t generally consider myself to be a negative person, but when it comes to parenting I have a hard time managing my expectations and the trying experiences are what often stick in my memory.
Speaking of managing expectations, I didn’t manage mine very well for the first portion of our trip, spent in Austin. I was meeting my parents there while they were on a business trip, and staying with two young kids by myself in a hotel (my parents were in a separate hotel, a 5-minute walk away) was a lot harder than I thought it would be. T1 saw his first 3D movie with my parents and I’m happy about the little bit of time they were able to spend together, but that’s something I won’t be repeating again until both children are self-sufficient.
Traveling with young kids means making-do without the arsenal of resources that helps make parenting manageable and enjoyable. After two days I left Austin and drove over to Houston to spend a week with our closest friends from Chicago. When I got out of the car and hugged Paige it took a lot to hold back the tears – I was overwhelmed with relief to be in a kid-friendly environment with my friend who I can 100% be myself with. We didn’t have anything except the mundane planned for my stay. We went to the gym, made meals from scratch, traded off childcare responsibilities as we ran errands, and stayed up late into the night painting our nails and talking about our husbands.
We called each other sister-wife and didn’t judge when the other lost their cool while parenting. There is a This American Life episode about a feminist who chooses to become a polygamist and defends it as a feminist choice, and for the first time I fully grasped what she meant. Maybe we should buy side-by-side houses, knock down the fence between them, and live Big Love style with our kids galloping back and forth between residences.
By the end I knew I had found my dream vacation*, at least for the time when the kids are little. Help putting the kids to bed every night, help making dinner, help cleaning up after dinner, help when I need to unload emotionally at the end of a trying day. Aren’t holidays about escaping from the reality of your life into an ideal sort of situation? The solo-parenting thing is hard for me. At least now I know that I can daydream about that time, once a year, when I can take a break from real life, with all the necessary resources, working alongside someone I love who is doing the exact same thing.
And the kids loved it too. We plan on doing it every year, though I’ve warned our friends that visiting Palo Alto is a dangerous thing because once you’re here you won’t ever want to leave. I’ll be keeping an eye out for the side-by-side houses for sale so we can make our co-parenting a permanent thing.
TH came in on Thursday night and stayed through the weekend. On Sunday morning we woke up and I did some family pictures for them. Can you believe we got this picture of (almost) everyone looking and smiling at the camera using the trunk of a car as a tripod and the timer on my camera?
*Other than the trips we take to visit family. Those always mean lots of help and support!