How to Enjoy Your Spring Break, With Kids. (Hint: Put Your Phone Down)

It’s that time of year again.  Spring break!!!  Or as many moms think of it…  Just another week, but with an exorbitant amount of sand, close quarters, and a really small washing machine.  No matter what you call it, or whether you are traveling to Fiji or enjoying a “stay-cation”, it is a week of no school and hopefully some days off for Mom and Dad.  Needless, to say, the additional passenger in every family’s car or plane is… the smart phone.   I am openly “technically challenged”, but still more often than not, find myself always with a little 6 oz electronic addiction in my hand.  I will not be controlled by a bunch of wires and over-priced plastic!  I am going to beat this addiction with a good old-fashioned family vacation!  Sans electronics.  No phones, no laptops, no nothing.  Okay, except for the plane.  The kids can use approved electronic devices on the plane.  But, this is strictly for the safety of other passengers.

Every year we travel down south to Longboat Key, Florida.  A tropical little island paradise with gleaming white beaches and azure foamy waves.  I have gone there for spring break every year since I was 5 years old.  And for 25 fabulous years, I had a lovely, relaxing time.  Then one year, we had a stowaway.  He was a little 20 pound butterball that woke up 3 times a night and successfully ended every dinner out by competing for “world’s longest high pitch shriek”.  This little condo-crasher seemed to think the whole vacation revolved around him!  He was wide awake and ready to take on the day, every morning by 4:30am, and his only beach skills involved being able to stuff an entire fist-full of sand into his tiny mouth.

Gone were the days of basking in the afternoon sun and staying up late at the tiki bar.  Gone were the days of actual…vacation.  Of course, it was great to be away from work, but, wait a second!  This was kind of harder than work!  My clients didn’t usually wake me up during the night, spill my beverages, or poop in a diaper.  It probably didn’t help that I was 10 weeks pregnant with #2.  So, no liquid comforts.  I couldn’t drink alcohol, but my husband and I were definitely consuming a big ‘ol dose of reality.  We realized that just like the first months of parenthood, we were wildly unprepared for the changes that came along with a new baby, on vacation.

Fast forward a few years, and we are sitting with our lounge chairs sinking into the tide.  The sun is setting and we are sipping frosty Coronas.  Two sun-kissed little boys run and dip into the waves, wielding their sand shovels.  Our little boys.  We have figured it out.  How to vacation with kids.  It’s different then vacation used to be, it’s harder to enjoy at times and a lot more work. But it is much, much more fulfilling.  We learned that once you are a parent, it’s just not always about you.  It’s usually about them, and more importantly… it’s about time together as a family.  Even if that time is spent removing sand from all sorts of crevices.  Even if your “basking in the sun” is about 14 minutes on the deck while everyone is briefly asleep at the same time.  Even if, you eat dinner out so early that the tiki bar isn’t even open yet.  Vacation with kids is about learning, observing, sharing, and adjusting.  It’s about the adults taking turns.  It’s about finding the peaceful moments to sit and soak in the memories.  Before someone has a fight over a beach bucket.  You won’t remember how cold the surf feels the 11th time you go to the sandbar in a row.  You won’t remember what you ate out at dinner, or if you even did.  But you will remember dancing in the sand with your little ones to a steel drum band.  You will remember watching your child cautiously find their way closer and closer to the waves, building their confidence and forging a life-long love of the sea, just as you did.  You will remember your first trips to the shore, and for a few days, you will begin to be a child again.  You will dig in the sand, forgetting about your manicure.  You will search for the perfect shell and chase the sand pipers.  You will fall asleep, your hair soaking with salty water, wrapped in a Disney beach towel.

BeachBoys

Most importantly, they will remember.  Your children will remember watching the golden sun melt into the ocean, with you.  They will remember special morning walks with just Daddy along the shore and spotting a school of dolphins. They will remember that first sunburn and the smell of the cool aloe as Mommy spreads it across their arms.  They won’t remember if they had to go to timeout for kicking sand at their brother, but they will remember how they loved the warm days, together.  Distraction.  Isn’t that really what a vacation is?  A distraction from your daily life, a chance to escape some of the monotony?  I know I use my phone as a distraction.  I just don’t want to distract myself from my vacation.  So, au revoir phone!

BeachDad

 

I can absolutely promise you, that you will not remember that awesome YouTube video you are watching while your daughter finds a perfect conch shell.  I can assure you, that voice mail from work is not as important as riding the waves with your son.  I am positive that the Facebook news feed will not bring you as much satisfaction as filling your spouse’s empty hand with your own.  We will get used to our lack of electronics, just as we did to braving the security line with toddlers.  Vacationing with kids is about enjoying, adjusting and growing.  And being able to laugh at yourself when you need to(have you ever changed a blowout in an airplane bathroom?)  But most importantly, being present.  Be there, with your family, and don’t miss a single sunset.

So please join us as we give ourselves the gift of a technology-free vacation.  Don’t let your children remember you on the beach with your face buried in your I-Phone.  Use it to capture a picture of them buried in the white sand, change your profile picture to this new memory, and then… put it away.

Safe travels everyone!  Enjoy your time together!

BeachMom

 

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The Author of “Mommy, Somebody Needs You”? Is You.

Shhh… the baby is sleeping.  But, I want to tell you a secret.

I don’t know you, but you are awesome.  I know, and this is why…

If your arms have held a baby, and you’ve had to stop and catch your breath because the love has pushed up into your lungs, where the air should be…

If you love a child and their eyes melt you like a bowl of ice cream…

If you are a mom, dad, grandma, grandpa, step mom, step dad, adoptive mom or dad, orange, purple or green…

… then you are the greatest person on earth to someone.  Your love makes you awesome and no one can ever tell you any differently.

You are doing the best you can.  Even if you just went through the McDonald’s drive thru or have more fruit chewies in your pantry than you do fresh fruit.  Even if you have laid down on the floor and cried, thinking, “I can’t do this.”  Or, “I can never do this like SHE does!”  You can.  And you can do it better.  Because no matter how this baby you love ended up in your arms, it is yours, and no one could ever love it more. SHE couldn’t love it any better.  And just what is “it” anyway?

Motherhood.  It is a tough job, and God didn’t just choose anyone to be your baby’s mom.  He chose you.

Your Nursery

A mother’s love is universal.  It’s power is the same whether in a cottage in the Swiss Alps or a Syrian refugee camp.  Mommys and Daddys from 216 different countries read the post, “Mommy, Somebody Needs You”.  They read it, because they wrote it.  Maybe not with the clicks of the keyboard, but with the beats of their heart.  You have held your baby alone in the night.  You have cradled your sick child.  You have felt exhausted and isolated.  You have felt elated and blessed beyond words.  If you love a child, then that child needs you, at any age and anywhere.  This love spans all landscapes and centuries.  This love looks with the same eyes into the starry night, whether through the holes of a withering tent or the cool panes of a nursery window.

So see that other mother over there?  She is beautiful.  She is a perfect mother.  Even if only in the eyes of her adoring child.  You don’t know where she has been.  So don’t assume to know her unless you have changed a thousand diapers in her shoes.  Help her.  Smile at her.  Open the door for her double stroller.

She has 1 child.  She has 8 children.  She has paid help.  She has a wonderful husband.  She is a single mom.  She is a widow.  She is in a same-sex relationship.  She is funny. She is terrified.  She is blessed.  She is insecure.  She is tired.  She is proud.  She is Mommy, Mum, Maman, Ahm, Mami, Mat’, Mae, Okaasan.  Across the earth we are all the same, we just have a different story.

Don’t judge another mother, help one another.  Don’t keep it a secret.  Don’t whisper, shout it!

Tell a mom she is awesome.  Even if it is yourself.

Now, pass it on…

“Mommy, Somebody Needs You.”

by Megan Minneman Morton

Ever since we brought our new daughter home, her older brothers have been the first to tell me when she is crying, whimpering, or smelling a little suspicious.  “Somebody needs you,” they say.  I have no idea how this little saying started, but at first it sort of annoyed me.  I could be enjoying a quick shower… “Mommy, somebody needs you.  The baby is crying.”  Or, sitting down for a second, quite aware that the baby was beginning to stir from a nap…. “Mama, somebody needs you!”  Okay!  I get it already!  And not to mention that the newborn’s needs pale in comparison to the needs of 2 little boys.  Somebody always needs a snack, a band-aid, a different sock, ice cubes in their water, a NEW Paw Patrol, a stream of snot wiped, a hug, a story, a kiss.  Some days never seem to end, and the monotony of being “needed” can really take its toll. Then, it all started to hit me, they need ME.  Not anybody else.  Not a single other person in the whole world.  They need their Mommy.

The sooner I can accept that being Mommy means that I never go off the clock, the sooner I can find peace in this crazy stage of life.   That ‘Mommy’ is my duty, privilege and honor. I am ready to be there when somebody needs me, all day and all night.  Mommy means I just put the baby back down after her 4am feeding when a 3-year-old has a nightmare.  Mommy means I am surviving on coffee and toddler leftovers.  Mommy means my husband and I haven’t had a real conversation in weeks.  Mommy means I put their needs before my own, without a thought.  Mommy means that my body is full of aches and my heart is full of love.

I am sure there will come a day when no one needs me.  My babies will all be long gone and consumed with their own lives.  I may sit alone in some assisted living facility watching my body fade away.  No one will need me then.  I may even be a burden.  Sure, they will come visit, but my arms will no longer be their home.  My kisses no longer their cure.  There will be no more tiny boots to wipe the slush from or seat belts to be buckled.  I will have read my last bedtime story, 7 times in a row.  I will no longer enforce time outs.  There will be no more bags to pack and unpack or snack cups to fill.  I am sure my heart will yearn to hear those tiny voices calling out to me, “Mommy, somebody needs you!”

So for now, I find beauty in the peaceful 4am feedings in our cozy little nursery.  We are perched above the naked oak trees in our own lavender nest.  We watch the silent snow fall and a bunny scampering across its perfect white canvas.  It’s just me and my little baby, the neighborhood is dark and still.  We alone are up to watch the pale moon rise and the shadows dance along the nursery wall.  She and I are the only ones to hear the barn owl hooting in the distance.  We snuggle together under a blanket and I rock her back to sleep.  It’s 4am and I am exhausted and frustrated, but it’s okay, she needs me.  Just me.  And maybe, I need her too.  Because she makes me Mommy.  Some day she will sleep through the night.  Some day I will sit in my wheelchair, my arms empty, dreaming of those quiet nights in the nursery.  When she needed me and we were the only two people in the world.

Can I enjoy being needed?  Sometimes, sure, but often it is tiring.  Exhausting.  But, it isn’t meant to be enjoyed every moment.  It is a duty.  God made me their Mom.  It is a position I yearned for long before I would ever understand it.  Over a 3 day weekend my husband couldn’t believe how many times our boys kept saying, “Mommy.  Mommy.  Mommy”!  “Are they always like this?” he asked not able to hide his terror, and sympathy.  “Yep.  All day, everyday.  That’s my job.”  And I have to admit that it is the toughest job I have ever had.  In a previous life I was a restaurant manager for a high volume and very popular chain in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida.  A Saturday night at 7:30pm with the expo window overflowing with dishes, a 2 hour wait, and the electricity inexplicably going out has got nothing on a Tuesday, 5:00pm at the Morton house.  And let me tell ya, South Florida diners are some of the toughest to please.  But, they are a cake walk compared to sleep-deprived toddlers with low blood sugar.

Once upon a time, I had time.  For myself.  Now, my toe nails need some love.  My bra fits a little differently.  My curling iron might not even work anymore, I don’t know.  I can’t take a shower without an audience.  I’ve started using eye cream.  I don’t get carded any more.  My proof of motherhood.  Proof that somebody needs me.  That right now, somebody always needs me.  Like last night…

At 3am I hear the little footsteps entering my room.  I lay still, barely breathing.  Maybe he will retreat to his room.  Yeah right.

“Mommy.”

“Mommy.”  A little louder.

“Yes”.  I barely whisper.

He pauses, his giant eyes flashing in the dim light.

“I love you.”

And just like that, he is gone.  Scampered back to his room.  But, his words still hang in the cool night air.  If I could reach out and snatch them, I would grab his words and hug them to my chest.  His soft voice whispering the best sentence in the world.  I love you.  A smile curls across my lips and I slowly exhale, almost afraid to blow the memory away.  I drift back to sleep and let his words settle into my heart.

One day that little boy will be a big man.  There will no longer be any sweet words whispered to me in the wee hours.  Just the whir of the sound machine and the snoring husband.  I will sleep peacefully through the night, never a worry of a sick child or a crying baby.  It will be but a memory.  These years of being needed are exhausting, yet fleeting.  I have to stop dreaming of “one day” when things will be easier.  Because, the truth is, it may get easier, but it will never be better than today.  Today, when I am covered in toddler snot and spit up.  Today, when I savor those chubby little arms around my neck.  Today is perfect.  “One day” I will get pedicures and showers alone.  “One day” I will get myself back.  But, today I give myself away, and I am tired, and dirty and loved SO much, and I gotta go.  Somebody needs me.

SomebodyNeedsYou