Wednesday, 29 August 2012

Travels with toddler

Ahhh vacation time… a concept that usually inspires enthusiasm, rest, relaxation and much happiness. Before having a child, my husband and I would almost always choose a beach destination where we would arrive, drop our luggage in an all-inclusive resort room and head to the beach. Where we would sleep. For seven days straight.

If ever there was a time in our lives when we could use seven days and seven nights of sleep, it’s now. But alas, the reason for our exhaustion is also the reason that it’s simply not an option for us to do that anymore. Not if we want to spend any quality time with our 18-month-old son.

So times have changed. This year, we headed to the ultimate land of family vacations: Florida. We rented ourselves a condo, a car and bought tickets for a day at Sea World. Yup, times have changed.

All things considered, it was a wonderful vacation. We spent two weeks on the beach, disconnected from home and had lots of fun as a family. Some wonderful things happened, some funny memories were made and we will not forget this first of our family vacations together.

On the wonderful side, my son FINALLY started saying “Mama”. It took him some time, but once he began, it was so lovely to hear him say it over and over again. He says it so sweetly that I feel like he’s saying he loves me every time. It has not yet reached the nagging, whining stage, so please let me savour it as long as possible!

We went to the beach almost every day. My son really enjoyed the warm, shallow water, the soft white sand and being able to run free along the water’s edge. I think we may have only missed three days of beach the whole vacation – once when we went shopping in Orlando, once when we went to Sea World and on the last day, when it rained and my husband had a raging fever and stayed in bed all day. That last day was oh so fun. Thank goodness for the most amazing mall (Westfield Countryside Mall in Clearwater) about 15 minutes from the condo, which had an indoor playground designed for toddlers and a cute train that takes parents and kids on a ride through the mall. Even the family bathroom was fun, with tons of toys and things to play with.

Renting a condo was really perfect for our needs. We were able to cook our own meals, pack our lunches for the beach, wash our towels and bathing suits in a washing machine, we had wifi and a great selection of channels on TV and the condo complex had its own pool. But let’s face it, a vacation that involves cooking, laundry and cleaning is not the most relaxing of vacations, is it?

My son was also not in his familiar comfortable bedtime routine or bedroom, so getting him to sleep was a nightly challenge. No, let me rephrase that. It was a nightly epic battle. In those times, I felt like a horrible, mean, surly mother because my frustration would escalate to points of anger and yelling that really didn’t help the situation. There were many nights when my son finally fell asleep out of sheer exhaustion at 11 pm, far from him normal 7:30 pm bedtime. And it didn’t stop him from waking up at 7 am the next day.

Let’s not even talk about airplane travel with a toddler… Let’s just say that it involves a serious amount of toys, books and abuse of any available videos. Thank goodness for my iPad and the Mickey Mouse Clubhouse videos I had downloaded before we left. I know you’re not supposed to let kids under 2 watch TV, but well, some situations call for it. Okay, many situations, but that’s a debate for another day.

As far as vacations go, it was definitely different from our last vacation. It was the start of something new for us. As with all new parenting experiences, we learned a lot and maybe the next time, with appropriately managed expectations and newly-learned coping mechanisms, we won’t sweat it! Or maybe we will. Who knows… All I know is that I now understand the expression “I need a vacation from my vacation!”

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