My husband and I are spending three weeks on the same island we visited for our honeymoon. That trip was also three weeks long, but the similarities between the two excursions end there. That’s because, this time, our children are with us. It’s not that we were naïve enough to think we could recapture the magic of our newlywed vacation, but neither did we fully understand just how different things would be.
We should have known, really. We’re not entirely new to this parenting thing, with a three-and-a-half-year-old daughter and a 19-month-old son, so we’re well aware of the fact that everything changes once your first child is born. And I certainly did plan for a very different kind of journey, logistically, at least. I packed differently, we chose flights differently, we even chose accommodations based partly on having our kids with us. But there’s only so much you can do before actually landing in the experience.
And that’s precisely when the sharp contrast between our honeymoon and our family adventure began to show itself. Have you ever landed at a really small airport on a fairly large plane? There is no such thing as a “jet way” here and so deplaning involves descending a very steep and rickety set of movable stairs. We didn’t think about that as we filled our arms with diaper bags and laptop bags and carry-ons that somehow multiply over the course of a flight. When it was our turn to climb down to the tarmac, my husband and I looked around for another set of arms to carry our kids.
Thankfully, there was a very considerate pilot watching our scene unfold who volunteered to carry our oldest. I handed my rolly suitcase to a kind flight attendant and scooped up our little one. The passengers behind us grumbled as they stood there waiting for us to get our shit together.
Granted, this isn’t exactly a vacation-ruiner, but it was one of those messages, received loud and clear, that we were not traveling light in any sense of the word and that everything takes longer with children. We can’t say to each other, “Let’s hit the beach,” and feel the sand between our toes five minutes later, even though our villa is on the beach. No, there’s sunscreen and bug spray to apply to two extra bodies, there’s convincing required and sand diggers to round up and hats to locate and other shoes to find.
Thirty minutes later, we’re all down at the water’s edge but there’s no relaxing in the sun or floating lazily in the sea. I’m squatting in the sand, making sure our son doesn’t eat it, or playing referee between our kids as the diggers inadvertently (or not) fling sand in every direction and eye imaginable.
One of our favorite things to do no matter where we are in the world is to find weird and yummy places to eat. Naturally, we were looking forward to revisiting some of the foodie gems we found while here on our honeymoon. Unnaturally, one of those requires a short but non-life-vested boat trip out to a floating dock that is decidedly not childproof. Another was a long drive down an unpaved road to a shack on stilts over the water – also questionable for the kiddos. What ends up happening is that we decide, against our own advice sometimes, to just go for it and figure it out. We do figure it out, but it’s almost never fun and we rarely get to actually enjoy the food. [tagbox tag="traveling with children"]
I know, I know – cry me a river, right? “Oh, boo-hoo! My idyllic island vacation isn’t as relaxing as I want it to be. Woe is me…” I’m just saying nothing is the same, in ways both heavenly and frustrating, when you have kids. This is not a revelation, but it’s the kind of thing you’re forced to learn over and over again as a parent.
We chose to come back here because we were excited about sharing this place and its wonders with our children. The benefits to them greatly outweigh the drawbacks for us, and that’s what parenting is all about, in large part. But it doesn’t mean I don’t miss those honeymoon days just a little bit in times like these.