We have just returned from a successful trip to Florida – our first official family vacation.
The four of us have technically flown together before, but that was back when Lorelei was 21 months old and Nicholas was in utero, so it was a very different experience on all fronts. This time around, we had a 4.5-year-old and a 2.5-year-old.
I have come to the conclusion that traveling with small children is a lot like being a cruise director in that you are tasked with coming up with an endless array of creative amusements for entitled, largely unappreciative vacationers. Parents, however, are not allowed to lock the cabin door at night; we also lack the consolation of midnight buffets and endless tropical drinks poured with a heavy hand by Isaac the bartender.
Nonetheless, while there is never an easy time (or perfect age) to travel with small children, I’m so glad we did. Some of the notable highlights of the trip:
– Lorelei, turning to Eric in wonder amidst collecting shells on a pristine, sandy beach: “Daddy, this is a great vacation.”
– Nicholas, studiously packing sand into his ears on that same beach as if he were trying to turn himself into a DIY pearl factory.
– The friendly gecko who kept reappearing at the same spot by my dad’s pool, despite (or perhaps because of) the kids’ enthusiastic response to him; they named him Noah.
– Nicholas amusing himself during a dinner out with several caps – from, respectively, a bottle of Poland Spring, a bottle of Stoli, and a spice jar (the last of which he deftly flipped open, held up to his ear like a practiced veteran of the Razr years, and pretended to call a friend on).
– Eric pointing out something questionable in the water off the dock and Lorelei exhorting him to “pull yourself together, Daddy!”
– A two-part al fresco lunch consisting entirely of convenience store snacks and massive ice cream cones.
– Nicholas nonchalantly yet completely devouring the corner of a manatee postcard before we even had a chance to pay for it at Publix.
– The mellow hippie wearing dark sunglasses and a bandanna headscarf, chilling out on a boat across the way. The kids waved and dubbed him “the friendly pirate.”
– Lorelei fishing off the dock with my dad, squealing as he threaded live bait shrimp onto the hook, while Nicholas sat and watched the proceedings from my mom’s lap, clutching his stuffed kitty.
– Nicholas’s puzzled look when we told him we’d be flying back home the next day. “Home?” he asked, his brow furrowed, as if the entire concept were both unfamiliar and somewhat disturbing.
– Lorelei setting up shop on her airplane tray table with the essentials she packed in her Strawberry Shortcake backpack: A kaleidoscope, a small rubber duck, and a plastic saucer, cup, and spoon from her tea set.
– Nicholas loudly reminiscing about a daycare friend on the plane home and alarming parents and flight attendants alike: “I LOVE ISIS! I LOVE ISIS!”
– The same 2.5-year-old Lothario shamelessly flirting with a cute tween girl he spotted across the aisle. “I love her!” he repeated over and over. “What her name?”
The best and worst thing about having kids is that nothing ever stays static. If we make the same trip next year, and I hope we do, it will be a whole new set of adventures and memories. I can’t wait.