I love my two children more than any humans on the planet, but just like with any other person living on Earth, I have my limits, and no time are my limits more challenged than when we are forced to be together all the time. I'm a mama who needs her space, and if I can't get it, well, then I at least need a decent beach chair and some adult-only activities to maintain my sanity.
Without the seven-hour break the school day provides us, I lose sight of my offspring as the precious entities that they are. They morph into the disruptors of focused activity, the enemies of cleanliness, the foes of putting one's feet up to enjoy an episode of The Good Place or any other series I've deemed kid-friendly enough to watch within their earshot. They are the demanders of constant snacks and water refills, the perpetrators of slime violations, and the destroyers of most nice things.
All these offenses are a pesky, but manageable, part of parenting when that job comes with breaks. But when it doesn't, things get ugly . . . like "haven't showered in two days, can't even remember where my makeup bag is" ugly. I've accepted Summer as the peak season of personal unrest, an unavoidable time of child overload that comes with some decent perks, like a good tan, an excuse to eat leftover French fries for lunch, and relaxed bed times. But these things are better in small doses than months-long ones, and by the end of this past Summer, I was burnt, bloated, and exhausted.
School was a welcome relief, compounded by the fact that my youngest was starting kindergarten, adding multiple hours to my weekday kid breaks, but almost immediately, I started panicking about those days when school would not be in session — and as every parent knows, there are soooo many days when school is not in session.
I started flashing back to last year's Spring break. My husband and I hadn't gotten it together to plan a proper trip, so we pieced it together, scheduling a couple of nights at a hotel in downtown Chicago and a couple more at an indoor waterpark our kids had been begging to visit. My husband got sick before day one, and I ended up dragging two kids around the city solo, then enlisting my mom to endure the horror of an indoor water park for more than 24 hours (never go for more than 24 hours, you guys; trust me).
If I was going to be with my kids nonstop for a week at Thanksgiving, for two weeks at Christmas, for a five-day weekend over President's Day, and for another week at Spring break, I was going to have to get the hell out of Dodge (Dodge being my sure-to-be kid-ravaged home), and so I started planning fun trips for my family like a psychotic travel agent on a personal mission and a budget. I'm so grateful and lucky that I have the resources to make my get-out-of-Dodge trips possible (and a family that supports my flee-the-scene habits).
First, I expanded our annual Christmas beach trip by a few days, and I convinced my parents we should travel to the Pacific Northwest to visit my brother and sister in law for Thanksgiving. (Built-in babysitters are always a good idea when you're traveling with the main purpose of making your parenting life easier.) When my mom also suggested we head to another beach to celebrate my dad's birthday in February, I was all over it, and I followed that up by finding an affordable apartment to rent in Austin for part of Spring break, complete with pool and the cheapest flights I've booked since the millennium. Will we be allowed to check bags or sit near our kids? Still unclear according to the fare's rules.
Of course, I'm now exhausted from all that travel planning, and it's a great possibility that, by the end of all of our trips, I'll be convinced that staying home for the next school break sounds like a best idea ever. But at least my couch won't be covered in slime this year — and that's a win I'll take for now.