We just returned from a long weekend at my aunt and uncle’s vacation home in Smith Mountain Lake, Virginia. It’s an eight-hour trip, which is a long way to go, but relaxing on the dock in their sleepy corner of the lake makes it worth it. Well, relaxing as much as you can with a toddler who you’re trying to prevent from falling into the water and drowning so you make him wear a life vest which he hates so much that he’s screaming.
But even still, despite the anti-life jacket protests, not to mention the interrupted sleep because the kid just can’t seem to get used to sleeping anywhere else besides home, it went surprisingly well. Among LM’s firsts:
First time in a kayak.
First time in a boat.
First time in a family sing-along.
First time swimming in the lake (as much as you can swim while wearing a life jacket).
When these moments happen, it’s like I float up out of my body from sheer happiness. Sometimes, for me, parenthood still doesn’t seem real; it’s like I’m looking down at myself from afar, wondering, “Whose life is this anyway?” It’s a sweet, sublime feeling to see LM do something for the first time, especially something that I love doing myself.
I wasn’t sure that LM would want to go in the lake. While trying to coax him in, my husband wore a swim belt because the water is deep, and this way he could have both hands free. LM toyed with the idea of jumping in, hanging on the ladder and occasionally dipping a toe in. Then he took my hand and led me away. “Oh, well,” I thought. “Maybe some other time this weekend.” Then, he suddenly turned me around, walked back to the ladder, sat down, and plopped into Foggy Daddy’s waiting arms. “Yay!” we all yelled. “We’re so proud of you!” LM beamed, proud of himself as well.
Later that night my uncle grabbed his acoustic guitar for a little sing-along. LM sat next to him, mesmerized by the instrument. He didn’t want to get up, didn’t want to dance (although he occasionally bobbed his head) as we all sang “American Pie” and some Beatles tunes. He’s seen local musician Miss Nina play at the library, and has always been very interested in music. But having him be part of this sing-along, a shared joy of our family, meant even more to me. Afterwards my uncle let him strum the guitar, which he did while smiling shyly.
The next day we took the boat out, something that I was again nervous about, although I felt better since witnessing the buoyancy of his life vest while LM swam with FD. Nine of us piled in the boat while my cousin and a friend accompanied us on their Sea-Doos. I held LM tight as the boat picked up speed. He loved it. Seeing the wind in his hair and yet another huge smile on his face made up for any trepidation I’d had about bringing him on board. We parked in a cove to swim. LM stayed on board, plied with food to keep him occupied. I’ll tell you, there is nothing that makes you feel you’re living the good life than a day out on a boat. We sped home with LM enjoying the ride and my nephew exclaiming, “This is awesome!”
Feeling more secure about LM and the water, I took him on a little kayak ride near the dock. I love kayaking – it’s so peaceful and serene to glide across the lake with no other sounds but your paddle in the water. FD and I had gotten to enjoy our own private kayak earlier, with Grandma and Grandpa watching LM while he napped. Now in my lap in the kayak, he seemed to enjoy it, although not as much as the fast-moving boat. Still, it was something I had wanted to do with him.
There is something about sharing things that you love with your children that fills you with a sense of purpose and continuity. You are passing something on. I know it was just a five-minute kayak ride and a few songs played on the guitar, but it was more than that: It was building memories. I always thought that vacations should be filled with new places and new experiences, but after having a kid I understand the allure of a family beach house or lake house. Coming to the same place year after year, sliding back into a routine of relaxation – yes, routines can be boring and predictable, but when you’re dealing with kids they can also be a godsend – just feels cozy and comfortable.
Luckily, I don’t have to wait until next year to experience this again: Next week my family is going to my beloved Jersey Shore for a week. I hope you readers will forgive my absence again, but I still want to try to focus on the moment, sans devices, as much as possible. Because these moments are what our family history is made of.
Tell me about your summer vacations!