There is a point in every family vacation when I begin referring to my children as “Poor Life Choice Number 1, 2, 3, and 4.”
Not to their faces, obviously. That would be mean. I did however refer to my older kids and nieces and nephews as “SLAs,” which stands for “slightly less annoying” (than the younger kids). But that is 100% the truth and I’m standing by it. And they wore it like a badge of honor.
Seriously, taking kids on family vacations is bullshit. I would like a family vacation without my family, please. Is that too much to ask?
“Family vacation” almost immediately moves from excitement, anticipation and all the beautiful mental pictures of “how great” it will be to throwing away a shit-filled pair of shorts in a Taco Bell bathroom.
Sorry, Taco Bell.
On the plus side, they weren’t my shorts.
I am the picture of positivity.
Also, sorry, hotel staff, for the puke on the bed you had to clean up at 4pm on a Friday because I played with my toddler too long and he LAUGHED TOO HARD I GUESS after drinking milk, and puked. So gross.
More proof one should always limit engagement with offspring.
I’m kidding. All I want to do in every waking moment of my life is engage with my special snowflakes on a level so exciting they vomit.
Literally four of the six of us puked at different times for different reasons WHY WHY WHY WHY.
At least twice a day on every family “vacation,” my husband and I look at each other and say with our mouths or eyes, “We’re never doing this again,” “What the fuck is wrong with our kids?” and WHY ARE WE PAYING ACTUAL MONEY FOR THIS. It feels like tossing $20s into the air while chasing a sugar-fueled toddler into a Lego store.
To illustrate the level of bullshit, I made a Family Vacation BINGO card. Every one of these things happened during our recent trip to Disneyland.
I think I ended the trip more tired than when we left. Pretty sure the last hour of the car ride had every single one of us screaming at equal volume and with equal maturity. And we won’t be unpacked for a month. And holy shit is that place expensive. WE WILL BE HAVING A VERY SMALL CHRISTMAS, kids.
(Disneyland prices are some nonsense, and yet, it’s so oddly horribly fun. I mean, I think it is. I hate crowds. Fuck crowds. And yet, it’s a small world! What is wrong with me. WHY DO I LOVE DISNEYLAND with its corporate princess capitalist patriarchal systems of oppression? The rides are so fun, people. And it’s so clean! I want to hate it and yet I do not hate it. I think it’s like adult acid without the regret.)
BUT, the trip was amazing. We went to Disneyland for fuck’s sake. As a family. We are so lucky. I know all this, and yet, I got frustrated and lost my patience and thought WHY ARE WE HERE and kept thinking Janelle! You are ruining the family memories! Stop! Be grateful! You’re acting like an asshole!
And I gotta tell ya, these feelings were especially intense because just one week before I left for this trip, I sat in a hospital room with my grandfather and grandmother, mom, brother, and cousins as my grandpa passed his final hours on earth. I watched him pressed to the furthest right side of his bed so he could be as close as possible to my grandmother, the woman with whom he spent 70 of his 87 years, with whom he raised 4 daughters and shared 20 grandchildren and 44 great-grandchildren. I watched their hands never let go as they played and replayed with their eyes the story of their lives together.
And I realized, they were replaying what I am living now.
I watched them travel a lifetime in a few hours, tracing cracked fingers over paths of kids, jobs, grief and joy, and a few times I stole a glance at my husband across the room of beeping machinery and nearly palpable love, and I observed his face, the barely perceptible lines when he smiles, the black hair with just a few gray hairs, the strong, square shoulders and quickness of the way he moves.
We are so young.
We are, so young.
My heart ached. My eyes were on fire. This is it, Janelle. These are the years. This is life. What the fuck are we waiting for.
It all felt small. It all felt unimportant. These days that race by in frantic monotony. The shit-filled shorts. The puke. The bickering over the front seat. The pure exhaustion. The whining.
I thought, “I’ll never forget this! I’ll never get worked up about stupid shit again!”
Two weeks later, I’m making a Family Vacation Bullshit BINGO card.
I guess that’s the luxury of being here, and not being a spiritual giant.
Still, I want to remember. We are a family. We are together. We go on trips. We
walk hand-in-hand and hold our babies and make them laugh so hard they puke. We watch bigger cousins holding younger cousins as our teenager races to a ride, as if she were seven, and we run to CVS at 2am because the toddler has a random, inexplicable fever. I see my son and daughter dressed up with Goofy. I nearly cry it’s so damn precious. I love them so much I almost have to look away.
We take pictures. We try to remember.
Someday, we will try even harder.
I feel altered by my grandfather’s death. My grandparents were always there. They seemed immovable, fixed. Their home, where we played in the basement and now our kids play, and them, in love, inseparable. I knew in my brain it couldn’t last forever. I didn’t know it in my heart.
I guess we can’t. It’s too hard.
But what if we could? What if we could live our lives in the knowing that someday, at the very best, at the very luckiest, we will think of the days of racing around after slightly less annoying children and puking babies as the memories that fill a room with so much love and warm light that it can almost be held, by me, by you, in the last breath of a man who had this once.
Or a hundred times.
Still, it would never be enough.
It feels it will never end. It feels relentless and pounding. It feels so sacred it takes my breath away. And one day, it will.
So fuck it. Let’s live this. Let’s hate it and love it. Let’s scream and laugh and let our babies fall asleep against our arms and with their hands on our faces and let’s stay up late and be bad parents and great ones on occasion but let’s not under any circumstances miss this.
It’s a BINGO game of bullshit, but it’s ours, and it’s the best we’ll ever have.
Until next time, kids.
And thanks for making me wear a tutu.
AnneWednesday, 19 October, 2016 at 13:12
Last family road trip we had the foresight to bring a bucket. It worked like a motherfucking charm. High fives all around. Back on the road in minutes. Highlight of the vacation.
StaceyWednesday, 19 October, 2016 at 13:42
We took a road trip to Colorado last March with the kids. I believe we hit almost every box on your BINGO card and we added a few of our own. The last straw was driving home in an epic ice storm with a husband who wouldn’t stop to buy windshield washer fluid to keep the ice from forming on the windshield WHILE WE WERE DRIVING…because he had a gallon at home and didn’t want to waste $3! I got out of the car thinking there is no goddamn way I am EVER doing that shit again with these people! Yet, here we are planning for March and another family trip. I have vetoed driving to Colorado. Small victories.
RebeccaWednesday, 19 October, 2016 at 13:42
You made me cry again dammit. Please don’t ever stop doing what you do!
VaidenWednesday, 19 October, 2016 at 14:00
I love you. Thank you for writing all the things that I think and sometimes say out loud. You are brave and wise and I get inspiration each week that maybe I’m not in this alone, trying to be a mom and a wife and a good friend and occasionally not suck at my business I spent years building. So don’t be too creeped out with the whole I love you thing, just know that if you ever need a good place to crash in Knoxville, TN, you have one. Thanks for all you do for the rest of us, friend.
CatWednesday, 19 October, 2016 at 14:09
Oh my gosh! I was laughing so hard at the first part, and you totally kicked my ass with the second part. I’m at my desk, crying. I’m not suppose to have feelings at work!
WhitneyWednesday, 19 October, 2016 at 14:11
Thanks for posting this. I’m having an awful time with my husband and toddler lately and have been questioning why I did this to myself. I needed to hear this perspective today. Thanks.
The cootsWednesday, 19 October, 2016 at 15:00
You can write good, girl. So good I refuse to share you with anyone else. Never stop the words.
JodieWednesday, 19 October, 2016 at 16:38
This is beautiful. Don’t ever stop writing.
AnneWednesday, 19 October, 2016 at 16:50
Thank you for writing what you do. You’re so real. I’m struggling so hard right now and feel that no one understands. Why am I the only one who remembers the bad moments, the real moments, especially when on “vacation?” Even from my childhood. My mother will say “oh remember how fun this trip was?” No, what I remember is how she yelled at my dad for 5 hours straight in the car, and crossed her arms and was grumpy everywhere we went. On our own family trips, I remember how the kids cried and complained about literally everything, and we spent copious amounts of money we didn’t have on shit that at least one always hated, but then afterwards picked out the 23 pictures out of 400 that showed us all smiling and happy to show everyone what a great time we had, and 6 months later everyone asking when we could go on another vacation. I’m thinking, no thanks! I’m so done. Is it just me? It seems like it’s just me. Am I cursed with a better memory than everyone else? Am I just an awful negative person? Sorry for the rant. I’m just kind of sensitive right now and wish just one person would understand me.
JillWednesday, 19 October, 2016 at 17:46
This is amazing. You’ve made me feel sane after a long day with the hubs out of town all week and fours kids driving me crazy. I feel like a crazy person in my head – constantly yelling and correcting them and being a total bitch while I tell them to “PLEASE BE FRIGGING KIND TO EACH OTHER!” (Because I’m setting such a good example of how to do that….) Meanwhile thinking in my head how much I love them and it would probably be better to be telling them that than giving them more fuel for their future therapist but not being able to help myself. Thanks so much for sharing your stories. <3
KateWednesday, 19 October, 2016 at 18:02
OMG I laughed til I got hiccups. Your Bingo hits every high/low point of every family vacation! Remembering the f*ing elevator button kills me every time because I JUST DONT CARE and yet it is SO IMPORTANT! BTW – you are looking hot, like Supergirl kinda HOT!!
SusanWednesday, 19 October, 2016 at 18:11
Reminds me of the time my toddler crapped her pants at the park and I had nothing. I made her big sister give up her panties and wiped the toddler’s butt with the shit covered pants that I dipped in a puddle. Then I threw the pants in the park garbage and made the toddler walk all the way home in just her big sisters panties because there was no way in hell I was carrying her and getting covered in shit! Yet for some reason I took them back to the same park later that week. Why do we do this ton ourselves?
CharlieWednesday, 19 October, 2016 at 18:29
Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha. I love travelling with my family for all of the reasons you describe. It’s just so exciting not knowing what might happen next. I love living on the edge. And sometimes I hate it. I will soon toss my family into a plane for almost 24 hours. It’s only 24 hours, what could go wrong?! Ha ha ha ha ha. Thanks for the BINGO card idea!
SianWednesday, 19 October, 2016 at 19:53
So lucky to have discovered you and the way you say what we are all thinking!
My kids are grown but I remember my son (aged 3) laying the biggest turd I had EVER seen -on a rock at the bottom of a gorge, with other people approaching… and they had seen and heard the whole process. Of course I had nothing to clean up or bury the crap with – so I made him eat the entire contents of a bag of twisties. Somehow I managed to wrangle the enormous poop into the bag without it touching my hands and carried it for an hour, up and out of the chasm, with him bellyaching the whole way that his bottom was slimy and itchy. I still remember the stench in nightmares!
erinWednesday, 19 October, 2016 at 21:15
I lost my grandmother a month and a half ago and feel emptied from the loss of a woman who was always there…she was a constant in our family and had been doing nothing but loving the shit out of us for the majority of her 84 years. (well of course she did way more but that felt like THE purpose in her life.) I also happen to be 8 months pregnant and am the only one of her grandkids to not have a baby before she went. The timing of it all is just torture.
All that to say Thank You for the perspective, for reminding me these are moments when I can choose grief or choose gratefulness. That these are the moments that when I am 84, I will be replaying as the best of times.
KatharineSThursday, 20 October, 2016 at 1:16
Oh fuck, you made me cry!
It never ceases to amaze me the way you get right to the depths of emotions, put them into words that make sense, and connect us all through these shared experiences of being human.
OCLThursday, 20 October, 2016 at 6:53
So beautiful. I am crying at work….Keep it up!
LindsayThursday, 20 October, 2016 at 8:16
First I laughed so hard I was crying, then I was in tears from the overwhelming love for this crazy life. So many emotions, perfectly conveyed. Thank you, Janelle.
EThursday, 20 October, 2016 at 8:39
LET’S PLAY BLACKOUT!!! I have LITERALLY done each and every one of the things on the Bingo card – except that, instead of Taco Bell, it was a port-a-potty at an apple orchard, and instead of shorts it was her whole outfit and my own shirt. Because blowouts only happen a half mile into the orchard. With kids that can’t walk, but are too big to carry at arm’s length for a half mile. With a shrieking toddler following the. whole. time. And a 5 lb bag of apples. And I don’t even think they remember it, so where is the memory that made THAT day necessary? But I do it every year, because I love it.
ExisThursday, 20 October, 2016 at 9:34
I cried.That’s not unusual for this blog.
A line from this just became my new Gchat quote.”This is it, Janelle. These are the years. This is life. What are we waiting for?” I took “fuck” out because of my MIL.
But I just came to comment that you look fucking hot in that superman outfit. Woman to woman, I thought, “Damn, she’s rocking that”. No creepiness intended.
Your husband is also rocking the tutu. Work *snap*
DesireeThursday, 20 October, 2016 at 10:25
When you said that you were having a bad attitude and you are ruining family memories. This is how I feel every damn time. Glad I am not alone. Love how you pieced it all together. Touched my heart.
AimeeFriday, 21 October, 2016 at 13:34
Me too! I heard another mom say it best “moms don’t get vacations, they get a change of scenery” haha! I always yell at my kids at least once on vacation and then give myself permission to have a drink way too early in the day:)
BrookeThursday, 20 October, 2016 at 10:50
Damn it, Janelle…get out of my head! I’m sitting here, crying, as my youngest turns two tomorrow. I am just starting to crawl out of that deep, black abyss of postpartum depression, followed by weaning-related depression, and I’m just starting to find myself again. I’m just now starting to feel alive again. I mean, shit, my eldest is 4 now, and I barely remember what her being three was like because I was just too far gone. But, that’s besides the point. Life is precious, and it is happening whether we like to admit it or not, and so your post was timely for me. I’m learning to pay attention and appreciate life, even as my 4 year old throws an hour long tantrum because I gave her the wrong color cup. So thank you. Somehow you always know what to say at the exact right moment…and I can either be creeped out by that, or pay attention that the universe just has a way of giving us these gifts when we need them most.
CasseyThursday, 20 October, 2016 at 12:10
I’ve been having a tough parenting time lately. Thanks for this wonder of words.
SarahThursday, 20 October, 2016 at 20:17
I’m glad you got to be present for your grandpa while he went. It is a terrible burden upon the heart and a beautiful gift at the same time to be with a loved one while they pass. What you share with everyone is so very human and what you are is so beloved.
AndyThursday, 20 October, 2016 at 23:59
I am a man. For the record, my wife makes me read this blog in the face of vehement, manly protest. Anyway, we took our brood to Disneyland this summer too and with arguably fewer emergencies (the norovirus-diarrhea-dehydration emergency room tour of the Pacific Northwest was a couple of years back). Amongst the horrors of spoilage and darling memories about KidFour’s first churro that he’ll never remember, I had a similar recognition to wit you are testifying here. In faraway retrospect, this will be the plot of our story. This is the bit that we will reminisce about: my younger daughter looking at me with the cruelest “go to hell” look on the morning she realizes we are leaving Disneyland, still in the facepaint that she slept in. Thanks for the reminder. It serves as a scathing indictment for how much attention I pay to the shitty tiling job I did in our bathroom or other seemingly important things. As a favor… would you consider renaming the blog Renegade Parents or some such, so that my dude coworkers don’t see me reading a Mama blog?
melissaFriday, 21 October, 2016 at 8:44
i should know by now to NEVER read your blog while i’m at work…i don’t yet appreciate the child-filled family vacation experience yet (i dare not take the 2yo to disney) but now can’t stop thinking of my grandparents. they were together for 62 years when my grandma died just before my son was born. my mom is the oldest of 8 and i’m the oldest of 28 grandchildren – my grandparents have always been a huge part of my life and were more in love than any couple i’ve ever seen. big hugs to you and your family as you continue life without your grandfather.
Shannon MacSaturday, 22 October, 2016 at 14:15
Laugh, laugh, cry. You’re so good at evoking emotion and being relatable.. Also you look GREAT.
Sam PereiraSaturday, 22 October, 2016 at 21:25
You fucking made me cry Janelle!
HeatherSunday, 23 October, 2016 at 15:37
I really wish you’d stop making me cry unexpectedly. This post seemed like it would just be hysterically funny, as usual, but then you turn it around and I’m sobbing. You’d think I’d learn.
On a different note, I have intended to write you to say that I’ve appreciated your writing so much over the last few years that I decided to write a bit on my own. I hope my writing is encouraging or comforting to some other random interweb person, as yours has been to me. Feel free to read (blog address above). Thanks.
LaurenSunday, 23 October, 2016 at 19:31
This. So well said.
“I knew in my brain it couldn’t last forever. I didn’t know it in my heart.”
Daddy ScratchesMonday, 24 October, 2016 at 6:20
This is a pretty amazing piece. Well done.
We have similar temperaments. And neuroses.
Keep it up.
KaraTuesday, 25 October, 2016 at 18:37
This is my favorite
KristalThursday, 27 October, 2016 at 9:01
We just got back from our first family vacation, and boy did I need to read this. I cried tears. Thank you.
TishThursday, 27 October, 2016 at 14:13
“I watched their hands never let go as they played and replayed with their eyes the story of their lives together.
And I realized, they were replaying what I am living now.
I watched them travel a lifetime in a few hours, tracing cracked fingers over paths of kids, jobs, grief and joy…”