Remember when we told you how much fun it is to “vacation” with a toddler? Well, it is so much fun that I recently decided to go on a vacation with not just one, but several toddlers – and threw a couple of preschoolers in the mix just to spice things up! We went to the beach for a long weekend with two other families, and I am pleased to report that despite having six adults and six children (all five and under) confined to a small but lovely house for over 72 hours, we had a really fun-tastic time – and we survived! (with a few bumps and bruises…) I did, however, learn some important things to consider before going away with that awesome family that you’ve barbecued with a few times.
- Parenting Styles Matter: If your family is the strict scheduled, no-tv, no junk food sort of gang, it’s probably best to avoid going away with the free-wheelers who, even in a non-vacation setting, throw schedules to the wind. Good luck trying to get your kid to bed while 4 other kids are watching Frozen and eating cheese doodles and ding dongs for dinner. (For the record, it’s generally my kids who are doing the ding dong pushing and movie watching on vacation – so no judgments here!)
- Coordinate in Advance: It’s always good to coordinate for meals, groceries, and the necessities – like toilet paper and beer. But with several babies and children under one roof for three meals and endless snacks a day, we prepared like were were moving the Fifth Marine Division. Anticipating your child’s needs is probably second nature at this point. But anticipating your child’s needs in reaction to several other children’s needs is a whole new challenge. Plan accordingly.
- Be Prepared to Lose Your Deposit: Remember the old days (like college) when you went on a trip with your friends and were concerned that someone would get too drunk and destroy things? Well children under five are almost exactly like drunk college kids – they are loud, have very little regard for property or personal space, and they frequently wet their pants. You are now sharing a house with a troop of pint-sized frat boys (and girls). The house will surely not be treated with respect.
- Keep Your Eyes on Your Own Children: Often times when there are several adults around, there is an expectation that there are enough eyes to ensure the safety of all children present. In fact, this is a dangerous assumption, especially in a social atmosphere that dominates a multi-family vacation. We instituted a rule in the house for safety’s sake – your kids, your responsibility (unless specifically asked). Make sure parenting responsibilities are clear with your partner, as well. There might have been one or two times over the course of our holiday weekend where in the midst of chatting with our friends we turned to each other and said, “I thought you were watching him!”
- There Will Be Chaos: Did I mention that a gathering with the under-5 set can feel like a bit like a frat? I have a whole new respect for our daycare center and preschool teachers.
- There Will Be TV: The ultimate way to calm the chaos, not to mention a fabulous child care option for those inevitable crack of dawn OMGIHAVETOGETUPAT5AMBECAUSEIDONTWANTTOMISSANYFUN! wake ups. Your kids will be having plenty of outdoor fun on vacation. When in the house, TV is your friend.
- Have a Sense of Humor: There will be missed bedtimes and missed naps, there will be junk food, there will be uneaten dinners, there will be television, there will be toys lost, and there might even be nudity, some bickering, and things getting broken. But there will also be a lot of fun… if you can laugh. And that’s what vacation is all about!
Happy summer everyone… and GOOD LUCK!