Our family just returned from Ocean City, Maryland. We go every year and get a condo–three bedrooms and a few baths–for my parents, my sister and brother-in-law, their two kids, ages 6 and 11, my husband, my kid and myself. It’s a great time and something we definitely look forward to, every year.
There’s plenty to do for the kids: the boardwalk, the beach, the pool, the annual mini golf cup, and the rides. There’s plenty to do for the adults: all of the things listed above and add a few adult beverages when it’s appropriate and a support system built in so we can all go on dates with our spouses sans kids.
Last year, I was on maternity leave during the vacation with a barely 1-month-old. This year, vacation was with a 1-year-old. In one year, my son has been injected with the gifts of walking and curiosity. Game-changers. Here are some of the areas that were vastly different from one year to the next and what we might do differently in years to come:
The drive down. A 1-month-old sleeps during a four-hour car ride. So it was no problem to pull over if I had to feed him or make a stop if he needed a diaper change. A 1-year-old doesn’t always sleep the whole time, so I brought some toys and snacks to keep him occupied.
What I’ll change for next year. I hate to say it but I’ll probably bring an iPad or screen of some kind to keep him entertained. He did sleep a little, but the days of three hour naps are over. As he gets older, his mental stimulus is getting stronger so he needs things of a higher entertainment value to stay engaged.
Swimming attire. The first year, I had one swimsuit for the baby. We took him down to the beach, put his toes in the water and took some pictures. I don’t even think we had a towel for him. That was as much beach time as we saw that year, partly because I was still healing from the huge bodily trauma of having a child a few weeks before. We were more focused on schedules, sleeping when we could, and figuring the whole new parent thing out. This year, I brought no fewer than five bathing suits, swim diapers, towels, hats, sunscreen, a chest floating device. Were they all necessary? Yes.
What I’ll change for next year. Probably nothing.
Beach gear. Last year we did not pack a single beach toy. Like I said, we didn’t really do “the beach” at the beach. This year – and I’m not kidding when I say this – we had a tent, a kiddie pool, umbrellas, an entire wheeled cart for chairs and towels, a cooler filled with sandwiches, snacks and cold drinks, a beach bag for reading materials and sunscreen, some water toys, a volleyball, two baseball gloves and a ball, and a radio.
What I’ll change for next year. Probably nothing, though we should scale back on all of the back breaking work it takes to have a day on the beach. It’s a little like we’re moving in, and the whole point is to unplug and enjoy the peace and nature of it, right?
Baby needs for the venue. This year, on the very first night, Baby M and my 6-year-old niece wanted to get in their swimsuits and take a fun bubble bath in the gigantic master Jacuzzi tub. As soon as I turned on the water, my son, who was standing (bad mom moment, I should have known better), slipped and hit his eyebrow on one of the Jacuzzi jets. Panic sets in and ridiculousness ensues. There was a 15-minute discussion between my husband, my brother-in-law, my father and me as to whether or not I should take him to an urgent care for stitches. Once we started looking up urgent care facilities, we realized none of them was open on Saturday nights (people get injured on Saturdays too! Why would you not be open!?), so we would have had to take him to closest hospital, which was not close at all. We ended up calling my mother and my sister, who were out, to stop at a store and get some butterfly bandages and antibiotic cream. My sister, who is a nurse, examined everything and didn’t think stitches were necessary. The kid’s totally fine now and you would never know the incident ever happened.
Last year, we didn’t need to baby proof much. Baby M was sleeping, eating and pooping mostly and wasn’t as mobile. This year, he’s a traveler and got into a whole lot more. We had to move potted plants and breakable décor that was reachable into closets. I did have to make a stop at a drug store to get some plug-ins for electrical outlets and some baby-proofing items to keep him out of drawers and cabinets. There was also a coffee table with some sharp corners that we decided to keep a soft blanket over for the remainder of the week so there was no more head-whacking.
What I’ll change for next year. First-aid kit for sure. Not only did our kid need the kit, but I also burnt my arm on the oven door making lasagna one night and with three kids in the house, bumps are going to happen. I will bring baby-proofing items. And one of the first things I’m going to do is create a list of urgent care facilities and hospitals to have on hand just in case. Mom gets a C- in this area of planning for the vacation this year.
Sleeping arrangements. Last year we had a portable bassinet that we brought with us. This year, the baby slept in his Pack ‘N’ Play that we had strapped onto the roof of the car. The big difference here is not necessarily what he had to sleep in, but rather that his sleeping arrangement was in the same room as my husband and I. So we had a bit of a sleep regression; at home, if he wakes up and becomes a little fussy, I can check on the monitor to see if he is OK, or will go in and check to see if he needs a clean diaper, and we’ve gotten to a good point where he will lay back down and sooth himself to sleep. With the Pack ‘N’ Play in the same room at the beach, even after he’s put down, he still sees mom and dad, and wants to be picked up or soothed by us. This also triggered a regression when we came home where he was sleeping through the night and is now sporadically wanting a bottle once a night. So sleeping was a little different and harder than I thought it would be.
What I’ll change for next year. I’m debating if next year Baby M will be big enough to sleep in a kid’s sleeping bag, or if we should consider having him sleep in a different room in the same Pack ‘N’ Play not to interrupt his (or our) sleep schedule and move into a regression again. I still have some thinking to do on this one.
Overall, we were pretty prepared minus the first aid Kit. There were a couple of hiccups with the sleeping that can be figured out, but we love our vacation at the beach every year. My husband and I managed to get our seafood on for a night and we had some great days going to the amusement park riding tea cups and playing games. We landed some sun, bonded with our family and rested.
Is it as relaxing as it once was? Maybe not, but that relaxation will come back once he gets a little older and is a little more self-sufficient. Is he going to remember this trip? Probably not, but I will. And I’ll have the pictures to share with him. Are the giggles on the beach and the faces they make when they ride the carousel the first time worth it? Absolutely.
As for my poor niece who didn’t get to have her bubble bath party, we made sure to carve out some Aunt/Niece time later in the week. She forgave me.
Carley Lucas is a working mother of one hysterically giggly 9-month-old. She, her son and her husband live in Central PA and firmly believe a household of laughter is the best form of medicine for any situation.