The first night there, my daughter – usually a champion sleeper – was up several times, needy and uncomfortable. The next morning we all headed off to a small theme park, hoping to ease our way into our trip. Yeah, not so much.
While playing at the playground there, my older son fell several feet from the top of the monkey bars onto his left arm. Despite my initial fears that he had dislocated his shoulder and some lingering pain in his jaw and elbow, he rallied enough to walk through the park and even “wrestle” an alligator. My daughter became more and more fussy throughout the day, though, culminating in a whinefest at dinner that was only briefly halted by an infusion of chocolate peanut butter ice cream. My mom and I tried to cheer each other up just before bedtime with a sunny, “Well, at least we didn’t have to bring anybody to the hospital!”
Famous last words.
We were there, in the ER, two sleepless nights later, after my daughter’s runny nose and cough deteriorated into non-stop eye rubbing and that tell-tale bark known to all parents of croupy babies. “An ear infection, pink eye, and croup,” the nice doctor told us and then sent us on our way with enough prescriptions to open our own pharmacy.
I was the next to fall, followed by the boys, followed by my dad. By the time my husband arrived on Monday evening, our condo was littered with cough drop wrappers, purloined boxes of tissues, and half-drunk cups of water.
We spent the rest of our time in Florida doing small, quiet things – learning to play the card game “War” with Grandma, sitting on the porch, eating more ice cream, playing chess. Our week did not go the way that we’d planned. We didn’t make it to Legoland or the Kennedy Space Center. We didn’t frolic in the enveloping warmth of the sun. We did what we needed to do not to feel worse than we already did and even had some fun while doing it.
During our week away, I exchanged messages with Elizabeth, no stranger to vacation illness, and Allison and Denise, both of whom were having weeks much worse than my own. Parenting, Denise reminded me, is not for the faint of heart. No, it is not. And nor is life.
We’re doing better for the most part, thanks to time and sleep and the power of saline rinses and modern pharmaceuticals. And maybe we’ll even do better next year. Maybe our best laid plans will come to fruition.
But maybe not. And that’s okay. It has to be. There’s no counting on it. And the best we can do is to make the best of the hand we’re dealt – whether that’s Legoland or an ace in War.
What’s the best family vacation you’ve ever been on? Any vacation horror stories to share?