“I don’t want to leave, please, I just want to stay here forever and ever,” cries our five-year-old, Penny.
“Please! I want to go to my class!” echoes three-year-old Georgia.
Every inch of our van has been packed full.
Piles of damp and sandy towels and bathing suits. Suitcases with clothes covered in dirt and the strong scent of campfire. Toothbrushes and shampoo neatly packed in our toiletry bag, barely touched. Half full bags of chips and crackers, crumbs gathering at the bottom of the cooler.
We’ve spent the last four nights at our family’s favourite place on earth: Muskoka. This is our second time this summer, and the kids are not ready to leave. They love the trailer park and the trailer we’ve rented, the sandy beach with the picture perfect views, their days spent on the water and in the sun.
They especially enjoy their class, a wonderful camp organized by the resort we are at - Muskoka Bible Centre.
“Mommy aren’t you sad to leave? Aren't you going to miss it here?” Asks Penny.
I try to answer her honestly, but not crush her spirit.
“No. Not this time Penny. I am very happy to go home today.” I reply, truthfully.
In past years I have loved MBC. My favourite memories are in the Muskokas, first falling in love with my husband, and then bringing our children up and watching them create wonderful memories.
But last month when we arrived we had to cut our visit short when our 2-month-old developed a fever and was taken to Orillia Hospital. I was alone and terrified, but thankfully we were released and our daughter was fine.
We had our second trip booked for the past six months, and although I was more than eager to cancel, my husband and our two older children would be crushed if we didn’t go. We agreed to stay for a shortened week, but I still felt extremely nervous about going so soon after our last difficult trip.
A few hours after we arrived at our trailer Eloise developed a fever, again. My heart sank.
This time Eloise was over 3-months-old, and because she was drinking well and alert we felt confident in not taking her to the doctor or hospital.
I ended up spending the four nights doing everything in my power to get Eloise healthy. I kept her cool in our trailer, and out of the sun. I fed her on demand, and she was certainly demanding. I rocked her when she was fussy, held her when she needed comfort, and kept a close eye on her temperature, giving her Tylenol when she needed it.
I skipped basking in the sun at the beach, and stuck to the shade when I did get outside. I spent most of my time alone with Eloise, while the kids and Daniel splashed in Mary Lake and adventured around the resort.
It was an incredibly lonely and alienating vacation. I didn’t feel refreshed, restored or rejuvenated. I just wanted to go home, and I desperately wanted my little Eloise to be well.
Luckily two days before we left Eloise’s fever broke and she started smiling again. She was still extra fussy, but she was clearly on the mend.
The night before we went home Daniel and I went out for dinner just us and Eloise. The older girls stayed with their grandparents, who were also on vacation near our resort.
I’m typically easy going when it comes to things like dinners out and dates. But this time I took charge, and chose the restaurant that most appealed to me.
A quaint little Italian restaurant in an old house in Huntsville, serving high quality authentic Italian food made fresh.
By the time we arrived and heard the specials my stomach was growling and my mouth was watering.
I’m never one to order expensive items on the menu. I grew up scanning menus and choosing the least expensive meal at restaurants. But today was different. Today was my opportunity to think about myself and enjoy myself, on a vacation that felt very much about everyone else.
“I’ll have the lobster special,” I replied.
I had never ordered such a lavish or expensive meal in my life. But I wanted the lobster, and Daniel encouraged me to go for it.
When my meal arrived Daniel held Eloise, who was starting to fuss, and I savoured the taste of my carefully prepared meal, scarfing down each bite.
I enjoyed the moment that was all about me, delighting in the extravagance of my meal.
Vacationing with children is never what we expect. And I’ve learned that vacationing with a newborn is not for the faint of heart. But MBC is our children’s favourite place on earth, and to have missed an entire year would have felt unfair and cruel to them.
This year our trips to Muskoka weren’t about me. They were difficult and lonely and felt a little bit unfair.
But I would do it again for the memories it made for my children and the joy that they experienced.
And I’m glad that when I had the chance I seized the opportunity to do something for myself, to enjoy something lavish and out of the ordinary.
“Motherhood is a choice you make everyday, to put someone else's happiness and well-being ahead of your own, to teach the hard lessons, to do the right thing even when you're not sure what the right thing is.” Donna Ball, At Home on Ladybug Farm
How do you feel about vacations with young children? Tell us a story about a vacation gone wrong in the comments below!