With Kids in the Wild

Vacation With a Baby

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I am on day four of a weeklong beach vacation. Many warned that vacationing with a 9-month-old is no vacation at all. But to those ninny-pooper naysayers, I have one thing to say: Pish-posh. I completely disagree. Like a college frat boy watching the clock strike 12:01 a.m. on his 21st birthday, a baby holds the true meaning of this sacred time close to his heart.

In my humble opinion, any good vacation can be quantified in how well you slept, ate and played. Luckily, my 9-month-old believes in the same mathematical formula. However, the outcome of the equation varies greatly from my own. When it comes to vacationing with a pre-walking, pre-talking pre-toddler, I have a lot to learn.

—Sleep.

The old me would say that a good vacation provides ample opportunity to sleep in, to nap, to recharge. Turns out I was wrong. Sleep is for sissies.

My son has decided to fully immerse himself in this vacation. Why waste time under the covers when there is a whole world to explore? Which is why he has decided to stay up. All night. Every night.

Sure, one could argue that he is having trouble sleeping because of the new location and strange bedding. But I say poppycock! Clearly, my proactive procreation simply has a strong desire to experience the local nightlife. To club-hop and pub-crawl. To absorb the indigenous culture of the witching hours in a way that would make even traveling boozer and full-time curmudgeon Anthony Bourdain smile.

My kid’s no nighttime elitist. He wants to carpe diem by daylight, too. Despite the fact that we are on vacation and can sleep past our strict weekday 6:33 a.m. wake-up time, he is insisting we all stick to it. Why sleep in?! This is vacation, for goodness’ sake! What better time to wake up super-early after being up all night? Who cares that no place is open yet and that our hotel doesn’t even have coffee in the lobby at that time? Isn’t it just great to be awake and be alive?! My 9-month-old thinks so.

—Food.

My son is new to the world of solid foods.

And I can’t imagine his packaged organic mashed-up mush has really sold him on the idea. But despite being new to cuisine, my baby believes that when you are on vacation, you must try all the local fare. He must! Why else would he have insisted on putting every single seashell, perfectly sized for asphyxiation, into his mouth? You would think that somewhere on the beach, we could find a spot that lacked the veritable smorgasbord of suffocating snacks, but no.

I’m not nearly so culinarily curious or daring with dining as my son. I told him that we can learn from each other. He has inspired me to try new things, but I would prefer he develop a more dignified palate and not stick everything into his mouth. Despite being only 9 months old, my child opted to do the mature thing. He dropped the seashells and chose to eat fistfuls of sand instead.

—Play.

Before heading on our beach vacation, I bought a baby tent that blocks 99 percent of ultraviolet rays. I placed the tent next to the blanket on which I was lying and filled it with an assortment of toys. But did my son want to play in the safe harbor I had created for him? Of course not! He wanted to explore and play, dang it! He opted to let us know by exercising his lungs, as if to cry out: Life is meant to be lived, not to be idly watched as the waves of life pass you by! And what better place to trash a tent, thrash in the sand, unleash yourself from cultural expectations and sing your heart out to the beat of crashing waves? Sure, it’s possible the people sleeping near us may have found my son’s auditory declarations to be less inspirational and more on a par with “screaming.” But I feel fairly certain the same things were said about Bjork, and she’s been nominated for Grammys.

My 9-month-old understands what vacation is all about. It’s about dancing in the moonlight and feeling sand under your toes and seashells in your mouth. And I can get down with that. I really can. The only problem is that I need a vacation to recuperate from this one.

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