I'm spending the week in the Outer Banks with my kids, parents, and brother in the same beach house we have rented two previous times. I suppose it is our tradition now. Like most traditions, it has just happened a couple times and now we just go with it. Every other year we spend a week in this house: the Lord of the Sea.
But here's something you parents all probably know and the child-free might not: vacation with little kids is just like every other day just with more sand, sugar and sunblock. You just change locations, the work load is mostly the same. Grandparents take up some slack with outings and help with baths. But really parents keep parenting. At least I get cool ocean breezes and a good excuse ("it's vacation!") to drink beer in the middle of the afternoon.
This vacation is also weird/hard/weird because the boys are here without their dad. I'm sleeping in the same room in which my youngest was conceived. And everywhere I remember the time we did X, and I feel the happiness for just a moment before the slap of "that's not ever going to happen again" stings me. And I watch the boys frolic and take risks in the ocean, and I just want to turn and look at their dad and say, " Will you get a load of that?!" But all I can do is take a few photos, maybe try to record a video or two. And feel guilty.
I feel guilty that I'm here on super family vacation and their dad isn't here to build sand castles, fly the kite (which I forgot at home anyway), carry them into the waves, and just do dad stuff with them.
And I know someday the boys will be off with their dad having the best time ever and I'll be sitting home or at the office wishing I could be there with them. This is part of the package deal of separation and co-parenting. And it sucks.
And yet, I love that we are all here together playing cards, telling old stories, laughing as the waves pound us and knock us to our knees. It's the best thing ever. Better than I could ask for, even in its imperfection, melancholy, and sense that something important is missing.
So we have two more days and I'm going to try to keep my head in the here and now. See my beautiful boys as they are, hear them laugh, watch them grow right before my eyes. I'll take a few pictures. But mostly I'm going to try to capture in my heart all that happens that is so special and unique and of the "now".
We will never be here again.