Last week, we packed up and piled in our tiny Yaris to embark on our third roadtrip in as many weekends. This time, we were on our way to Cape Breton, a cozy island on the tip of our province. We were off to meet family visiting from Toronto and to give my husband and his step-father the golfing experience of a summer.
I come from a family who jumps in the car at every opportunity. My Dad’s definition of a nice afternoon is to “take a drive”. As I was growing up, my family spent one summer driving through Canada and then exploring the northern States and another spring driving to Florida and back along the Eastern seaboard. The idea of spending all day in a car getting to some far off destination actually sounds kind of nice to me.
My husband is cut from a different cloth, however. He would rather not drive any further than he needs to. A “quick” four-hour jaunt over Nova Scotian highways feels like torture to him, and he would rather get it over as fast as possible then to make many stops and enjoy the journey.
To each his own.
Still, with two kids, a four hour drive to the other side of our province isn’t the easiest thing we’ve ever done. We have it mostly down to a science: The toddler has the iPad to watch “Cars and Boats” (Cars 2) and the newborn is still at that age where he sleeps through everything but the mid-trip milk break. Still, we are each a little anxious to get out and stretch our legs and expend some energy after a good long trek like that. As our car drove into Inverness, we were counting down the minutes until we could jump up, claim our hotel room, and run around a little.
As we drove into the courtyard of the hotel resort, I knew that things were not quite as we had expected.
A valet came out to meet us. He would take our bags and then park our car. But with two kids in the car and all of our worldly belongings packed in around them, our life was not really conducive to valet parking. We gave him our one duffel bag and the playpen to bring to our room, but insisted it would be easier to park the car ourselves and take our time extracting the kids. As we selected a parking spot, my husband turned to me and said with shock “I had no idea there would be valet service! I have no money on me. Not a cent. I should have tipped him. Do you have any money?”
Ohmygosh, I thought. We are that family who does not tip!
As we walked into the lobby, me carrying the infant carseat while Dan was hand-in-hand with our two-year-old, an employee greeted us. “Are you hear to eat?” he asked. He was polite and smiling, but I could just imagine what he was thinking behind those words. “…because with two babies, I really hope you’re not planning on staying here.”
I looked around. There were windows everywhere. Adults in proper golf attire. Everything was pristine and quiet and fingerprint-free.
“No. We’re here to stay” I said, mortified.
We had brought kids to a place where kids are clearly not meant to be.
All weekend, I tried to hide my kids away. I tried to dress them nicely and keep them still and quiet. They were going to be seen and not heard, and barely seen at that. Adults around me were going to tell me how good and cute my kids are. Right?
Everywhere we went, we were that family with those kids.
My son ran around the restaurant that first evening at dinner. I barely managed to keep him from running into a waitress and knocking over a girl on crutches. He whined and yelled and wanted to throw his cars on the floor. The first night in the hotel room was horrid. We tried to give Cameron his own, queen sized bed, when he is still used to sleeping in a crib. We were stuck in a nightmare and no one had even fallen asleep yet. Cameron ran. Cameron jumped. Cameron yelled. Cameron cried. After a night with little sleep, Cameron spent the next day completely on the verge of a breakdown. And then he refused to nap.
I’m not even going to mention the baby.
Everywhere we went we were that family. We stood out. We were loud. We were unruly. We were totally in a place we didn’t belong.
I spent most of my weekend completely and utterly embarrassed of my children.
I could have fit into that resort. I could have been fancy and polite and pristine. I could have worn designer clothes and beautiful jewellery and expensive shoes. Dan and I were on our way to being that couple until we had kids. But having kids changed us from that couple to that family with those kids.
I had to check myself. Who cared if we were that family? I like being that family. I like having these kids. Even if it means over-tired upsets and spit-up clothes and a ponytail hairdo. Even if we no longer fit into certain environments. What does it matter?
That same boy who screamed in a hotel for an hour while we tried to enforce naptimes kisses me on the lips and says “I lub you, Mama.”
That same baby who douses me in eau-de-spitup scent brightens a room with his incessant smiling.
My kids are incredible. They are amazing. And when I look past my own faulty embarrassment I find fierce pride.
We are that family. With those kids. And even in the middle of a world not created for us, there is no one else I’d rather us be.
Have you ever been that family before? Have your kids ever stuck out like a sore thumb. Have they ever embarrassed you (gasp!)? I’d love to hear about it!