Let me clarify ahead of time that I’m not a parent. Well, as per my professional code of conduct, I do act in loco parentis (in place of a parent) during the daytime, but I am well aware that it is a far cry from being a parent 24/7. That’s just my point.
As I age, I continue to gain a new found respect for all that parents do. My husband and I are presently vacationing in the mountains—one of our absolute favourite places to be! (next to Hawaii). For us, it is always a peaceful getaway where we get to while away the days however we choose. Naps, gabbing time, snacks and meals whenever, pool visits, games, walks, reading, writing; a whole gamut of relaxation and activities at our own pace. Camping here for a whole week has given us a glimpse into our neighbour’s lives as people come and go on either side of our stall. Many of those neighbours are parents. It is clear that vacation time and ‘getting away from it all’ means something quite different for them.
Please don’t misinterpret what I’m saying to mean that they aren’t enjoying many of the same things that we are. Planning and going on a trip of any kind is exciting regardless of who you are. I think it just looks and feels a little different as families maneuver about their days trying to include something pleasing for everyone. Often times, this means parents forgoing their own choices in lieu of what makes their kids happy—likely the very definition of parenthood to some degree. What is most remarkable to me are the daily sacrifices made by moms and dads, be them big or small: less down time in general, the constant negotiation of boundaries be it food or bedtime, frequent changes of activities and the responsibilities of cooking and cleaning up as well as looking after any family pets. You might be thinking to yourself ‘Yep, that’s everyday!’ which is undoubtedly true, but camping and/or holidays mean accomplishing the aforementioned and more in a foreign environment. It can go well or not so well and sometimes, that is moment by moment never mind day by day. Again, nothing new to those of you who have cared for children. As someone watching from the sidelines, I’m in continual awe of the commitment that it takes to raise a family, and I admire and respect those who have taken on the challenge.
I gleaned early on that parenting is a lot of hard work, but just how hard I’m only slowly beginning to realize as time goes on. It truly is 24/7 and it doesn’t matter what age children are. For example, my husband and I are middle-age, yet we are still seen as ‘kids’ in our parents’ eyes and we always will be. The support, care, worry and sacrifices for us continue. Granted, I am aware that not every child has a picturesque home situation. No one does in reality, but as an educator of close to three decades, I know that circumstances for young ones can be more than grim unfortunately. Today, I speak of the average family, I suppose (if in fact there is one).
What I can say, however, is that throughout our mountain park stay, while I have marvelled at the constant dedication required of moms and dads around us, it has also been really nice to see families spending quality outside time together. Biking, hiking, swimming, game playing, reading stories, campfire hang-outs and eating together to name a few. Best of all, amongst the list of outdoor activities, very little of that time has involved technology of any sort—for both kids and parents! It’s been a welcome sight. After all, what is more endearing than listening to children being children whilst giggling and playing in the great outdoors?!
As we wrap up our visit and think about all that we have to do to prepare for the trip home, just as we did for the trip here, I cannot help but specifically appreciate the extra efforts of parents in that regard. Planning and packing everything needed for a vacation with ourselves in mind is one thing, but doing so for little ones, especially babies is a whole other affair. Considering the fact that my husband and I can barely remember all that we need WITH a well-refined list, ensuring little ones have ALL of their things is commendable really. That being said, once the intended destination is reached, I’m sure that it is all worth it just as it is for us. After all, spending time with loved ones and creating memories together is the real point to it all. Parents or not.