When Malcolm was about a year and a half and I was pregnant with Bella, we thought we’d take a little mini-break to Portsmouth. I think it’s the closest to divorce we’ve ever come. It. Was. Awful. Sleepless nights, unauthorized long-distance phone calls from the hotel room, lost articles of clothing, handfuls of utensils thrown up in the air at Pizza Hut, screaming–and that was just me… We didn’t go on a “vacation” again for 4 years.
That next time was better.
Three years have passed since that trip and we thought, man, it would be so nice to get away again! Plus, our family was visiting and treated us to a wonderful destination all together.
A righteously hideous stomach bug took the first 4 days and made its way through all 5 of us.
Hawaii sat under a gray cloud.
Our party of 9 filled up a Cessna then dipped and dropped our way through the sky (which felt great after being sick for 4 days) over uninhabited, treacherously gorgeous mountains and crystal blue open seas to another island,
where the baby decided there would be no sleeping. For 2 days and nights. For anyone.
Our unfortunate neighbor confronted me outside our room the second morning and treated me to every mothers’ nightmare: the confirmation that they are indeed a terrible parent, a lousy human being, and their children are the Devil’s spawn. For the next few hours all I could think about were the stinging comments and hateful sarcastic facial expressions of the woman next door. Do you know your baby has been crying all night for the past two nights? …Ya know what, I’m glad you got a call, because we’re on our vacation too. …Do you feed him? Hold him? …Really, you’re really doing the best you can? I find that hard to believe. …And how many kids you got running around in there? Eleven? Twelve? …Yeah, well, you have a nice day too.”
While the men folk escaped for the morning, I took all 3 kids to the beach. Where Malcolm kicked a metric ton of wet sand into Bella’s eyeball.
This was not the only occasion in which the peaceful beachside resort folk witnessed my sweaty, frustrated, embarrassed form, strapped with 21 pounds of baby, a backpack of somehow ALWAYS unnecessary items, dragging at least one screaming child and trailed by another, staggering across the green to the bathroom. I spent the last night in the rental car with the baby.
I think the most relaxing part of the entire ordeal was falling into the front seat of my own filthy minivan after herding kids out of the road and off of suitcases, repacking backpacks that had been unpacked on the sidewalk, while Sam reinstalled (for the 3rd time) 3 carseats, and knowing that we would be home soon.
BUT while the “vacation” was an absolute failure, I’m glad we did it. My 12 children had a blast. And I got to see how God works.
During the walk of shame to the beach after speaking with my neighbor, I (naturally) replayed the entire thing over and over trying to see if there was any other way I could have responded. Even as it was happening, I had some pretty amazing comebacks prepared in my head, but for some reason polite and respectful words came out of my mouth. Every way I looked at it, I had to admit: I had been pretty calm and composed.
What the hell?
So I decided to experiment. If I were Jennifer Jones in The Song of Bernadette, what would I do next?
I would pray for the harpy. Ok. So I prayed that she and her family would end up having a nice day (…and that she would feel a little bit guilty for attacking me so mercilessly–cuz I’m not saint Bernadette…)
And that I would be gracious and would NOT tell Sam about what happened cuz then we’d all end up evicted from the hotel or in jail.
We came back around lunch time and I really hoped the neighbors were not around. They weren’t. But Sam found a little note under our door.
It wasn’t ideal. It never is, I suppose. But it was real. There was shame. There was frustration. There was a little bit of drinking. I spend a lot of time with my family. As I am trying to type this I have been interrupted twice by the sound of Malcolm and Bella beating the living daylights out of each other. I may or may not have exhibited my own lack of composure on them several times today. But they are mine. Only I’m allowed to complain about them. Seeing them out of their own environment is always eye-opening. Seeing them through the eyes of other people is not always encouraging. But we can’t take a break from being a family. Nor do I wish to. I’m just going to do my best.