Since my husband’s job keeps him pretty busy during the season. And recruiting. And spring ball…and spring recruiting…you get the idea. He’s pretty busy. We learned early on that we needed to really value the time we had together. And since our family goes through a significant chunk of the year without Nick around, we sort of feel validated in taking the kids out of school for a week to be able to travel as a family for spring break. I was raised to value family time. Especially if that time was on the water.
My parents started taking us to the beach when I was in second grade. My best friend’s family went to Panama City Beach with a big group, and they invited my family to join them one spring break. My whole family owes them a huge debt of gratitude. That beach trip changed our lives. The beach became our happy place. We started going to Panama City every year over our school spring break. When Indiana high school football began the moratorium week (a mandatory week of the summer where players weren’t allowed to practice or have organized workouts with their coaches) we started going to the beach for a week in the summer, too.
When I was in college I went on spring break with my friends for a week to Panama City and then two weeks later turned around and came right back with my parents and little brother. I know my parents always valued family time, and I was a pretty responsible kid doing well enough in my classes that they were not concerned with me missing a few classes to continue our family tradition of heading south! The bonus week of vacation became sort of a routine for me. The spring break before my wedding my parents had gotten a studio condo for their spring break…they said I was welcome to come because there was a pull out couch. There is no way they really wanted me to come…but I showed up. The summer Nick and I were married I snagged an extra week at the beach with my parents when football season had started back. When I was pregnant with our oldest daughter my parents ago rented a small studio condo. I showed up again. Now that I have kids of my own I realize the full ridiculousness of me showing up time and time again. I also realize what great parents I have that they kept telling me about their vacation plans.
When Nick and I were first married he told me he would never go on a beach vacation with me. He told me beaches weren’t really his thing. He told me he didn’t really understand the appeal of family vacation and that I could just take the kids and go by myself. And then my parents celebrated their 30th wedding anniversary in Destin, FL, and my entire extended family was going. Nick does love family gatherings, so he agreed to go “just this once”. We brought our baby girl to the beach and had a wonderful week. I have never struggled to convince Nick to head to the shore from that day on. In fact, now it’s often his suggestion that we find a way to get to the ocean.
When money was extra tight one year, but we were trying desperately to find a way to take a vacation, my lovely parents offered that we could just stay in with them in the condo they were renting. Their one bedroom condo. With our 3 small children. I’m sure they were thrilled when we actually showed up! Thankfully the man they were renting from, who they had rented from for years, also owned the condo next door…that was unrented for the week. He offered it to us for the cost of housekeeping to come. But our willingness to sleep on a pull out sofa as a family of 5 in my parents’ one-bedroom, one bathroom condo cemented the fact that we were beach lovers. And we never looked back. (It may have finally taught my parents to be careful what they offered!)
So when college spring break rolled around, and the opportunity to go to the gulf coast arose, we decided our kids would gain more from a week on the beach with their brothers and sisters than they would suffer from missing one week of school. They would miss out on math, but they could figure what fraction of the bed would be theirs if they had to share with one sibling and then another sister snuggled in. They would miss reading, but would have 10 hours in the big van for sustained silent reading and practice reading Fox in Socks on repeat to little brother. Instead of art there would be sculpture using sand and seashells as their primary medium. Physical Education would be subbed with hauling beach bags, buckets and coolers to the beach and back and then hours of jumping in waves and balancing on boogie boards. We’ve watched bonnet sharks caught on fishing lines and discovered wildlife and discussed conservation and keeping our beaches clean to cover the sciences. But most of all they have just had time to be together. Board games and silly conversations, dance parties, and walks to the souvenir shop; knowing and loving each other is so valuable that I’m okay with them missing a week of school. Because these experiences and time together can’t be matched or replicated in the classroom. And someday I know I’m going to be able to get time with my kids just by suggesting a beach vacation. And as long as we have more than one bathroom I think that sounds wonderful.