Vacation(?) with a Two-Year-Old


I know, I know. I need to finish my series on Women and Work, but I’m on vacation right now, and after spending a delirious night of 8 solid, wild hours with a wiggly, wide-awake two-year-old, I need serious therapy. Therapy costs a lot of money, so how about a post? That always helps. I actually already wrote it in my head while capturing the Child and depositing him into the Pack-N-Play 9,736 times—to distract my mind from the insanity happening around me.

First of all, I want to point out that I’ve been around this particular block a time or 65,937. In spite of my experience (this being my ninth 2-year-old) I still had high hopes of actually accomplishing something on this vacation while this Child slept peacefully.

The second point I want to make, related to the first, is that YES – I like to accomplish things on vacation. What’s a vacation for? Laying around and doing nothing? Relaxing? Taking a BREAK?

vacation with a two year old

It all started quite well. My husband did all the planning. He found a three bedroom condo in the Dells, last minute, dirt cheap, for two days and two nights – with waterpark tickets included. Could I swing that? Hey, as long as the word “camping” isn’t part of the equation, we’re good.

The waterparks had some zero-entry pools for toddlers, so while I knew I’d spend most of the time standing, half naked, in a crowd of half naked people, shivering, eyes darting to keep track of a 2 and 3-year-old (yes, can’t forget about the 3-year-old), heart palpitating every 3 seconds that I couldn’t find one of them, I figured I could manage for 48 hours.

I’d get some work accomplished in the nice quiet evenings after the toddlers went to bed. And in the afternoons when the toddlers took their naps. It would be wonderful. I’d drink good things and eat good things and write good things.


The trip there was almost 4 hours long. Right during the Child’s naptime. Perfect for the Child to take his nap, right? The Child fell asleep about 5 minutes before another child decided she had to go tinkles. I groaned. You all know what that means, don’t you. The car stops. The kids make a ruckus. The Child wakes up, never to fall back asleep again for the rest of the trip.

I ranted and raved about how my fate was now sealed for the rest of the week end. My husband and older kids thought I was overly hysterical about it. They thought it made no sense. Why should the lack of an afternoon nap make any difference? Why, that SHOULD cause the Child to sleep EVEN BETTER that night. I mean, that’s the logical thing to assume, right?

But if you’re a mom reading this, you know that the opposite happens. If the Child misses the nap, the Child will forgo sleep for 24 more hours – and so will you.

After an evening of waterparking that went as expected, I headed back to our rooms to get the toddlers settled down and to bed. Cheerful. Hoping against hope that I would be proved wrong, and they’d both fall asleep peacefully in the strange bedroom and sleep all night.

The 3-year-old did just that. He’s almost 4, and I consider him past the age of difficulty, although he still poops in his pants, which does make me slightly batty. I keep telling myself they don’t do that anymore when they are 16, so at some point between now and then, it has to stop. I can’t imagine how he’ll finally figure out it is more pleasant to dump in the pot than in his pants. But I surely hope it happens soon. He’s the only one I ever wrote a blog post about regarding potty training – and it was such a hopeful post full of optimism and happy smiles. I swear I will never blog about about such things again. But I digress.

vacation 2

The 2-year-old (who JUST TURNED TWO THAT VERY DAY) was a whole different story. He is the kind of child who never stops moving. He has two speeds. Sleep and run. He figured out long ago how to escape the play pen. How to open doors. How to climb over things and under things and through things. How to get out of buckles and straps. He is Houdini.

I kept putting him back in the play pen – and laying down on the bed next to it to help him relax in the strange room – and he kept getting out. I put him in. He got out. I put him in. He got out. How would you like to read that over and over again ad nauseum? That’s how I felt doing it. After an hour of this, I gave up on the idea of a peaceful night of writing and pulled him into bed with me, hoping he’d fall asleep.

Nope. He sang. He flipped this way. He flopped that way. He sang some more. He repeated “DA DA BA BA Sir Kus” ten million times. (Daddy bombed the circus?) More flipping and flopping.

In the meantime Joe and the kids had come back from the waterpark, had watched a movie together, enjoyed snacks, and had a jolly time before hitting the sack.

Now it was 3:30 a.m., and I was ready to slit my throat. I stumbled out of the room from hell and found my husband snoring on the couch in the living room. I asked him if he might relieve me of my duties so I could try to get a little sleep before dawn and more waterparking commenced. (The thought was making me sick to my stomach at this point.)

He agreed and took the Child back into the room with him while I curled up on the couch. Silence. It was wonderful. I was alone. I relaxed. I could just feel myself drifting off into blissful oblivion when…CRASH!!! Something crashed outside in the hallway. My heart pounded, and I was wide awake with every muscle tensed. I listened for any more noises, and after hearing nothing for 5 minutes, I felt myself drifting off once again.

Suddenly a door slammed shut nearby, and I was wide awake again, freaking out. How could Joe have slept through this racket? Was it over? Could I dare allow myself to sleep? No. It was not over. Two more loud, sudden, mysterious noises later, I crept into the bedroom again to see how Joe was faring. I could hear snoring. There, sleeping peacefully, were all three males on the king sized bed. I sighed. And joined them.

When I woke up again it was 11:00 a.m.. David was standing in his playpen staring at me with a huge grin on his face. There was a pot of coffee waiting for me, and we began a very pleasant day.

vacation 3

Natalie Klejwa is a Wemmick, loved by the Woodcarver, wife of 22 years to Joe, and mother to 9 Wemmicks ages 2-20. She is a business owner (Apple Valley Natural Soap), founder and administrator of the Visionary Womanhood blog, publisher and contributing author of Three Decades of Fertility, You Can Do it Too! 25 Families Share Their Stories, and The Heart of Simplicity: Foundations for Christian Homemaking.

You can hear her being interviewed on Kevin Swanson's Generations with Vision radio program.

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24 thoughts on “Vacation(?) with a Two-Year-Old

  1. Hope the next night went better! I have been trying to convince my husband to take us to a waterpark very similar to that (indoor) at the end of March for just one night. He has 3 jobs and, unfortunately, family time is sparse. The kids and I would love to see him for 24 hours straight for 1 day this year! He reminded me he’ll be plowing that whole week. I didn’t take it too well, but I am still hopeful he may change his mind… if we left after farm chores in the afternoon, stayed one night, and came back by the next afternoon; he’s still have half the day! Sigh…

    my youngest is two and I imagine she’d be like your son! But it’d be worth it. Family time is so precious.

    • The next night went perfectly, actually. My mom grew up on a farm and said it was tough and involved a lot of sacrifice. (When you say “plowing” I immediately think of snow up here in MN – but I’m guessing you are talking about fields.) I do think that 24 hours at a waterpark is all that is necessary. Everyone was getting pretty tired of it the second day. There’s only so many times you can go down a slide and have it be exciting.

  2. Hubby and I were considering taking our twin 2-year-old grandsons with us halfway across country (having Mommy and Daddy meet us there a couple days later). You talked me right out of it ;-)

  3. Natalie, this is, by far, my favorite post of yours yet. I love your encouraging Wemmick posts, but this hit so close to home because this is MY life! I haven’t slept through the night in 14 years, and your son reminds me so much of some of my little ones. And I love your number exaggerating (are you exaggerating? ;)) because I do that all the time: “Dillon, I’ve told you 42 times NOT to do that!” I hope writing this post was as therapeutic for you as it was for me. Have fun on the rest of your vacation!

  4. Thank you!!! It’s always comforting to know I’m not alone in this! My youngest is almost 5, but I had a “loud noises” night the last time (every time, really) our family went out of town due to external factors (kids running down the hallways, adjacent rooms talking loudly or watching tv late, etc.) What sent me into a downward guilt-induced spiral was yelling at my 10-year-old after she woke up crying after I just dozed off. She was sleeping/crying most likely experiencing weird tummy issues from pizza that evening. But then she went right to sleep & enjoyed sleeping along with the rest of the family, while I lay awake wondering why I “crack” on every family getaway.

    My husband has helped me formulate a plan of action for next time, which includes a 2 room hotel room- allowing me space from the children- & ear plugs for when I sleep. We concluded that after Mom packs for the getaways, the family is bunched together in the vehicle, etc, Mom needs a bit of space & a good night’s rest.

  5. You are hysterical! And I totally agree, watermarks are definitely NOT for relaxing, at least for parents anyway, and 24 hours is more than enough! Glad your second night went well.

  6. Oh Natalie!!! This is MY life to a “t.” Ha! We haven’t all taken a vacation together but if we did, this would be it! Just out of curiosity, what kind of vehicle do you drive that holds a family of 11?

  7. This is so funny. :) That last one is keeping you young. :)

    On a side note, my DH is planning a week long trip to the beach in April. I am trying not to grumble and put a smile on. Why are we moms the only ones who really understand what a HASSLE a vacation is with kids??? It shouldn’t be called a vacation! LOL

  8. Natalie, You’ve described my second born. I was 33 when he was born and had been a Parent Educator for 8 years by then so when he kicked the baby bath out from under himself and across the bathroom at 8 days old, I knew what was coming ahead. I didn’t sleep more than 4 hours a night for a year and a half and that was at home. We stopped with him and Our first family vacation was at the Dells when he was 8. I think God packed the energy of 8 kids into that boy, so counting his older brother who would sit quietly in a stroller all day at the mall, I’ve got 9 kids too but we all fit in a smaller vehicle. Thanks for sharing I miss those crazy days, they are 17 and 20 now and certified Lifeguards so they watch me at the pool! :)

  9. Oh Natalie!
    I have so been where you are right now! I remember this summer making an impromptu stop at Wi Dells with some friends for a night and just hoping the baby would sleep for at least 4 hours straight. It is totally NOT relaxing to be at a waterpark, and I had to laugh at your comment about standing half naked shivering at the zero entry area. This is not my idea of fun. My hubby and I did take a vacation together a couple of years ago when he turned 40. A cruise! Without the kids! It was sublime. Can you tell I’m having a hard time appreciating my children right now. I need the weather to change so much!! Take care!

  10. This post had me cracking up- oh how we can all relate in our own ways! (By the way, if you ever come to Texas, let me know! Would love to meet such a kindred spirit! I think we were at the San Antonio film fest the same year but I didn’t know about visionary womanhood back then.)

    That part about the baby falling asleep for 5 min and then someone needing to pee? Classic! That scenario has played out so many times for us on our huge yearly treks to visit family in Indiana…it’s so depressing. Newton definitely missed that law-the one about how for every baby falling asleep in the car there is an equal and opposite force tugging baby to reawaken, usually named “I have to go pee” by an opposing sibling.

    Glad you got rest the second night! Thanks for keeping us fellow moms laughing and relating and knowing we are not alone on these “vacations” (My only question is this: why do we plan and look forward to them year after year when experience should dictate that those hopes will be crushed yet again? Sigh…I suppose it is because the few good memories somehow end up outweighing the many sleepless nights, tantrums (and that’s just me), flat tires, etc.)

    • You hit the nail on the head. It’s similar to the amnesia we get after giving birth. We forget the bad stuff and only remember how wonderful it was. Honestly, if I hadn’t written this THE VERY NEXT MORNING – I would not have remembered most of what went on that night. Just that it was “bad” somehow. :)

  11. P.s. For any large family vehicle shoppers, the new nissan 12 passenger van is wonderful! We are saving up and can’t wait to get one!

    • We looked at that and even test drove one when our family size went up to 11 – 2 years ago. Then, we waited a bit so we could think about it – and our oldest got his own car while we were thinking…and we somehow made due. Now he’s getting married, so we don’t have a good excuse to get one anymore. But MAN, were those ever nice. We’ll likely drive our Sprinter until we die. We are notorious for driving ancient vehicles until they literally fall apart on the road.

  12. Good grief…”vacation” in quotes, indeed! I have to tell you, my husband and I are settling into our new house after a whirlwind move from Japan (he’s in the military, we were stationed there for three years) back to the US. The movers came on Thanksgiving Day, and we didn’t get the key to our house here in the US until the second week of Feb so, during that time….we lived in hotels, with three boys aged four-and-under. And our dog. So as I read this post, I’m literally getting a tension headache reliving those first two weeks that were spent recovering from jet lag with three little people (and the dog, poor thing) who we’d fight tooth-and-nail to keep awake past 6pm here in the US knowing that around 2-3AM they’d pop out of bed, all refreshed from their “long afternoon nap”, and ready to raise cain. People ask about the flight, and frankly, the flight was the easiest part!