Why I'm the best parent ever... on vacation

Tracy Chappell realizes that a little break from the rules makes for a happier family.

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Parenting is much easier with a daily agenda like this. Photo: Tracy Chappell.

Follow along as Today’s Parent senior editor Tracy Chappell shares her refreshingly positive take on parenting her two young daughters. She’s been blogging her relatable experiences for our publication since 2005.

I’m back! I’ve been neglecting my blog, but for good reason — I’ve been on vacation with my family. And if there’s any better reason for stowing away the laptop and not worrying about life online, I don’t know it.

Every year at this time, we rent cottages with two other families for one glorious week of sun, sand and socializing (the face-to-face kind). We spend our days building sandcastle villages with our kids, floating in the warm water and, now that our kids are getting older, reading a good book or catching a few winks under the umbrella while they play.

While we were watching the sun set on the first night, my friend said, “I look forward to this week all year because it’s the only time of my life that I’m not distracted by anything else.” That may be the key to why this has become our happy place, and why I think I’m at my parenting best while on holiday.

Just say yes: Can I have another freezie? Can we stay up later? Can we skip our bath? Is there dessert? Yes, yes, my darlings, YES! I so often need to say no to my kids in our day-to-day life, and it feels so liberating to be able to say “Go ahead, run around and scream your heads off, it’s OK!” There are six kids on this holiday, now aged four to 10, and we knew everything would get a little easier as the kids got older. This year felt like a huge payoff. We didn’t have to worry much about schedules or meal times or bedtimes, and we could generally just go with the flow. Maybe all this indulgence doesn’t support my argument that I’m “at my parenting best” but, really, vacation gives us all a chance to forget some of the rules for a little while. It’s good for all of us.

Extended exposure: Admittedly, I may not have added this to the list in the past, but having a week straight with my kids was pretty fantastic. Of course I love them to bits, but I also really like the people they’re becoming, which is much easier to observe as they’re interacting with other kids and adults, and you see how they handle certain situations and fill their downtime. We were on a boat and Anna sat at the very front by herself and I could hear her singing her heart out. She also pulled up a beach chair and read a book when she needed a break from the water. My often-shy Avery got up and played charades in front of our group of 12, and also spent hours happily building sand structures on her own. Both of them came to me to snuggle throughout the day and would spontaneously tell me they loved me. It’s just so nice to not have to squeeze all of our togetherness into pockets of time in the evenings, or to have to combine objectives with an enthusiastic “let’s go grocery shopping together!” We really enjoyed each other.

Fun mom: Raise your hand if you feel it’s been a long time since you’ve truly had fun with your kids. (Tell me I’m not alone here!) Sure, we go to the park and to the zoo and play a board game here and there, but I often feel — like my friend said — that instead of sharing in their fun, I have my mind on my awaiting to-do list. On vacation, we actually had time to enjoy fun things with our kids. We brought a crafts box and did some painting one afternoon to take a break from the sun. My brother-in-law brought up a boat and we went tubing (even me!). There was go-karting and mini-golfing. There was an outdoor movie night with make-your-own candy necklaces. We wrote up a simple scavenger hunt and it turned out so awesome. We had a campfire with s’mores and songs. And on the last night, there were fireworks. For real. Yes, they were spoiled rotten, but all of these little things made up for a truly memorable week for all of us, and none of it felt like a chore.

Same time next year? You bet.

Do you find parenting harder or easier on vacation?

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