Wednesday, December 27th, 2017
When I was around nine, I remember asking my mom to read me this chapter book called Baby Island at least nine times. The plot went something like: shipwrecked tweens and babies are marooned on an island and must fend for themselves. In the absence of their lost-at-sea parents, the tween girls must care for twins and two other toddlers. They have to find food, water, and shelter while raising the babies in unfamiliar territory. At the time, this was my ultimate fantasy. I wanted to be on an island in charge of a bunch of babies. Is it funny how that actually sounds kind of like a nightmare to me now?
And yet, here we are, on the verge of a trip with similar, albeit much more luxurious, parameters. Two babies, Scott, my dad, mom, Danielle, her John, Maddie and her Andy and I, far from being marooned (and being a tween), but inhabiting unfamiliar island territory with babies nonetheless. I’m following my own best ‘traveling with kids’ advice, to set expectations low, so I can see what stories I find with my family on a boat bobbing in the Bahamas for 15 days.
Thursday, December 28th, 2017: Florida
Unless it ends with you landing on The Hudson, no one really wants to hear how your flight was, but I’ll note here that ours from LAX to Miami was exactly as uneventful as I hoped it would be. Skip slept, Sprout spied on the people behind us and sawed through at least two packs of those European cookies they serve instead of peanuts now.
I watched This is Us while Danielle and John watched Skip. Sprout’s ears didn’t pop until a few hours after landing, nor did she nap, which caused a bit of drama and extra mommy-clinginess (never genuinely minded) upon arrival to my parents’ new boat in Florida. Fortunately, a sink bath fixed it all and at least nothing smells like yogurt yet, so I’m considering myself officially on vacation.
Friday, December 29th, 2017: Bimini
Sometimes the sea does seem authentically pissed off, but today it only appeared a little too energetic for its own good, kind of like a Jack Russel Terrier. The waves were going every which way, which is beautiful if you don’t have to navigate them.
My mom once told me that when your kids are moderately sick it is kind of the worst and kind of the best because they snuggle and need you so earnestly and quietly. After Sprout was seasick for our crossing to the Bahamas, I knew what my mom meant. Her damp little head tucked into my armpit made my heart sigh and swell. I wanted so badly for her to feel better, but sitting there with my girls asleep on me, I can’t help but think how the sea is always giving me gifts.
Just before dark, we arrived to an island called Bimini which, according to Shark Week, is a new hammerhead breeding ground. When Andy and Dad jumped off the back of the boat in leu of shower, a bunch of fishermen started yelling “Shark! Shark!” just like you do to mess with your friends at the lake. They weren’t kidding though. So many fish are cleaned in that harbor that a bull shark visits it frequently and sure enough, in the bright lights that shone down on the cloudy water off the deck of the one and only restaurant in the harbor, we saw a big, dark shadow navigating the deep. Everyone was frightened…and thrilled.
Sunday December 31st, 2018: Harbor Island, Eleuthera
New Year’s Eve is the most over hyped holiday, in my opinion. There is such a commotion over saying goodbye. However, with the time difference being on our side (we’re all still on West Coast time), and not an event promoter in sight, it was one of my favorite New Year’s Eves ever. No ball drop, no overpriced meal, just some rum punch, family and two dancing babies.
Monday, January 1st, 2018
We’re going surfing today. As I was getting ready, I was thinking of Instagram captions because this is what my brain has been reduced to. So far all I’ve got is: tropical surf wax smells like adventure and possibilities. In some sleepy stupor, I think it’s brilliant.
We’ve been talking a lot about love languages because Danielle and her boyfriend, John, are reading a book about them. I think surfing is my love language.
And just like that, I’ve got another corny caption in the memory bank.
Tuesday, January 2nd, 2018
A tropical depression is headed our way. We had to borrow fenders for the boat that were as big as hippos. These storms are punctuated with something called “Christmas Winds”. It’s the perfect name for something that makes you too nervous-excited to sleep.
Thursday, January 4th, 2018
It’s the third day of the storm. The night before it hit we were at a sushi restaurant in town where I got to talking to the owner. Her accent was mysterious; some cross between Australian, British and Bahamian. I kept trying to ask her where she was from (Canada, as it turns out), but it took a while before she acknowledged the question. I can see now that this is probably because it’s hard to answer. Living in this diverse little island chain, she probably feels she’s from everywhere.
She told me she and her family have a house with a trampoline and a heated pool. She said if we get “in the weeds” to come and holler.
“In the weeds” I’ve never heard this expression before, but three days into inhabiting this small island and boat in the rain, I knew exactly what she meant.
At my 4 a.m. feeding with the baby I lie awake thinking that eventually, the kids will see the real me. How neurotic I can be, how desperate. The charade with be up. They’ll only listen to their friends.
The next day I think it’s going to happen: I’m going to fall apart.
Friday, January 5th, 2018
Scott practically forced me to jump into the stormy, polluted harbor water tonight. Once he had the GoPro out, I knew there was no getting out of it. I also knew he was right to insist, but I made him come with me. Soon Danielle and John were jumping in, even though Danielle had recently blow-dried her hair. We all counted to three in sync like some summer camp dare. The salt water went right down my ear canal. I instantly felt better.
My mom said later, “We’ve had stormy weather on this trip, but no storms within our family.” I’ll take stormy weather any day.
Sunday, January 7th, 2018: Highborn Cay
We drove a half an hour in a downpour today to see iguanas. My mom didn’t even want to see them in the sun, so the weather was a special bonus.
A lot of times the trips my dad take us on seem like they could go either way: adventure or misadventure. Sometimes it’s a combo. You remember a bumpy boat ride in the rain more than a smooth one in the sun though.
The kids may not remember any of this, but my mom says it will be in their DNA. Thank God.
Tuesday, January 9th, 2018: Staniel Cay / “Pig Island”
When we first arrived to a beach, that Ben from The Bachelor once left Olivia on, one pig ran up to us, another started peeing, another started drinking that one’s pee and then one pooped in the crystal, pristine water. I’m not easily grossed out, but this definitely burned in my memory in a bad way. Later I watched a mother pig feed her babies on the sand. They were ravenous, demanding little fiends. They weren’t too unlike human babies. I thought, I mean I hoped, I had nothing in common with the pigs, but then watching the mother surrender to the needs of her offspring, I knew that on days when motherhood felt overwhelming and consuming that I would remember her.
Thursday January 11th, 2018: Nassau
Sometimes marriage with kids feels like loving your spouse from far away. Like you want to sit with them and play Mario Kart, but there’s all this stuff in between you so there’s barely room on the couch and one of you has to sit in the BarcaLounger that’s practically in the kitchen.
Tonight Scott and I got to go to the casino in the Atlantis Hotel alone. It was smokey, the drinks were expensive which was interesting juxtaposed with the cheaply dressed patrons, but I was happy to exist in that room with Scott, my Scott, surrounded by a circus act.
Friday, January 12th, 2018
On the first flight home we are the perfect family: baby asleep in a bonnet, toddler coloring quietly asking what it means to “taxi” an airplane. The second flight the baby obliterates a diaper and Scott and I can’t even get it together enough to plug in our headphones. We both sat there with our eyes closed while the kids slept all over us. I was so tired I couldn’t think of anything to say except that ten minutes before I thought we were going to die. The clouds the plane flew through seemed like they were made of rocks and I felt how fragile everything we made, everything we are, is. It’s hard to just go on watching a Will and Grace replay after that, but everyone else is.
I never thought I was a “sweaty person” until I had a child. I should probably just get rid of the shirt I’m wearing when we get home. It will never be the same again.
Sprout is such a big girl now. Yesterday I told her so and she responded: “Yep, I’m a big girl. That’s my job!”
I wish it didn’t have to tear me up as much as it does-knowing she’s not ever going to go back to being a baby. Knowing that even though she’s getting closer and closer to maybe surfing with us and taking out the trash, that she’s outgrowing our arms all the time. Her legs seem like bamboo stalks lately-everyday they’ve grown another inch.
You can’t imagine life without your kids once you have them. It would crush you. I think that’s the root of what’s so hard about it. About parenthood. That everyday you carry around the weight of loving them. Of worrying about losing them. It’s so heavy and uplifting at the same time.
At 10:02 PST we walked through our front door. The first thing I thought was that the house seemed so small, almost like a play house, which is really saying a lot after being on a boat for 15 days.
I laid on my bed feeding Skip in the dark and, I know this is going to sound cliche, but the overwhelming thought I had as I lay there was that I wasn’t the same as I was as the last time I did. Skip wasn’t the same, Sprout wasn’t the same, Scott wasn’t the same, even our house felt different. This came as such good news to me though, because I think that’s the main reason we all travel to begin with: so it can change us.
I can sit here now and say the trip was worth it. Worth the rain, and sunscreen in the eyes, worth the exhaustion, the seasickness, the worry. It was worth giving that time to family and to nature not knowing how any of it would come together.
I’m always caught off guard by how adaptable we are, and by how much better we become by being so.
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