Nina In New York: What My Baby Did On Our Summer Vacation

A lighthearted look at news, events, culture and everyday life in New York. The opinions expressed are solely those of the writer.

By Nina Pajak

As the old saying goes, sometimes you take your baby on vacation, and sometimes vacation takes your baby and turns her into a screaming, strung-out, psychotic elf for the duration of your trip and an indefinite period of time hence.

I may have mixed up some of the wording there. I'm terrible with maxims.

We recently did the unthinkable and took our not-quite-one-and-a-half-year-old on a two week trip to the beach. We rented a house which had a fenced in yard, access to a (chilly) pool and close proximity to the ocean. On its face, this sounds like both a sound, child-friendly plan and a luxurious getaway which we would fondly remember forever as our first real trip as a family and which would give us absolutely no earthly reason to come back feeling anything but recharged and reinforced by the salty sea air and warm, late August sun.

Dumb, dumb, dumb. Dumb. So very dumb.

It's not that I thought I was immune to mistakes, having passed the one-year parenthood mark. But I had been lulled into a false sense of comfort by my ever so slightly more independent child. We've come so far since her infancy, and I thought that maybe we could begin the transition back to being "normal" adults who go places and do things and sit down and have intelligent conversations in which no one references the omnipresent yet elusive "buh-buh." Like I said, we're pretty stupid. Instead, our normally well-rested, adaptable girl chose our time away to introduce two new things:

1. An absolute refusal to sleep alone. Her travel crib may as well have been Indiana Jones' snake pit.
2. About four teeth and three molars.

After enduring several episodes which made me wonder whether we should start looking into an exorcist, we took all the months of sleep training and previously agreed-upon parenting principles and promptly flushed them down the toilet. Our bed became the family bed. My husband and I had to take turns going to sleep at 8:30 p.m. I got kicked in the face, headbutted, suffocated, and treated to many 4 a.m. impromptu monologues ("owl baby mimi papa hi mwah baah cheers sha sheh shhhh ka ka ka duCK"). I routinely took two-hour walks so that she could get a decent nap, resulting in my first ever almost-tan (read: layers of mild sunburns that haven't yet peeled). Naturally, this all led to tired parents, a tired baby, and cranky everybody. And of course, since returning, we've had to backtrack about eight months to a time before naps existed.

So uncool.

But, we're two hard working parents who just wanted what everyone else wants: a little time away to reconnect and relax. Should we have stayed home, just because we have a child? Should we continue to tailor our lives in such a way that only the needs of one are met? When can we start to be regular people again? The answers are obviously yes, and never. Because that one is so much louder and meaner than us two, and she doesn't care whether we're at the beach or in the sandbox. And there is no such thing as "regular people." We'd be best off if we forgot the concept ever existed. This has been a hard refresher lesson in parental sacrifice, and the realistic term of our sentence: life. No chance of parole. Maximum security, for the foreseeable future. We're parents first, people second, and it doesn't matter how hard we try to force those roles into a temporary reversal. Because kids do not give a solitary flying diaper where they are or why they're there or how you were hoping they'd behave. I guess that's why we love them, right? And also why we drink wine. So much wine.

It's not that I feel sorry for myself, because why should I? We tried, we failed, we rued (oh, how we rued), and now we all have a much clearer understanding of just how the power structure of the family is shaking out (baby = lovable yet ruthless dictator). It'll be a cold day in Hell before I try to take a toddler on a nice trip again, and that's okay. Now I just need to figure out how to filter out everyone else's travel photos on social media, the same way people filter out my baby posts. I'm at peace with my life, but I still hate your vacation. I really do.

Nina Pajak is a writer living with her husband, daughter and dog in Queens. Connect with Nina on Twitter!