When my husband suggested a staycation earlier this year, I was skeptical—and a bit bitter about the prospect. It’s been a number of years since we’ve had what I would call a vacation getaway.
However, a backyard vacation made the most sense given that we didn’t want to leave our aging cat alone for an extended period of time, and we have a basement we want to remodel this year. So we set some ground rules: no checking in with work, no excessive computer use, lots of dining out so there wouldn’t be a kitchen to clean.
I planned a slew of outdoor activities, attempting to cram an entire summer’s worth of fun into five days. As I frantically wrapped up work projects on my last day in the office, I actually felt relief that we had no suitcases to pack or endless security lines to stand in. Even the forecast, which had changed from warm and sunny to cool and rainy for much of the time, didn’t dampen my spirits—initially anyway.
I headed into vacation determined to have fun, which in some ways required a personality overhaul. In our family, I’m generally the wet blanket drowning the fun. The sillier my daughter and husband get, the crankier I get. It’s a weird inverse relationship that frustrates us all.
This is why no one was more surprised than I by my suggestion to go to Bounce Milwaukee on our first night of vacation. My 7-year-old was shocked and delighted to hear that we would all be bouncing. In the past, I watched her play while sipping coffee and wondering what all the hype was about.
After the first five minutes, I was already tired, a little bored and wondering how long we had to stay. Fortunately, it was a quiet Wednesday night the week before school started, and we had the place almost entirely to ourselves. Sans a crowd of noisy kids, I let my hair down.
Soon the three of us were hurling ourselves down slides, crawling through tunnels, bouncing on blow-up horses that were way too small for grownups, and whipping balls at one another in a family game of dodge ball. We all attempted cartwheels—some of us (my daughter) were better than others.
I threw myself into a somersault and didn’t want to stop. The place was nearing closing time, and in my head, I was saying, “just one more.” For nearly two hours, we played until we were breathless with laughter and exhaustion.
I vowed to maintain my playful attitude throughout our staycation, but like all family vacations, there were highs and lows. The next morning, I sipped coffee on my patio, contentedly staring at the blue sky and listening to birds, cicadas and the roofers on my neighbors’ house. It was the kind of morning I had envisioned having every weekend when summer began. I was sadly experiencing it for the first time the last week in August.
We took a beautiful hike that day, but the crappy weather soured the next two days. My mood really took a turn for the worse when I got my period unexpectedly while volunteering at a half-marathon water stop on the fourth day. I was without supplies and unable to go anywhere given the blocked off roads—and the inevitable incessant questions that my daughter would have had. Nothing says “awkward” like having to ask multiple strangers for a tampon. Did I mention we were all standing in the rain? Fortunately, a well-prepared woman helped me out, and I learned the valuable lesson of keeping feminine hygiene products in my glove box. I pass this wisdom onto you.
I learned something else during our staycation: Life is better when you take time to play. Of course, I knew this to be true. The magazines I subscribe to have told me this repeatedly, but reading about something and experiencing it are different.
I may never be the life of the party—well actually that’s not true because I’m totally the life of the party when inebriated. But being the mom who is drunk all the time is totally not cool. Instead I will have to keep the bounce house night top of mind. My mother always said I was 3 going on 30—always so serious. There’s a lot to be said for occasionally being 41 going on 7. Seven-year-olds have a hell of a lot of fun.
We’ll be heading back to that bounce house soon—and not just because my husband won a free carafe of wine while we were there.