Friday, August 21, 2015

Land Life vs. Boat Life: What is Easier with Kids?

"Are you finding it easier to be on land with the kids?" This is the #1 question we have been getting since being back on land for our hurricane season hiatus, and - shocking as this may be - it's not as simple an answer as one might think.

The obvious assumption is that, yes, life on land is so much easier. And in many ways it is. We have a nice house to spread out in, with all the amenities (from a stand-up shower to dishwasher) that we typically do without. We have the use of a car to take us from place to place with ease. And who can forget the abundance of babysitters around?! We can take a quick stroll down the street and roam the aisles of a well-stocked grocery store, we have no fewer than eight playgrounds within a mile of where we live, and, in general, everything - from showering to shopping - is much more convenient.

But is it easier? Not really.

I realize that this "epiphany" is largely due to the fact that our children are so young, and having three kids aged three and under is difficult in any scenario: land, sea or grocery store. When I first read that having a toddler and twins was the "Decathlon of Parenting" I laughed (and then cried. Hard.) But it's true. This is a full-on contact sport and requires Olympic-style energy (and strategy), for sure.

"Who knew living on land was so much work!" Scott lamented as we loaded the girls into our (borrowed) car to take them to the neighborhood pool. And while at first I thought he was joking, the look on his face told me he was serious. I laughed because it's true and it's something I had been ruminating on since our arrival back here. The simple fact of the matter is this: we have three little kids and even the menial things (like meals) are a lot of work. Schlepping those three toddlers from play dates to pools - between nap times and meal times no less - is, for lack of a better word, exhausting. It's always a production to get from A to B - and we travel pretty light for a family of five.

Being on land, we are suddenly faced with options. There are so many things to do here; splash parks, museums, kid gyms, pools, libraries... and while the litany of choices is a nice change of pace from our typical "beach or hike?" options, we still need to cart three small children and associated gear (i.e. snacks, diapers, a tumbler of wine for mama...etc.) to get there. While in theory all these extra ways to kill time seem so appealing, I am learning that life with toddlers doesn't necessarily get any easier with more options of things to do. Packing up three toddlers is not unlike herding cats, and more often than not I turn down invitations for playdates and such because it's just not worth the stress and rigamarole to get there. Our girls are just as happy taking a short walk to the neighborhood park as they are going to the zoo in the city. When left to my own devices (Scott is more ambitious than I when it comes to outings) I opt for the easy "lets just hop in the stroller and go around the block to the park" route. Go ahead and call me lazy. Guilty as charged.

Then there is the house...while living in a house is SO very nice on so many levels, it's also a lot more work to chase around three little ones in. First of all, there is the issue of tidying up. Long-time followers of this blog know that I am something of a "neat freak" (Scott calls it OCD but it's not that bad!) and let me tell you, cleaning a 44 foot boat is WAY easier (and quicker!) than cleaning a three bedroom house. There are infinite nooks and crannies for small toys to get lost (under beds and couches, behind dressers and drawers) and, in general, more 'stuff' to get into and mess up. A deep cleaning of our boat takes all of an hour, a deep cleaning of this house...well, I have no idea because I haven't had the time for it. Lesson here: more room is not always better, it's just more to mess up and get lost in.

Then their is the issue of toddler management. Added space means more places for the twins to get into trouble. The inside of a boat is more or less baby-proof with self-locking cupboards and everything being attached to the hull, not to mention the girls are never more than fifteen feet from my person. Our monkey twins are not only running in different directions these days (yes, running!), but constantly pulling chairs over themselves, climbing onto table tops and barreling from room to room while grabbing everything off the shelves. I've taken to closing every door in this one story open-concept house just so I can keep track of them and try to maintain some order. Even still, they're constantly rifling through drawers and getting into cupboards. They absolutely love to pull open the dishwasher (why aren't there locks on those things?) and more than once I've found one of the twins yielding a very sharp knife that they proudly pulled out of it. I finally understand why there's an entire industry dedicated to making sure babies don't die in their baby proofing homes. Again, more stuff equals more trouble for kids to get into.

So...being on land - for us - is definitely not easier, just...different.

When we go back to our boat, however, our girls will be a bit older and there will undoubtedly be another period of adjustment, frustration and difficulty as we find our footing again. Children grow quickly and we as parents have to change tacks constantly to stay ahead of the game. "If you don't bend, you break" is something Scott once told me that always echoes in my head (and, sadly, I don't always heed.) Parenthood - like childhood - is an ongoing evolution. Just when you've 'mastered' the art of dining out with your three little ones, they start walking and no longer want to sit still. Once you think you have baby-proofed your yard enough to kick back and relax, they learn to summit the fence. Just when you think you can take a shower while the kids play on the floor, they discover the craft drawer and decide to finger paint on the walls. Which brings me to another similarity between parenting and cruising: the second you think you've got it "figured out", life reminds you that you haven't. Sigh. Kids and boats are endless lessons in humility.

So while I do long for a tropical beach day with our girls and while I do complain about the production that is taking them in and out of the car, and while I do turn down 90% of the invitations we are given due to logistics - I also see the tremendous benefits our land-based hiatus has given us. We've been gifted with a back yard with a killer swing, room to run and play without the threat of drowning, friends at every corner, and - most important - proximity to family. It doesn't get much better than that.

So, while land life might not be the "vacation" we thought it might be, it's a welcome change. And one that we no doubt will miss tremendously head back down south. It might not be 'easier', but it comes with a lot of great perks.
Found this classic in someone's garbage. The fights over who's in the driver's seat are epic.
Our wooded back yard is FULL of interesting creatures for the girls to find. This here is a cicada. They love them.
Another perk of land life? Bath time!
Spending time with our land-based friends is another major perk.
As is spending time with my best girlfriends...some of whom have been my best friends since second grade!
Our preferred mode of transportation around here, the Valco Baby Tri-Mode Twin Stroller with "joey seat". It's a beast, but does the job of carting around three kids! (and here we squeezed in a fourth!)

5 comments:

Josh said...

Do you find you're accumulating stuff while on land?

Becc[A] said...

Well said agree completely :)

HoneyBee said...

My husband just compared having three three and under ro be a prison sentence. I like the decatholon comparison better!

Totally a neat freak too and I find myself often close to throwing out the ridiculous amount of toys we've been given. I can never keep this house kept. Drives me nuts!

HoneyBee said...
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HoneyBee said...
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