He wants to eat summer.

Like so much ice cream, running down his forearms and dripping off his fingers. He wants to lick up every last drop and then ask for more.

This second born of mine only has one speed. And it’s fast and furious and can leave a mother and father and two sets of cousins and aunts and uncles all tired and worn out in his wake.

We’re on the edge of the lake in Northern Michigan where my husband’s family have been spending their summers for decades. Literally. Same lake, same bike trails, same little minnows trying to avoid the nets of boys like they have for so many summers in a row.


We’ve got two days of car travel to erase and Micah is ready to get the process started at 7am the first morning.

And while vacations bring rest from all the routine that we need a break from, vacations also mean that we’re parenting without the routine that can bring everyone rest.

Micah’s excitement meets our exhaustion head-on and it’s not a pretty collision at the crack of dawn, with the whole cottage still fast asleep and one small boy sitting stubbornly dressed and ready to go out and explore.

I delight in his passion and it exhausts me.

And I think about my ideal vacation and how it involves a whole lot of quiet and a big pile of books and very little call for the roller coaster of parenting.

Nearly eight years into the process and it seems to me that to mother is often to choose noise over silence, motion over stillness, chaos over order, speed over rest. Holding onto your temper with both hands.

When all I want to do on vacation is climb into bed and sleep for a week.

“Everything’s got a moral, if only you can find it.” – Lewis Carroll

He wants to go zip lining this afternoon. His life all strung out before him. Terrifying and wonderful and so very alive. I bring my camera. I snap still images frame by frame of his face and the joy of being five and fearless.


He needs to make the memories right. now. this. very. second. because waiting means missing out and missing out is like dying to him.

I stand at the edge of a sheer drop and look up at the cathedral of green trees above me and exhale. And ache for the parts of me I can’t get back. My favorite jeans, my late mornings, my ability to eat a tub of ice cream every evening without any noticeable impact.

And he speeds by me. This boy who has broken me apart and put me back together in ways I barely recognize. And I’m no less tired. I don’t have a quick fix for balancing his need to be on the go and my need for naps.

But I know that this moment will be framed in his memory much longer than in my camera.

And I want to be part of it.

Not the tired, irritable, not-now-just-give-me-a-second-leave-me-alone part either.

The part that climbed the incline to watch the view from a zip-line in person.

The part that applauded. The part that whooped and hollered.

The part that showed up on his vacation.

And you? How do you balance what you hope for out of a vacation with what lights your kids on fire?