The ‘nostalgia’ category

“Vacation” with Twin Toddlers

July 4th, 2018

Three is the age that I often pictured when I pictured myself with daughters.

I had some experience with three-year olds, and always considered it such a precocious, adorable age. I once went camping with a three-year old, the daughter of a paramour, and had the loveliest time teaching her to pee in the woods and sleep in a tent.

You could not pay me a million dollars to take my kids camping. I can barely handle staying in a decent AirBnB with them.

We just spent a week on Cape Cod, a place stuck in time and made for families. I myself grew up going there every summer. It’s where I learned to respect the ocean and gained a true affinity for pond swimming. Where I ate ice cream every day and lobster and corn on the cob slathered in butter for no reason at all. Where the aroma of warm pine needles meets the sublime scent of low tide. The place I will always conjure up when I get a waft of Coppertone suntan lotion. (Is that stuff even legal anymore?) Where from a very young age I would venture to Provincetown to be among the cacophony of beautiful humanity that has showcased diversity and the glory of just being oneself since loooong before it was culturally pop.

My own ancestors played a hand in settling the Cape 400 years ago. Captain Edward Bangs (born in Essex, England in 1591 and my 10x great grandfather) was one of the founding citizens of the New World who established the towns that make up the mid-Cape. He was a Pilgrim, a ship’s captain, a road forger, a lawmaker, and a hooch shiller. In the graveyards of Brewster, the very town I spent my summers, Bangs’ gravestones abound.

Deep is my love, affinity, and nostalgia for Cape Cod. 

I was terribly excited to bring my daughters there. We planned this trip for a year, with two other families we’re super tight with — four other adults I’ve known since I was a kid, and their kids. We all rented a house in Wellfleet, a quiet haven on the Outer Cape full of ponds and lobster rolls and pine needles and the occasional shark. It was a beautiful plan.

I am not building all this up to turn it around and say “It sucked!” It did not suck. It was a really lovely time. But if I had any expectations of what it would be like to spend a week on the Cape with twin toddlers, they shifted dramatically once we got there. I may never use the word “vacation” again without putting it in quotes. I am quite sure I have never had a less relaxing week.

 

Let’s just start with the ocean. This is not a relaxing place to bring toddlers. My old paradigm of lying on the beach reading does not apply to my new paradigm of parenting fearless, rambunctious little adventurers. I brought two books and a New Yorker. I read one half of one paragraph of the New Yorker all week. Mostly, I kept a hawkeye on my girls as they sprinted in opposite directions, one straight into the waves, the other down the beach. Even with two parents, there was no resting.

I often say that having twins is a three-parent job. You need one parent for each twin, plus a third in case either of the first two ever has to go to the bathroom. Still, watching my daughters giggle ferociously at the sheer joy of ocean waves was priceless. Their squeals when the icy cold Atlantic water hit the fast and hard were miraculous to me.

On a rainy day, we ventured into Provincetown for lunch. At the famous tourist trap The Lobster Pot — which Anthony Bourdain made even more famous — we sat down for a $100 lunch. The girls ate french fries. I put down a slice of Halibut positively murdered by butter (in a good way). Afterward, I was on a mission to get the girls Cape Cod hoodies. I dragged the whole entourage up and down Commercial Street and in and out of stores as they destroyed everything in their wake and smeared bright turquoise salt-water-taffy-laden saliva all over the place. 

I used to spend hours in P-town by myself as a teenager and loved the shops and the spectacle of it all. My kids were not impressed by either, but they did adore the rampant mud puddles taking over the streets in the downpour. That was a four-outfit day.

 

I checked a lot of things off my list that week. We had soft-serve with rainbow jimmies, lobster rolls, and fish tacos. We walked barefoot (and, in their case, often naked) through the woods near our cottage on National Seashore land. We had fires, and caught fireflies, and ate s’mores.

None of these things were relaxing, and for the most part, they weren’t really even fun for me, but they made memories and laid down the beginning of what I hope will be an eventually relaxing family tradition.

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