Friday, September 08, 2006

Academics, Family and Vacation - my story

This blog comes under the heading of academics and family vacation, as it relates to my current life anyway. I'll try to keep the ranting to a minimum.

Since moving and setting up shop at big Cancer Center a year and a half ago, we have been struggling to find time as a family to "get away" for a vacation. Part of the problem is the lack of actual vacation days we are alloted here and having to accrue them monthly. In this regard, we were actually demoted upon joining the faculty - despite being Associate Professor level, we had to start at the bottom of vacation days along with all the other newbies. No amount of negotiation changed that. A ridiculous policy if you ask me. I doubt a recruited VP at an Academic Administration level would be treated as such. Don't they understand how stressful it is to move a family with two small children and set up two labs, get things running and learn the ropes? Don't they understand the financial stresses involved in a move, with the buying and selling of a house, and how money can be tight for awhile?

ANYWAY, I finally, after 1 1/2 years, found a solution. Four days post labor day at a house on the beach, just an hour drive from home. Said house is on a pedestrian-only beach, near a new fishing jetty and "clubhouse" with small playground. Beach house is also, and maybe most importantly, dirt cheap for the four days after labor day because well, everyone else is back at work and with kids in kindergarden and up. After making sure my grant reviewing, SPORE-writing, summer course-lecturing, seminar-giving, traveling husband agrees to block off the time, our "vacation" is secured. Of course, it's really only going to be 3 days because we can't get in the house until 4pm on that Tuesday and we have to be out by Friday at 11am. Dr Shellie's off to Alaska for two weeks and Abel PharmBoy hung out in Colorado (although he was ill for part of that). Still, these three days seem to have almost magical possibilities for a family who needs a break...........

Packed up Tuesday morning with a car full of food and amenities for beach house living. Arrive a little early to find the house ready and by 4pm the family was running and playing on the beach. Children are jumping in the waves, digging in the sand. The weather is unusually coolish and dry; perfect beach weather. The sun is up but there's a slight cloud cover to give some protection from the UV rays. I call my parents in New England on my cell phone and gush. They're off to Nova Scotia tomorrow for 10 days. I'm in heaven.

After 2 hours on the beach, we come in for a spaghetti dinner. The kids are bathed and put in bed and my husband is taking pictures of the ships and wildlife on the beach. I rock a bit on the swing on the front porch, watching and listening to the waves and breathing in the salt-water air. My son felt a little warm when he went to bed and he's been sniffling the last 4 days. But I chalked it mostly up to wind and sun, and excitement, gave him a little children's Motrin and he went off to slumberland. My daughter was in a lower part of a bunk bed next to him; perfect height for her because she's still in a toddler bed. She seemed right at home there, not at all perplexed by her new surroundings. She covered herself, placed her thumb securely in her mouth and drifted off to sleep as well.

Next morning the kids are up before the sun - no sleeping late on vacations with a 4 and almost 3 year old! We have our cereal with fruit breakfast and by 8:00am we're on the beach, canopy up. My son has a fever of 101 which seems to respond to Motrin and he acts happy enough so we let him run around on the beach. We're hopelessly trying to fly a kite I bought but without success. Are there tips to flying a kite? We're digging holes, the kids are sitting in them and I'm filling them with water. But by 10:30am, my son is dragging and he wants to go inside. My husband follows him and I stay a little longer on the beach with my daughter. When I do go in, I find my son shivering, glassy-eyed and miserable with 102.7 fever. He says his throat is really really really really really sore (and spikey; I love the way kids describe what they feel) and I look inside; it's really red. I give him some more Motrin and wait an hour. The fever's not responding. He's miserable. I'm worried because this isn't the sniffly cold he's had for the past few days that seemed to be getting better and his fevers ALWAYS respond to Motrin. So I call the doctor's office and wait for the nurse to call back. I know them well by now and trust their judgement. She says we need to be worried about Strep throat but maybe we can wait out the night there and see if he's better tomorrow morning. OK, so here's where I'm a wimp. If my kids are sick, I want to be close to the medical care I trust. Although we're only an hour away from home, we're in the middle of nowhere, medically-speaking. I'm used to hanging out around some top notch medical institutions. So we do the dance - should we stay, should we go, stay, go, stay,go - each one waiting for the other to make the decision. As a mother, I think it would be best if he was in his own bed at home, reinforced by the RST (rapid strep test) to tell me whether it's Strep or not. As a person, I desperately want and need to stay! I need the rejuvenation. But I never want to put that in front of the health of my children. We wait and discuss and watch. I check his throat again. It's covered in white spots now.........his fever is still 102.something on full-throttle Motrin.......we better go home.

It takes less than an hour to pack the car and get going. My husband has a headache on it's way to a migraine so I drive. I cry for about the first 20 minutes of the drive. I'm really frustrated, disappointed, depressed, and angry (although not at my son). We arrive home, my son is miserable and he's now throwing up a little. He still tries to swallow some food but all in all, he's unhappy. At bedtime, he's still 102 ish. I check on him several times through the night at at 1:30am, the fever is 101.5 and he hasn't had Motrin for 9 hours. It seems to be subsiding. By 6am, which is when he wakes me up, he's cool. The RST we took later that day at the doctor's office is negative.................. "vacation" over.

Do I regret coming home? No not really. It was what felt right at the time for my son. Am I really really disappointed? Yup, but just writing this made me realize that for them, the experiences they had on the beach were great although short - and that's what matters really. Am I happy? No, I have a cold now myself and my husband is off for 7 days to Europe - 3 of those days he is spending with his brother in England, relaxing. I don't begrudge him that time with his family whom is doesn't see very often but I'm jealous. I never seem to get that downtime anywhere in my life. Maybe that's what being a Mom is all about.

Probably the most important lesson I've learned is that 3-4 days prior to any vacation, I will no longer allow my children to attend any birthday parties. My doctor and I both agree that letting my son attend a party at Chuck E. Cheeses the Saturday before the travel was probably the culprit. I hate those places anyway but this was one of his few special friends from school and he really wanted to go. And so in the end, the kids are fine........and I'll survive...................I hope!


Andrew said...

I understand the disappointment. I once had a trip to a conference in Monterey cancelled (which I was really looking forward to) when our pediatrician admitted my son to the hospital for a rattly cough ... and then promptly had him back out again hours later. Children do grow older, though, and life becomes more predictable.

To Love, Honor and Dismay

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