We just got back from vacation. With our kids. And it was fabulous.
No - I’m completely serious. But, let me back up.
We went to spend a week on a beach on the east coast with our close friends from residency. They had rented a house and we skirted in on their coat tails. The house we stayed in was perfect with enough room for the two couples plus 5 kids under 5 to all have their own space. Bonus was the huge back yard, the swimming pool, the tree swing and the grill – basically all anyone could want for a summer vacation. Not to mention that the beach was amazing and just a quick car ride away.
Now, while we have traveled with this couple before – something that, at baseline, is not always achievable with every friend set – we have never done so with all of our kids. And, truth be told, the way people travel and parent can make or break your bond with them.
You know what I mean: if you want to sit at a spa all day and your friends want to museum stroll nonstop, you may not choose to spend weekends away together. Likewise, if you think kids shouldn’t be beating up on one another, but your neighbor’s son clocks your kid in the face without so much as a glance from her, you’re probably not gonna seek them out for long plane rides.
The key is to find people who are like you. Or, as in this case, how you would like to be.
How do I mean?
These people are amazing. They are kind, funny and supremely down to earth. While they are both professionals with big careers, that is almost an aside. More importantly, they are both relaxed, minimalist parents who are totally, inspiringly into their kids. And all without an ounce of annoying. I mean, you were just as likely to find them digging holes at the beach with their little ones as you were leading their pack into a chic grocery store to get gin for cocktails that night. The baby, not even a year, was carted everywhere without a 50 pound diaper bag or a myriad of useless baby toys.
Sure, they brought bikes from home for the older kids, a few shovels and buckets for the beach, and a couple of books for storytime. Other than that: nothing! No computers. No iPads for each kid. No crazy coloring kits or boat loads of crappy snacks. They just headed out as a family – no frills – and spent a week enjoying each other. They have embraced the total craziness of parenthood and, in doing so, actually seem to be enjoying themselves. And while their kids are definitely kids (they saw a tantrum or two and maintained a 7:30pm bedtime schedule to allow for adult time) their children are easygoing, resourceful, smart and just pleasant to be around. (P.S. They ate everything. One night at dinner, I watched their 3-year-old house a chorizo sausage while their 5-year-old ate clams like it was his job.)
I came away from the week feeling energized and suddenly unafraid to take my 15 month old to Europe (not kidding, they are heading there in August to visit relatives and they are taking the whole brood along). Of course, the 5.5 hour flight home to Seattle may have challenged this new-found confidence of mine ( "we" might have spilled an entire glass of wine on the couple behind us, who were, understandably, not super forgiving) but 72 hours later and I’m still feeling the post vacation glow. I have been reminded that I don’t want to just “get through” having young kids.
The last night of vacation, in an attempt to permanently bottle the wisdom of our friends, I asked the husband what he loved most about being a parent. Without a pause he said, "Getting to be a kid with them." I know this isn't earth-shattering wisdom - but it struck a cord. Yes, we are charged with keeping their fingers out of light sockets while simultaneously trying to make them tolerable to society. But, too often I find myself bogged down by the details of parenting - the diaper bags that have to be toted, the toys that need to be put away, the laundry that needs to get done. I need to remember that the whole reason to have children, is to have children. Which means getting to play with them, eat with them, laugh with them - be with them. To sum up with one long-winded cliche, this week, I realized I need to spend less time worrying about the sand and more time building the castles.
I realize this is so random, but coming off of a week of easy seaside meals, I wanted to keep the rhythm going. And what could be easier than pesto, which ultimately needs no recipe? I was jonesing for ramps, which are in season right now, but they proved hard to find. So instead I used leeks, which are everywhere all the time, and added a few other tidbits. We had it with fish, but you could use it as a spread, a salad dressing base or just on a spoon.
Two medium leeks, light green and white parts cleaned well and chopped
2 Tlbsp plus 2/3 C mild flavored olive oil, divided
2 Tblsp lemon juice, or more to taste
2 oz freshly grated parmesan
3 oz marcona almonds
1 cup baby kale or arugula
1 tsp finely diced shallot
salt and pepper to taste
Saute leeks in 2 Tbsp olive oil until softened, about 5 minutes. Let cool so as not to melt the cheese, then blend with remaining ingredients. Serve.