Just recently for about ten days my husband and I were empty-nesters. Our daughter is away at university and our son had headed off overseas for a two week school trip. Then there were two…

We celebrated by going on a trip away, just the two of us, for four days. It made me think how much these little holidays have changed during the seasons of our lives.

No kids…

First off was our honeymoon. We had two weeks or so away, the first night in a hotel, but then, being penniless teenagers when we got married, we spent the rest of our week off at my uncle and aunt’s shack (read beach-house if you are not Tasmanian). The Shack nestles right next to a quiet bay miles from anywhere. You need to drive to get to any shops (or ride a bike if you’re particularly enthusiastic). We went to The Shack for holidays when my brother and sister and I were kids, plus every Boxing Day for a Christmas celebration. For our honeymoon we took just the basics – a small bag each, and ate lamington cake and whatever we bought at the local shop. We sat in front of the fire and read books and chatted and relaxed.

Tiny kids…

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When our daughter was just starting to toddle, we had a weekend at The Shack again. Like most new parents, I felt like I really needed a holiday. But now, organisation and packing was a much bigger operation. We needed nappies and toys and a cot and bedding. We needed food for three, menus had to be planned in advance, and the car was packed to the hilt. We couldn’t light a fire, or if we did we had to be on high-alert at all times to make sure our toddler didn’t go anywhere near it. And my work, the work of a stay-at-home mum, didn’t stop. In fact, it got harder as I tried to do all the same things in a strange place without all my hard-won strategies from home. I was shocked!

I remember ringing my mother and complaining about how it wasn’t a holiday.

I remember my mother coming as close to ‘harden up princess’ as a kind and gentle person can.

School kids…

When both our kids were in primary school we started using my husband’s family shack for our holidays. We wouldn’t plan too far ahead, we’d ring Pop and ask if the shack was available, then head up. We’d pack the car late afternoon and travel up, arriving sometime after 10pm, even as late as midnight, just for the joy of waking up in the shack the next morning (and in the hope that the kids would sleep through most of the drive). That shack had three bedrooms and a sun room and a fold-out bed in the lounge room. Our small family enjoyed the space, the lagoon, the big beach. We went bike-riding and played on the playground and went for long walks. We played board games and card games and watched TV and played darts outside in the shed.

Teenagers…

As our kids grew up, time away became a little more difficult to organise. They had commitments – youth group leading, work, dance concerts, parties. I started to travel for work and was away four times a year anyway, which made me less inclined to go away when I was back in Tassie. We would still head up to the big shack on occasion but it got more and more occasional. And then the big shack got sold and that chapter was closed. We grieved a little but life had changed, we were into a new season.

No kids again…

My husband and I have found in this new season that we love to get away by ourselves. Our daughter is at uni now, and hanging out with her friends in Canberra. Our son and his girlfriend often head off to stay with her grandparents in Melbourne in the school holidays, And hubby and I get in the car and head off somewhere, anywhere. That’s what we’ve done this weekend. We had to book the break in to our schedules a couple of months in advance to block out the time, to make sure it didn’t get swallowed up by other commitments. But we’re back to packing for the trip in the half hour or so before we get in the car. If we forget something it is no big deal – we either buy it, or we make do without. We got up on Thursday, packed the car and were on the road by 930. No midnight travels required – we don’t need kids to sleep in the car, we enjoy the drive. No stress of wondering what the place is like and whether we will cope. Even if it all goes wrong, we will cope, we will see it as an adventure. We look for new places to explore, new adventures to have, new scenery or a new coffee and book shop or anything, really. It’s a different kind of holiday now, we can do what we feel like but we’re much less likely to sleep in, more likely to head out for walks or for drives and come home for afternoon naps. It’s come full circle – we’re back to our honeymooning days (but with significantly more cash). Footloose and fancy-free.

Seasons change

I wonder what the new seasons of our life will bring. Will we be heading out on holidays with our children as they come back after exams? Will there come a time when we are the grandparents, babysitting in some family shack while the parents take off and have some time away?

We have been so blessed by the generosity of others in our little holidays. Some holidays were harder than others, some (when the kids were younger) were significantly hard work, and others, like this last one, were just total refreshment. But I wouldn’t change anything. I am so grateful for the little breaks we’ve had, like punctuation marks in the flowing years, that help mark the time and seasons of our lives. As it says in the Good Book, ‘He makes everything beautiful in its time.’

Ruth Amos 280x186 Ruth Amos is a chemistry researcher and lecturer, a maths tutor and a mother of two fairly grown up kids. She is also experimenting with writing in her small amount of spare time. You can read her blog at aquietlifeblog.wordpress.com