Being a Mom Changed My Perspective on Family Vacations

Nothing makes you feel more like “The Parent” than bringing your kids somewhere your parents brought you as a kid. Last week, we visited Zion National Park with our four-year-old and 18-month-old. The last time I was there, I was 17 years old on a trip with my own parents.

Needless to say, there was a world of difference between the two trips. The last time, the trip had gorgeous scenery, tough hikes, and lots of driving. This time, the scenery was pretty much the only similarity. Here’s what was different then and now:

Then: Sitting in the back of the car, reading, sleeping, staring out the window, and doing whatever I felt like.
Now: Hoping my older kid won’t puke again from car-sickness, desperately cycling through toys in hopes that one will calm my younger son, and forcing myself to stay awake so I can keep my husband–who was driving–company.

Then: Being able to bang out a tough four-mile hike in less than two hours.
Now: Meandering through a mostly flat, two-mile ramble in more than two hours.

Then: Worrying that we wouldn’t get done before sunset because we picked too hard and long of a hike.
Now: Worrying that we wouldn’t be done before sunset because my toddler kept stopping to play in the dirt.

Then: Edging across a narrow path with a cliff going up on one side and dropping off on the other, clutching onto a chain attached to the mountain.
Now: Carrying a screaming, flailing toddler who wants to walk down a steep path that he’d end up tumbling down. (And he was so over the baby carrier.)

Then: Rock-scrambling with cliffs on both sides? “No problem!”
Now: A slight incline with some sand? “Ack! Hold onto my hand!”

Then: Casually gazing at the landscape of soaring red and white cliffs.
Now: Stealing glances at the landscape as I keep an eye on the toddler to ensure he won’t wander off the cliffs.

Then: “Look at this cool cactus!”
Now: “Don’t touch the cactus!”

Then: “Wow, there’s so much wonderful wildlife.”
Now: “Are those fire ants? Let’s just move away from here…”

Then: Me: “Mom, don’t worry about flash floods! We can totally walk in the river.”
Now: Me, as a mom, “If you walk in that puddle, your shoes will be wet all day.”

Then: Posing for a photo trying to look cute.
Now: Taking the photo of my husband while my older son is distracted and my younger son is yelling because he wants to go play in the dirt.

Then: “Leave only footprints, take only photos.”
Now: “I’m serious. You can’t bring that rock home with you.”

Then: Proud of myself for doing a hike ranked “very difficult.”
Now: Proud of my four-year-old for doing a hike ranked “easy” and then choosing to continue on to the “moderate” one.

Then: “This is a pretty awesome place. I’m glad my parents brought me.”
Now: ”This is such an awesome place. I’m so glad I could bring my kids.”

Shannon Brescher Shea is a mom of a family of four who’s trying to learn how to be kinder, more sustainable, and more adventurous. In her blog, We’ll Eat You Up We Love You So, she explores parenthood, growing up, and this big beautiful world. She’s also written for the Huffington Post, The Good Mother Project, the Children and Nature Network, Rants from Mommyland, Greater Greater Washington, Simplicity Parenting, the New York State Conservationist, and Adirondack Sports and Fitness. In her day job, she’s a science communicator in the federal government.

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