By Guest Blogger Thea DeLoreto, author of the blog The Lint Trap 

Ahhhh, vacation. The most anticipated week of the year. We go with family. We rent beautiful houses that we could never afford to own and swim in pools that we could never find time to clean. We sleep on sheets we don’t have to wash and eat on plates we didn’t have to buy. We frolic on the beach with our perfect children who are building sandcastles and flying kites. We enjoy ice cream, shrimp and cocktails. It really is a lovely time to unwind and slow down and enjoy time together.

But it is not always awesome. And it is rarely relaxing. Did I mention we are with kids on this vacation?

There is only so chill a mother can be when her children are alive and breathing around someone else’s furniture. When we are in a rented house I start sweating every time my children get near the inevitably light colored couch with beautiful beachy throw pillows. One is a hot mess and spills stuff constantly, the other is a barf machine. Because it is vacation they are always covered in several layers of ick—sunscreen, ice cream, peach juice, sand, chlorine, cookie crumbs. Clearly, I should be bathing them more. Instead, I spend the majority of the time we are inside praying that none of the nasty rubs off onto the lovely coral print pillows or the ecru and stone striped couch. I would ask the two little hobos to respect the furniture like they do ours, but then she would dump milk on it, color on it with a ball point pen, and grind Ritz crackers into it, and he would suck on the skirt of it after eating yogurt and then barf between the cushions. Better they just sit on the hard wood floors at all times.

We really take the vacation stress up a notch by going with those we wish to impress the most—our families. We like to show off the sociological experiment we have going. Last week Hub’s family got some really exciting glimpses of our normal. LadyB had a screaming fit when she had to take a post-beach shower. Because asking someone to rinse after they have sat their ladybits in sand all morning is unacceptable. Then after dinner while I did dishes, Bear foraged the floor, happily enjoying all that missed his mouth during dinner. I knew he was doing it, but it was keeping him busy and happy, so I just let him. That is the kind of thing that no one else should have to see. Quite frankly, I don’t even want to see it. Usually, I pretend I don’t. Parenting in front of family is often when we seem to be at our worst, when the kids are being brats and our tempers are short. Not to mention our parenting sucks even worse on vacation. Our kids are a freaking mess when they live on too little sleep and popsicles and we are exhausted from sharing our beds with they tiny alarm clocks who wake up way too early no matter what time they fall asleep and insist on silly things like breakfast and diaper changes.

Vacation is never what we imagine it will be. Sometimes it rains. Or our parents make us mad for undermining our parenting. The kids dump chocolate milk all over the light blue rug. We get sunburns that show just how quickly and poorly we apply our own sunscreen, because we are so busy trying to cover every square inch of our children with organic SPF 756 sunscreen that has to be applied in a counterclockwise motion every 32 minutes. Vacation is never perfect. Because it is real life. Kids act like jerks. Parents lose their minds. Families argue, décor gets ruined, bedtimes get missed.

But it isn’t all bad. There are slices between the chaos when it really is all perfection. We dig holes on the beach and help little ones jump waves. Everyone gets dessert and everyone stays up late for fireworks. We create memories and piles of dirty clothes. Our children get to find seashells and nap on blankets under a beach tent. Vacation is no longer a time for recharging our batteries; it is a time spent connecting with our kids. There is still parenting to be done—booties to be wiped and macaroni and cheese to be made. It is far from perfect and rarely relaxing. But at least we get to do it in a house with deck that looks out at the ocean and a wine fridge. I know that makes a week with my kids infinitely more bearable.

Can you relate?