How A Stingray Saved My Vacation

Photo by: Darren Johnson

I will admit I did terrible job packing for my family’s week-long Thanksgiving vacation. As the designated momager to four small children and a husband, I am in charge of wardrobe planning and activity bag packing. Along with clothes and shoes, there are medications, special blankies and outdoor activity gear.

If you’re a mom, you know this packing job sucks.

I was utterly uninspired for the packing tasks that lie ahead for this trip. I shoved long-sleeved clothes in for everyone. I packed those imitation Uggs. There were winter coats, sweaters and jeans included. I even packed myself these ridiculous flannel leggings and a wool sweater instead of my bathing suit.

The problem was, we weren’t going to Minnesota for Thanksgiving–we were going to Los Angeles. The weather was supposed to be in the 80’s all week. The sad part is that I was privy to the weather report for the week and I still chose to pack like an idiot.

My poor packing had burdened us along the way, but we made it work. Boots and long pants on the beach was definitely a bummer. We looked like the Griswolds vacationing in Southern California, but it was working okay for a while.

Fast forward to our last day of our Thanksgiving break vacation. We drove to Huntington Beach to visit my brother-in-law and his family.

The day was so incredibly beautiful and the beach so pristine and vast with its white sand and perfectly shaped waves, so we decided on an impromptu beach stop.

My husband doesn’t always do impromptu well. He’s very timely and likes everything to be planned out perfectly. In other words, if he were the momager in charge of packing, there would be flip-flops instead of Uggs and shorts instead of pants on the beach.

Nobody had their bathing suits on so we piled into the disgusting beach bathroom with our too-small beach bag that was shoved full with towels, bathing suits and sunscreen. The bathroom had just been hosed down by maintenance so it was disgustingly sopping wet from floor to ceiling. No one wanted to stand on that floor without shoes. We couldn’t get to the bathing suits because they were at the bottom of the too-small beach bag. We couldn’t put the beach bag on the ground because the ground was wet.

My husband stood in the bathroom loaded from head to toe with beach paraphernalia, my purse, kids shoes and socks and various other shit.

He was fuming. I could almost see the steam escaping in full force out of his ears. In the past, my husband has had a few vacation meltdowns prompted by the stress of schlepping four small children everywhere. It’s no small feat catering to the demands and moods of six-year-old triplets and a high maintenance 10 year old for a week away from home.

“I cannot believe we don’t have beach shoes!” was his first outburst.

“Do we not have a single beach bag other than this one?”

“I can’t stand how we never bring enough beach towels! There are four towels for six of us!”

“This whole vacation, the kids haven’t had a single pair of shorts!”

“This is the worst packing job I have ever seen!”

Now I was fuming. I had already admitted earlier in the week that my packing sucked, and now at a low point in our lives he was throwing it in my face.

I responded like every wife in her right mind would and shouted “THEN YOU SHOULD’VE PACKED FOR ALL THESE KIDS YOURSELF!” Do you think it is easy packing for five people for an entire week of vacation?”

Then he said what NO husband should ever say, “Well I would’ve done a better job.”

Then I called him an asshole.

Then we walked to our beach spot and ignored each other for an hour while we watched our children run and jump in the waves and enjoy that very moment of the perfect day despite their crappy mother who can’t plan or pack properly.

My husband went into the ocean. As I watched him, throwing daggers at him with my eyeballs, I suddenly noticed him grab his foot and almost fall.

He probably stepped on a rock. Big baby.

A few minutes later he walked up to me and said he thought a jellyfish had stung his big toe. We walked over to the lifeguard station and that’s when he learned that he was really stung by a Stingray. A Stingray? You mean the same animal that pierced its poisonous tail through Steve Irwin Crocodile Hunter and killed him instantly?

Suddenly all our anger and hostility over my poor packing faded away. I loved my husband. He is the best husband and father in the world, he just doesn’t handle poorly planned impromptu situations well. My husband spent the next hour in pain with his foot in a bag of hot water. The kids came by to ask if they could take his Stingray First Aid bag that his foot was soaking in so they could use it for sand play because they “reallllyyyy need it.” We reminded them that the warm water was the only thing helping subdue the pain.

So a Stingray saved our last day of vacation, and maybe even our marriage.

Megan Woolsey writes the blog The Hip Mothership. When she’s not raising four children (including triplets) or writing, she enjoys hot yoga and cooking, obsesses about traveling the world, and loves to wine and dine with her husband. Her dream career is travel writing (but maybe not packing).

Photo: Darren Johnson


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Comments (3)

  1. Sallytraub traub

    Such a funny essay. I can picture it all. Well written.