You’ve seen no doubt the movie where Clark Griswold gathers his family together and they take off on their summer vacation, set to go to Wally World. They drive all the way across the country to get there, visit family along the way and most everything that can go wrong does. While I wouldn’t say we follow the script exactly…we do at times remind me of that movie when we take our vacations together. Let’s face it, there are two kinds of get aways. The kind where you leave your cares, your kids and everything else behind and you and or you and your spouse or S O truly get away, and the kind where you take your kids and go as a family. Two completely different experiences of course.
My husband and I have had a small handful of the first kind. We had a couple before we got married. We went on our honeymoon…maybe a couple of trips in state once we were married and one time we went to see KU play in a Championship basketball game over Thanksgiving out in Vegas. Other than that though, most of our vacations involve the kids.
Let’s start with me. About a week and a half before we actually leave on a trip, I start the lists. One is what to take with and the other is all the things that have to be done before we can leave. I’m certain my husband probably makes a list too…but I’m also quite sure that my to do list contains on average of about 20 to dos….and when the list is done, I to did most every item myself. I’m also relatively certain that my husband’s list is more of an “over seers” list that contains many items he just needs to ask me if I’ve done! Basically broken out, my areas of responsibility include procurement and packing of all food and snack items, all medication and first aid supplies, and all sanitary and paper good items. I also am in charge of the kids…making sure they are organized and not forgetting anything and now packing not only for myself but for our little son. I clean house before we leave, water all the plants, make sure the trash is out, the fridge is rid of all left overs and that there are no dishes in the sink or laundry left in mid cycle. Mind you I complete my list while simultaneously answering about a gagillion questions from the kids so they can complete their lists and my little boy saying mom…mom…mom…mom…without exploding with my inards splattering out all over the walls. By the time my biscuits hit the seat of the car I am tired already. My husband packs for himself, gets all bills paid, stops the mail, mows, tells the neighbors where we’re going, is in charge of all electronic devices and cords, and all entertainment….Igames, IPods.. IPads, movies…music..I this and I that and amen.
Let’s spend a minute on my husband, shall we? Every single time I travel on one these trips with him, he acts predictably the same. He seems to need to get his BP and his temper super revved up so he can actually travel. A few hours prior to departure he starts snapping everyone’s head off, stomping and storming around; everyone else is an unorganized, thoughtless, inconsiderate and dimwitted stumblebum HE on the other hand is the ONLY one who remotely has a clue what is going on, what needs to be done, and how and when it should go down. This is so predictable I have learned to count on it and just wait for it. I’m both amused and amazed every time. Once we get going, we do a run-down, he makes sure he’s left the temp and the lights the way he wants…goes back in and out of the house about four times…then hits the alarm. Once he pulls out of the driveway, he’s actually a lot better, almost instantaneously. Of course everyone else is so mad at him by then that it takes us all a while to forgive him…but I think unless Dad got really mad at us all before we left to go on a trip it just would seem weird, and we would worry something was wrong with him.
When the older kids were younger, it was simpler it seems. We would pick where we were going, they could exist with packing very little…they would hook up to movies and as long as you kept them fed, you were golden. We would run into things like, the girls irritating the crap out of their big brother, our older son and my husband bumping heads, one or another of the girls whining about something….disagreeing on where they want to eat etc. But we seemed to get ready quicker, hit the road easier and have just fewer complications in general. I have come to think that there is a span of time in a child’s development, somewhere I think about age 5 through age 14 (gender depending) where kids are relatively uncomplicated little travel buddies. They don’t have a whole lot of needs, just want to have fun…don’t care who they left behind really, and just sort of go with the flow and whatever Mom and Dad want to do they’ll pretty much do as long as they aren’t hungry, thirsty or bored. Once the OCD and societizing really kick in, and they can’t rip themselves away from the electronic devices, and have absolutely no patience, and start to have friends, girl friends, boy friends, social networks and love interests all that goes away and it becomes a real challenge to pull the team together to go.
Moving on to our oldest. He’s 22 and out…hasn’t accompanied us on many trips these past few years and I wouldn’t expect him to. Why would he? I mean I suppose if we were going to a real unique once in a life-time destination he might think about it. Otherwise, he’s off doing his own thing and has probably little room in his life for traveling caravan style with a four year old and his sisters.
The girls. Especially challenging now since to disengage them from their social and extra curricular commitments is hard enough, but also they are one week on one week off still with where they reside, so about two weeks before a trip we start trying to get them thinking along the lines of getting organized for it. Of course 3-4 days after a daily reminder, we see that they’ve actually done nothing in response. We do see them watching TV, going shopping, eating, painting nails, taking endless showers, texting texting texting…but no packing packing packing. Almost as if just for fun, and to help get their Dad started on his climb to emotional hyper space…they typically wait until a couple days before we leave and start to ask what they need and where things are. Now mind you this is after being reminded daily multiple times before they get so close to departure day. No dice. Now the two or three trips across town to their Mothers starts. They forgot this over there, or they don’t have the right swim suit, makeup…left their straightener over there…what have you. Then they make sure that the night before the trip, when they know we are aiming for early bed and up early to hit the road…they stay late at their Mothers, or their boyfriends or whatever and come home to start running laundry, stuff they have to have for the trip. At 51 minutes per load…you can see where that puts us for bed time. This is good though because it is fueling their Dad so…lights out usually about two full hours after our goal time. Business as usual, apparently it is their role to play in the parts is parts storyline.
Let’s talk about departure times. Bless my husband he always says we need to be up and out of here by…..whatever time. He repeats that multiple times and makes us all repeat it back. Agreement! Nearly every time…he’s the last one ready. That however completely escapes him. We never repeat never leave at the time he says we need to leave by. We are on a trip at this moment, which sparked me to write this…we just drove down to the Gulf coast to spend a few days. And I’m proud to say for the first time we left only 15 minutes behind our time. Dad said 5am..we pulled out at 5:15. Not too shabby! Again this is so predictable it’s funny. We get almost out of town and hubby sits quiet, calming down…and we wait for it…wait for it…then he mumbles to himself but loud enough that we all hear him, something about this family being absolutely incapable of leaving on time. We just listen, nod our heads and take satisfaction and comfort in those words that give us comfort, words we’ve heard a hundred times before.
We have to have one this…something that happens which gives us what I refer to as the undertone…or spin off story. This could be that someone is mad at someone else, there might be a family issue, or an issue with a friendship, something happening with one of the girl’s teams…a sick pet..someone isn’t feeling well or has an impending procedure….this particular time one of our daughters has been on a slow breakup with her boyfriend that crescendoed last night. She’s not intentionally trying to make it our problem or to be a real poop and stick in the mud…but…this started before we left home…a couple of late emotional nights on the phone with the expected silence from her for the next however long. Then off and on for the last 5 days…regardless of sun, fun, beach, good food, family we haven’t seen in forever, new places, new experiences, go carts, arcades, malls, dolphin cruises..she is engaged in a texting, Facebook, cell phone war with her now I think former boyfriend. Too bad, I know how hard that is…and on family vacation too..he’s a nice kid…just blew out or blew up or something. Unfortunately it caused her to kiss goodbye the only meal we were able to share with my family who lives near where we were staying…headache…that is irksome but I’m trying to cut her some slack. So the undercurrent theme of this family vacation is dumpiteedoo …don’t know who did it to who.
We also have to have the requisite number of tiffs, spats what have you. I am reminded at those times when me and my cousins, who I only got to see for summer vacations, would fall out. My Grandma would always say ok…y’all have been together too much…let’s just ease up and get apart! This is an inevitable part of the microcosm of our family vacations…but I think ultimately we get closer because of it.
On the way back home now with a couple of destination stops along the way. Everyone is sun tired…quiet…has souvenirs…is watching movies…ready to be out of the car and feeling the togetherness…if you know what I mean! We’re off to Graceland tomorrow. Have to! We’re going to be in Memphis! Then off to Missouri to spend the night and pick up a puppy we’ve been waiting a while for now….then hopefully an uneventful last leg back home! And as for me..back to work Monday…kids back to school Monday…hubby back to his work that day too. We will again have built some memories and in spite of the side event of the breakup…I think, as we usually do, we had a pretty good time!
Division of labor in a household is necessary to promote harmony in my opinion. When it comes to trip readiness, in our family, where would we be if I tried to pull together the electronics and stuff like that? Off the danged grid is where we’d be. What would happen if my husband forgot to remember all the medications and first aid stuff. No bandaids, Advil, cough drops, sunscreen..and if he was in charge of snacks? We’d have some irritated hungry car riders I’d imagine. If he didn’t do the things he does and I didn’t do the things I do, it wouldn’t work. We’ve created a system unspokenly and it works for us.
There is a saying comfort in your misery…if the kids executed perfectly, required no prodding and didn’t ultimately make their Dad mad before a trip…I’m not sure what that would be like…but it wouldn’t be normal for sure.
I still ponder about my husband’s need to go into a pre trip frenzy…maybe it’s his way of dealing with stress…perhaps he has separation anxiety and this is how it manifests itself. Maybe his Dad did this when they were kids…whatever the reason this too…is a comfortable, predictable facet of our lives. If he were calm, cool and collected I would think he’d been drinking..and without the kids and me fueling the situation enabling him to reach new heights of preturbedness…I think he would be lost and we can’t have that.
So you see we each have a part to play ….one of us fails to execute properly and it just isn’t a family vacation!!!
I remind myself to take pictures, plenty of pictures and to enjoy these moments together and to remember…with our oldest boy already out…the girls will be out soon enough too…the three of us, me, hubby and little man will have to figure out what our parts are in the sequel! I trust we will!