Seeing a friend’s family vacation photos on Facebook started me thinking about my own family’s vacations. Quite honestly, they tended to be less than ideal. From the get go, the deck was stacked against us. We have three sons with very strong yet different personalities, interests, and quirks, with a five year age gap between each of them thrown in for good measure.
We planned our trips with the best of intentions. When they were young, we stuck to the continental United States, with Florida being our most frequent destination. When I was pregnant with my youngest son, I got the stomach flu while we were in Sanibel. As I sat down on a lounge chair to rest and watch my sons frolic in the pool with my husband, I witnessed our four year old son toss some water in a plastic pail in the direction of my husband. Except the pail was still attached to the water and it hit him in the face, slicing his upper lip in half, making the pool look like the red sea. My husband spent the rest of the afternoon in the emergency room waiting to get stitched up while I (pregnant and sick) tried to occupy the boys.
When they got older we decided to branch out and try Europe but things didn’t get any better. We went to England when the boys were eight, thirteen and eighteen. The eighteen year old discovered he could LEGALLY drink in Europe and all bets were off after that. He deemed every activity we did as too touristy and instead wanted to check out all the local pubs, forgetting that he had two younger brothers. We convinced him to go to Legoland with us by assuring him they sold alcohol at theme parks to appease desperate parents. At one point, one of the helpful British taxi drivers who heard him arguing with us suggested we try hitting him. (Believe me the thought had already crossed our minds.) The youngest one was equally unhappy on this trip (except for Legoland and touring Emirates Stadium) –he cried because we schlepped him to museums and made him eat foreign and unfamiliar food.
Stitches, broken bones, forgotten luggage, delayed and cancelled flights– still we persevered. In an attempt to teach them about their heritage and visit relatives, we went to Budapest, Hungary. The oldest decided he was there to gamble and would be hitting the casinos. An excellent plan except for the fact that he didn’t speak a word of Hungarian and didn’t know how to gamble. The youngest one was more focused on the soda selection than the sites on the Danube cruise (all he remembers is that he was allowed to have a Sprite). And the middle child decided this would be the best time to let his older brother know he was now larger and would no longer be pushed around, resulting in an old fashioned bar room style brawl in a pastry shop, horrifying our cousins and everyone there who witnessed the fight. In their defense, taking them to an ancient and overgrown cemetery to see their dead ancestors may have been a little creepy but I thought it was important.
I could go on and on, but I think by now you are getting the picture. My kids can be counted on in a crisis and are supportive of each other, we laugh a lot when we are together and we do have fun. Travelling as a unit just isn’t our strong suit. So now that the kids are older, they kind of do their own thing and we do ours. My husband and I went to Amsterdam this summer without them and it worked out much better. I think we are onto something. We still go to Florida with them in the winter and now they don’t complain or give us much trouble. If your vacations are idyllic, lucky for you. And if they sound more like ours, take comfort in the fact that eventually they will get better because your kids will be grateful for a free trip. And perhaps, by then, they will even appreciate being with their parents.