Friday, August 8, 2008
Vacation? What Vacation? by Barb McKone
Vacation? What Vacation? by Barb McKone
My family has a split personality. I realized it a week ago, the moment we pulled into our driveway and tumbled, tanned and happy, out of the car and back into our Real World. Vacation was over, and, within moments, so was Vacation Personality.
Vacation Personality is the reason we must, absolutely MUST, for as long as we're living together, go on a family vacation every summer. No question, no exceptions.
No one ever has time for vacation. My entire family, as I make the calls and plans and reservations and buy tickets, looks as if they might die. Really. I'm the worst person in the world, expecting them to leave their friends and lives for a week or two. But, lo and behold, after we've made the back seat cozy with pillows and a favorite blanket and we get into the car and turn to the first page of the AAA map, Vacation Personality sets in.
Vacation Personality is:
Relaxed. No phones, unless we want to risk them getting wet or sandy. Believe me, I'm not saying my daughter isn't texting away in the back seat en route, but, on vacation the kids don't seem to be adhered to their phones as if they are pacifiers. It's amazing how fast those fingers can click! On vacation there are no schedules except for the ones we set for ourselves. If we want to lie around on the beach until the dolphins show up at dusk, we can do that. A few more rounds of beach paddle ball before the sun goes down? No problem. We've got no place to we have to be. How wonderful is having no place to be?!
Adventurous. Sea kayaking, anyone? Sure! How about a little crabbing off the dock in the moonlight? Sounds good! Stop off at the Rock-n-Roll Hall of Fame? Why not? No "I'm supposed to meet Mary at the mall," or, "I have band practice all afternoon." It's all "sure!" or "let's go." Really, what else can they say? We're a thousand miles from home, we've got the time blocked off, and we have the keys. For all intents and purposes, the kids are being held hostage in the back seat, and they don't even seem to mind.
Adaptable. Our vacations schedule is as follows: Three days here. Half-day of transit, two days there. Moving on. Overnight somewhere else, three days in a new place. And on. This is what comes of having a husband with seven siblings who all live half a country away. Visit one, you'd better visit them all, or at least see them. It's fun. It's important. It's tiring, and since we're the only ones in the Midwest, the road only seems to go one way. To their credit, probably because they know the routine so well by now, our kids have learned how to to travel light and gather belongings fast. I didn't realize until this summer that our nomadic vacation wanderings have taught a life skill that will serve them well in their college years of couch-surfing. Well done, us!
Unified. My kids like each other. Sometimes, they even like their parents. I know I'm blessed in this. I've known families for which vacations are tenuous at best. There is almost nothing that satisfies me more than turning around in the car and seeing my children laughing together. Yes, half the time they're laughing AT my husband or myself, and the other half of the time they're laughing at a movie they're watching, but they're together, and they're laughing. For at least one week per year, our children WILL pay more attention to each other than to their friends. Some day they'll thank us.
So, after nine days of the Vacation Personality we ALL (and I mean it- I think the kids like the Vacation Personality even more than we do) so enjoy, it is always surprising to me how very fleeting it is.
Home Personality hits at the front door. Dogs barking and leaping at our knees, we enter the world of How We Left It. No matter how we left our lives, they always seems to need days of restoration when we return from a trip. Appointments that need to be made. Laundry piles I guess I missed. Weeds that seem to have grown much more than a weed should in under two weeks and are now sharing their seed with the rest of the neighborhood.
Home Personality, especially upon return, is rarely relaxed. Scheduled to the gills. Home Personality is super social, just not necessarily with family. It's still unified, but more in passing than in hugging and laughing. Home Personality has an agenda. Commitments to be met. It gets things done.
Home Personality's motto: Get busy or get out of the way.
This all reminds me a little of church day care on Sunday mornings, back when the kids were little. We all volunteered to help in the Nursery from time to time, and it was fascinating to see the family dynamics displayed on these occasions. Many of the children, upon drop off, were crying. Screaming. Literally peeled from their dad's pressed pant legs and deposited on the ABC rug on the floor. But, after some Teddy Grahams and a story or two, they wanted to play. Blocks. Dolls. Soon they'd start to cruise the room for games they didn't have at home. By the time their parents came to pick them up, they would barely look up. When they notice their parents, of course, they're immediately clingy again. Teary again. Back to normal.
How great it would be for our Normal to be Vacation Normal!
It's not that our Vacation Personalities are gone. They are always there. I like knowing that they're simmering underneath our daily routines, deep down and dormant. Thankfully, sometimes they pop up and give us a hint of what the next summer will hold-- fun, delightful, adventurous spirits, just waiting! It's nice to know that all that they need to wake up is a road atlas and a full tank of gas.