Togetherness: A Bittersweet Tale

July 9th, 2013

My family just went on a two-week vacation and about ten days into it, my 15-year-old daughter slumped down at the breakfast table and said, “I don’t want to speak to any of you people ever again.”

She was somewhat joking–I think–and I also like to  think that the rest of us were also somewhat joking when we heartily agreed with the sentiment.

It was a lot of togetherness. And that comes from someone who isn’t happy unless her whole family is under one roof. In fact, one night we stayed at a hotel that put us in a room for six: two bunkbeds and two double beds. I gazed happily around the room as my entire family bedded down for the night, and my 19-year-old said, “This is Mom’s dream: everyone within eyesight all night long.” He knows me well. I slept like a baby.

I love going on vacations with the entire family. We took one big trip without our oldest, because his spring break didn’t coordinate with the others’, and I still feel guilty, a year and a half later. We kept doing things he would have loved–it felt wrong. So we planned this trip to include all six of us. And I loved everything about that–except when we drove one another crazy.

Please ignore my vacation hair.

Please ignore my vacation hair.

We all have our . . . little quirks. There’s the One Who Always Has a Stomachache When the Rest of Us Want to Go to a Museum or Garden. There’s the One Who Suddenly Declares She’s Too Exhausted to Move No Matter Where We Are or What We’re Doing. There’s the One Who Takes Everything Too Personally (and will seethe for ten minutes if we point out that he’s standing in someone’s way and needs to move). There’s the One Who Needs to Eat Every Hour and a Half and Urinate Even More Frequently (okay, that’s me). There’s the One Who Gets Pissy When He’s Tired. And there’s the One Who Will Mow Down Small Children and Old Ladies to Reach Any Line First.

None of these traits seem to be much of a problem at home, but when we’re all traveling together they get magnified about eight billion times until you look at your beloved children and all you see are little trolls who are trying to ruin your fun.

Our moods never coordinate: the Exhausted One will be filled with energy just as the Stomachache One is begging to go back to the hotel, which will lead to endless sniping as they accuse each other of insensitivity and “faking it” until the rest of us start snapping at them both to shut up.

But then there are the good times. Sometimes the clouds part, everyone’s fed and toileted, we find ourselves somewhere beautiful, and it’s magic.

Actually, we had a lot of those moments on this trip–I’d say the ratio of magic to annoyance was about as high as it’s ever been, which makes this one of our very best all-time vacations.

The trick is to keep expectations low. You may have visions of two solid weeks of bliss, but you’re never going to get them, and if you cling to that, you’ll just feel disappointed every time reality rears its occasionally ugly head. The truth is that if you can get a couple of hours a day that are great, it’s still worth all the effort and expense–your memory will weed out the rest, especially if you make a photo book of all the good stuff.

All I know is that we’re glad we went. And after we’d gotten home safely and agreed we’d had a wonderful trip, we ran off to separate corners of the house, happily not talking to one another for a very long time.

  • Marla Miller says:

    another Claire gem!

  • Deb Z. says:

    We just got back from a family (minus our middle child) vacation out west and I agree wholeheartedly with your sentiments. I get reminded why it’s best that our eldest no longer lives with us, but I am so happy to soak her up when we are together. I am always happy when our “away” kids come home and inhabit their bedrooms that are mostly vacant now. Bittersweet says it all.

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