While on vacation with my family recently I saw a lot of parents with young kids by the pool, juggling Sippy cups and strollers and managing meltdowns and toddlers on the run. As cute as many of the kids were, and as much as I wouldn’t mind not needing reading glasses or frequent hair coloring to cover the grey, I couldn’t help thinking how grateful I am to not be one of those parents anymore.
On this particular holiday, my oldest son flew in from DC where he attends law school, my middle son joined us from Boston, where he is in college, and our youngest son, who still lives at home, was on break from high school. Back in the old days, with three high energy and strong-willed sons and a ten-year age gap between the oldest and youngest, I felt that our vacations were rather challenging and less than relaxing. I knew I was supposed to be savoring those breaks from our routine and appreciating the memories we were making, but it was often just really hard to be away and I remember looking forward to getting back to our regularly scheduled life. After we did get home, I did not feel rested or restored.
When the kids were young, getting to any destination felt herculean and required tremendous organization and planning. I had lists of things to remember, from medications to favorite blankies and stuffed animals. Once we had arrived, our three sons usually had different ideas regarding our itinerary, which was not surprising I suppose, given their varying ages. Every meal and activity was a negotiation and more often than not, someone was unhappy and quite vocal about his unhappiness. Fighting among the three boys was commonplace and I would often think to myself, “What’s wrong with us and why are we so bad at this?”
If we happened to be near a pool or on a beach, I remember the physical struggle involved in trying to get suntan lotion and floaties on them. I also remember never getting a moment to rest or even sit because I was so nervous about them in and around the water. If my husband or I wanted a moment to ourselves, such as an hour at the gym or a rare spa appointment, we had to take turns with the children. And alone time as a couple was practically nonexistent; there was always a child sleeping in our room, an ill child, or one who simply required something.
I realized how far we have come when during this vacation my husband and I took a leisurely three-mile walk together and booked simultaneous massages at the spa. No more taking turns. The kids, who are really not kids anymore, seemed happier and more appreciative than they ever have to be away with us. No more meltdowns, no more child paraphernalia to be schlepped along on our trip, hardly any fighting (I would be lying if I said none), and as an added bonus, they now all pack for themselves. Our children were free to join us poolside and at meals, or not. They did not need to be supervised, cajoled or reprimanded. We had interesting conversations about current events, such as the Presidential election and the ramifications of Justice Scalia’s death and I enjoyed hearing their views and opinions on a variety of other topics as well. Having boys who are not big phone conversationalists, I have found that is important that we get this time together to catch up in person.
This time, when our vacation was winding down and my oldest son left for the airport to return to his life in DC and I knew my middle son would be leaving soon as well, rather than feeling relieved that our vacation was over, I felt an unusual tug at my heart when we said our goodbyes. I discovered something I hadn’t known before—traveling with older kids is great. In fact, I find myself looking forward to the next time we can all be together. I know that when my sons start their careers in the not too distant future, family vacations may be more difficult to schedule. However, I hope we can still manage to find at least some time to spend away together, because as it turns out, we are pretty good at this vacation thing after all.
About Marlene – Marlene Kern Fischer is a wife, mother of three sons, food shopper extraordinaire and blogger. In addition to Ten to Twenty Parenting, her work has appeared in Grown and Flown, Kveller, Beyond Your Blog, Erma Bombeck Writers’ Workshop and Better After 50.
You can read more from Marlene on her site!
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