I know I shouldn’t let my revulsion at schlepping an SUV’s worth of belongings from one city to another prevent me from reveling in the joy of being with my treasured family on an exciting adventure. But it is not easy. For someone as impatient and anxious as I am, coming to grips with the commonly-held notion that family vacations are supposed to be fun doesn’t come naturally. Most of the time, in spite of my best efforts to the contrary, I end up making everyone around me (not to mention myself) absolutely miserable.
This past weekend, my family and I went to the beach to stay with my cousin at her time-share in Sanibel Island, Florida – which boasts one of the most beautiful beaches in the United States – and in two more days we’ll travel to North Georgia to stay in a cabin in the mountains for a week with my sister and mom and their respective families.
Lots of fun summer adventures! Awesome, huh?
Yet I’m all agitated and knotty inside. My plastered-on smile says I’m over-flowing with joy… but I’m completely full of crap.
The irony of being stressed about going on vacation is not lost on me. I mean, for God’s sake, who doesn’t like to go on vacation??
…I guess… I don’t?
I thought I liked vacationing… In fact, I’m sure I used to love to travel… Oh wait… That was pre-children. Huh.
Well, even now, in theory, I still want to go places. But lately, the idea of packing, unpacking, being stuck in a car (with those heathens!!) for hours upon hours, then trying to cook for everyone in an unfamiliar kitchen with pots hidden so well I swear I’m being punked, doing laundry in unfamiliar machines, watching suitcases explode in disarray, kids waking up scared all hours of the night because they don’t know where the hell they are, the dread of packing everything back up and returning to ‘real’ life that haunts me the very moment I begin to ‘let go’ and relax – I know it’s ridiculous, but all these things make me want to go hide in a dark closet until summer (and the threat of family vacations) has passed.
I get very stressed when packing, to the point of morphing into a petrifying likeness of Kate Gosselin, for which there is no excuse whatsoever, as I only have two kids and not eight. But it feels like my kids multiply times a billion when I’m trying to accomplish something, and I’m pretty sure this is a normal thing that happens to every parent. Can’t I just pack a couple of freaking suitcases without being interrupted 78 times? But I’m horribly mean when I’m packing – I loudly demand a 10-foot radius and absolute silence. And I’m pretty sure that is not so normal.
Since having kids, I’ve dreaded vacations or anything that requires extensive preparation – or withholding of a child’s nap – because I just can’t handle the uncertainty. What if I forget something? What if someone gets sick? What if my kid freaks out in the car and cries for three hours? I once missed out on a trip to Niagara Falls because of these worries – and I don’t regret it in the least! Six years later and I still think I made the right decision not to bring a five-month-old baby on a ten-hour drive, even though God only knows when I’ll have another chance to see Niagara Falls.
I’ve improved somewhat over the years; experience and hind-sight are wonderful things. And taking pictures has been helpful. I’m the camera Nazi and everyone must bow down to my supreme photo-snapping authority – in candid positions, obviously, because everyone knows that if you spend your whole vacation ‘posing’ for pictures, you don’t actually get any real ‘vacationing’ accomplished. This squirreling away of happy memories serves to reassure me (at a later date) that my unwanted stress was indeed unjustified, and that in spite of my reservations, all the hassle was worth it.
Vacationing is fun. Vacationing… is fun. This will be my mantra as I pack for our next trip. This time, I will only request an eight-foot packing-radius, and will allow for minimal noise. I will remind myself at least once per minute that not everyone gets to do vacations and that I should be grateful we’re able to take these incredible trips. I will let my good sense rule over my unnatural anxiety. I will anticipate our cabin-trip with the type of gusto that is expected of ordinary humans.
Vacationing. Is. Fun.
Because surely nine hours in the car with my darling husband, our six-year-old-child-who-has-ADHD, our just-potty-trained two-year-old, my mother-in-law, and an insane dose of Bob Marley and UB40 on repeat (even though HELLO, we have satellite radio, husband)… couldn’t be that bad…