Monday, August 31, 2009

Family Vacation is Hardly a Vacation

Here's the thing about vacationing with family, there's nothing vacay about it.

Oh, it's always a grand time to see family (especially considering it had been over two years since we were back home...save the guilt trip; we've already taken it and have the T-shirts and passport stamps to prove it.). Spending time with family was the hands down highlight of our rendez vous to the Midwest. Bird and Deal loved playing with their cousins and kidding around with their grandmother. They were spoiled by their aunts and uncles and fawned over by family friends. Nonetheless, it was exhausting. Nothing rejuvenating about it. No sirree, no one around Chez Dirt & Noise is relaxed and rested.

Nevermind that Bird started first grade the day after we got home. I know, I know. Bad timing is the understatement of the century. You can revoke my Mother of the Year crown now. The title does come with a crown and sash right?

We actually had a fantastic vacation...in hindsight.

While we were in the throes of driving hours on end (sometimes in a torrential downpour), blotting juice box spills from the rental car, mediating brotherly boxing matches in the back seat, changing DVDs that mysteriously got scratched, maneuvering unmarked back country roads, monitoring unseemly lyrics on unknown radio stations, and timing potty breaks, we managed to sneak in a good time. It goes without saying that Mac Daddy and I teetered between bickering and paying each other off with the silent treatment for much of the drive time. It was reminiscent of my hellacious family road trips as a kid, only then the whole bunch of us fought, making the entire trip somewhat sucky. Mac Daddy and I got over once we arrived at our destination. Said destination always had a full stock of liquid refreshments. Our worst fights involve car trips and home improvement. This is why we fly and pay someone to install curtain rods. Every picture hung in our house has an unresolved fight brewing behind it.

Here's the thing, visiting family and vacation are not synonymous. In fact, I would argue that they are indeed mutually exclusive. For that matter, traveling with children is not always vacation.

Sure, hanging at Legoland and the Chicago Children's Museum was grand. I don't even mean that sarcastically. I even had a blast riding the ginormous ferris wheel at Navy Pier with the boys, though I wish I had worn Depends because that shit was high high high! We stared at our reflections in the Millenium Park bean and laughed at the boat tour guide's bovine jokes about Mrs. O'Leary's cow. We ate ungodly amounts of ice cream and frozen custard and indulged in more cheese that Mrs. O'Leary's cow could produce in a year. I have the extra 10 pounds and double chin to prove it. The back fat was already there; I only have the gestation of two boys to blame for that.

What stinks is that I didn't spend a minute or a dime indulging in Chicago's most famous sport - shopping. A quick jaunt to Nordstrom earned me whining and fits that I couldn't bear lest I start spinning my head and spewing unsavory remarks to my children in public. Mac Daddy did indulge me by letting me sip my champagne in peace atop the Hancock Tower observation deck restaurant while he wrestled the boys who were hopped up on pineapple upside down cake.

That three minutes was the extent of my vacation.

Did I mention that the whole famdamily shared a hotel room too? Good times. There were moments I was reading by the light of my Blackberry. That's sure to put a strain on the almost 41-year old eyes that are next in line at the presbyopia store.

Truth be told, Bird and Deal were great. Most importantly, they were true princes on our flights. Fellow passengers are sure as hell thankful for that. We laughed a lot, walked even more, and ate our body weight in Garrett's popcorn, cheese curds, Kopp's tasty treats, peanut squares, tapas, bratwurst, and Jelly Bellys. And no doubt Mac Daddy and I indulged in plenty of Wisconsin's finest ale (nevermind that it was actually Corona). But since we divided our time between seeing family (which means we were all "on") and playing the part of Tourist, we never had (or took) the time to simply exhale.

Our family's trip was what our friend Janet coined a "kidcation," not a vacation. Like I said, it was awesome, but it wasn't the least bit relaxing. No beach. No Matt Dillon cabana boy. No pool raft. And for the most part, no sunshine.

But based on the boys' recollections, stories about antics with their cousins, memories made, and "remember when" moments, I wouldn't change a damn thing...except adding vacation days to Mac Daddy's schedule and a traveling baby sitter armed with a corkscrew.

In the mean time, I revel in the fact that we were making memories and more importantly, cementing familial bonds for our children, who don't benefit from the joy of family often enough.

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Mary Michele said...

I second the motion to have a traveling babysitter armed with a corkscrew! Sure would come in handy at times. We took a week long trip (10 days, all told) with the in-laws this summer to Ohio (separate cars, thank goodness) and it about did me in. Once we were in our idyllic setting we had a nice time and even squeezed in some relaxation, but the trip up and back was enough to make me hope it's a very long time before we do that again. Hope you've had a chance to catch your breath!

dadshouse said...

You drank Corona in Wisconsin when you could have had Schlitz? Tsk tsk... :-)

I love family vacations. My kids are older, so we don't spill juice boxes, and I might hit the sack before them. But I love visiting places with them. Precious memories.

landismom said...

Having just come off a kidcation of my own, I heartily agree--that is NOT relaxing. Fun? sometimes, yes, but not relaxing.

I can't wait for the day that the kids are old enough to room by themselves. Of course, then I'll spend whole nights wondering if they've snuck out of the hotel to meet a pool boy. or girl.

Emily said...

I LOVE LOVE LOVE road trips and it was with great sadness that I realized my days of carefree meanderings on the road went by the wayside when I had children. I don't know how those parents do it when they can live seemingly happy existences while doing something nutty like packing up the entire family for a year on the road with education by RV pitstop.

Someday vacations will be vacations again. We're actually getting closer with the advent of homemade coupon books for the kids to do away with most of their issues (souvenir buying, who gets to pick where people sit at the dinner table, what snack kiosk we hit up at the theme park). I'd have married my husband all over again after seeing him cutting up and assembling individual coupon books while holed up in our room at the Nickelodeon hotel.

Lisa Creech Bledsoe said...

Hee, hee: "fandamily"

I can barely manage trips with my three boys and only undertake them with liquor by the case (for me). That's right, I'm the Worst Mom Evar, and no, it doesn't come with a frikkin sash and crown, unless it's a Crown Royal.

LOVED reading this, TOTally identified. And laughed a bunch.

Kim Moldofsky said...

You almost make it sound fun. Well, at least, funny! Hope school is off to a good start.

Aunt Becky said...

I always wind up needing a vacation FROM my vacation.

Anonymous said...

Yay for a good time had by all!
And here I thought I was a bad mommy taking my kids on vacation and only giving them THREE days before school started...

DCUrbanDad said...

Think next week I am gonna shoot for the 2 weeker - 1 week with the family and 1 week just the 2 of us. Welcome back.

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amy said...

I love to travel but unfortantually with my busy schedule working at Narconon drug rehab center and going to school and being a full time mom I have very little time to go on a vacation. does anyone have any advice on how to take a great vacation with having very little time to do it?