Remembering Chevy Chase in those summer vacation movies reminds me of the fact that most so-called “family vacations” are, at best, vacations for the kids and torture for the parents. I’m generalizing, of course, but most generalizations as well as clichés, have a strong basis in truth. I stand by the proposition that we parents usually need a vacation after our family one, if only to recover and rest.
This summer my younger son, David, got to spend several weeks at the sleep- away camp he loves, while my older son, Will, is indulging his passion for rock ‘n’ roll at a Rock School where he’s taking drum lessons, and participating in numerous bands and concerts through the school. He’ll also be living, figuratively, in our garage with his own band, driving the nearby horses crazy, or am I mistaking their thrashing about as dancing?
My wife, Loren, is going to Vancouver to be with her parents while her mother undergoes some serious surgery. She intends to stay until her mother is well and to support her father during this precarious time. I’m holding down the fort at home, while still writing, and working to give my new website (www.brucesallan.com) the attention I naively believe it deserves.
My assertion is that parents need vacations, too, and not just a date night or weekend away. We need to recharge, regenerate, and have the peace-of-mind of not worrying about our kids’ daily needs or squabbles, while also not worrying about feeding them or making sure that they do some of their chores. Notice that I wrote “some” as in the expectation that “all” is impossible. If we, as parents, don’t get to release some of our stress, it just accumulates and that does no one in the family any good.
How often do we actually take vacations without the kids? How much do guilt, finances, available time, and other factors dictate our vacations as only being of the family variety?
My marriage is still new, since we married at the end of last year. So, we are determining the structure of our lives now. Many incidents, which we call “life,” have already intruded on various plans, not the least of which is my wife’s own sinus surgery and painful and lengthy recovery that followed, which totally altered some of our plans this past winter and almost derailed our honeymoon. We are wise enough not to pout too much when these things happen (well, at least my wife doesn’t pout), but can’t help but sometimes feel a bit sorry for ourselves when they do.
My wife and I believe strongly that we need our separate time (from our sons). The boys have the pleasure or pain, depending on how they feel at any given moment, of having their dad at home all the time. I work out of the house, and take the lead role in their transportation needs, so they see more of me than they may want to at any given time.
Consequently, my wife and I aren’t feeling too guilty about planning a trip for just us two next March. We are reuniting with friends that we made on our honeymoon earlier this year, and have something special to look forward to while we go about our regular daily business of work and family. My wife continues to put in full days at work and comes home to often cook us wonderful meals. We help with the clean up, but she’s still the major cleaner in the house. I take care of most of the shopping and daily “kid runs.”
In summer, the parenting duties are less, but with a teen in the house, my job is to be vigilant about his whereabouts, his friends, what he’s watching on all his screens, and generally try to keep him alive. My influence, otherwise, is negligible. On the other side of the equation is my “tween,” who requires more attention and actually wants to do things with me. Both boys sleep late during the summer, so my best quiet and work time is the mornings. After that, it’s a jumble of running around and juggling their needs and whereabouts.
My wife and I both deserve a break, at some point, and our boys will survive just fine. In fact, they may both enjoy themselves, if we have the same sitter as we had last time, and not notice our absence much at all. We, on the other hand, will appreciate the romance of our forthcoming trip, without the regular interruption from the boys, and have a little time to invigorate ourselves, our intimacy, and come home all the more rested and prepared to deal with the next crisis.