We are finally in the last week of school. Having been through rigorous exams, science projects, and copious amounts of homework, I can’t tell you how ready we are for the summer holidays to roll around. No alarms, no pick ups or drop offs and no after school activities – there are just no words to describe the joy and elation that transcends us.
When my kids were toddlers, we did quite a bit of traveling with them. We were brave. It took quite a bit of planning, and had it’s moments of stressful diaper changes in public restrooms and tantrums mid flight. My kids are now pre-teens, but summer travel has presented itself with a different set of challenges. So to those of you who think, it gets easier, once the kids are older – let me shatter that for you!
Screen-time galore. I won’t get into the details of the actual 15 hour flight with the tweens, because I will be conked out during this flight and won’t remember much later (read about that here). However, my son has calculated with this amount of flight time, he can squeeze in 7 movies. Back to back. But I tell myself, I will let my ‘screen time rules’ slide – just this one time. During the summer holidays, since we are outdoors most of the day, and kids are without their devices, it actually works out pretty well.
Mom – 1. Kids – 0
Of course, once we are back in our rooms, it is a different story. They play games on their iPads, message their friends who are also traveling, and well, quite honestly mom is too busy looking online to see which cute stores to hit the next day.
They embarrass easily. Mom wants to take a family picture against all significant landmarks, because dammit we are creating memories here! Dad pulls out the camera, and begins changing the lens. A minute passes, and then a couple of practice shots. Some more adjustments for aperture, f-stop, shutter speed and white balance. A few more pictures. Kids are standing there with fake smiles, sun glaring into their eyes, while people walk around us, trying not to get in our pictures. Even more awkward, is when they wait for us to finish our picture, and then we have to rush it, resulting in an even worse family picture. The kids were reluctant to begin with and by this point, they just want us parents to stop!
‘Everyone is looking at us. Can we please not take pictures!’
‘No. Now we need some with our iPhones for my instagram. Keep standing. Keep smiling.
They need their own time and space. I get that. So whenever we travel we make sure we either get a suite, adjoining rooms or a furnished apartment. This way, they they can hang out and be in their own cocoon when needed. I respect that. In fact, I think we all need a break from each other when we are together for long periods of time. But for the last couple years, my son insists on going away for a few days for a summer program – while we are on vacation – together! Really? Which part of a ‘family summer vacation’ do you not understand?
They have their own interests. In fact we all do. Trying to reach a consensus about what to do for the day is a struggle in itself. We usually have chalked out a preliminary itinerary, before we head anywhere. But once we are there, it is all up in the air again.
Me: Let’s hit the museums in DC this afternoon? (Desperately trying to cultivate a rich cultural experience for them)
Kids: Seriously? We did them last year too!
Me: Ok. How about we go hiking this morning in Great Falls?
Daughter: ‘Are we doing ‘nature’ trips again this time?
Everything we suggest, will be met with a ‘meh’ response at best. My son will want to go rock climbing, while my daughter wants to get her ears pierced. Am I the only one who wants to go to the museums? (Who am I kidding, I really just want to go to Target. Alone.)
They want to sleep in. The hotel breakfast ends downstairs at 9am. Please, for the love of God, get up. But they are on their own sleep schedule. They are fast asleep, unresponsive to the panic in my voice. You need to get up and eat now! Since we usually cross time zones when we travel, they are often jet-lagged, which is another struggle altogether. Mom has an itinerary full of exciting places to cover today with picturesque beauty everywhere. Please, please wake up!
As a parent, I want to make most of the summer holidays. I’m feeling eagerly optimistic as we head out soon. But I would hate for family vacations to become a rough ride. Perhaps it’s time to be flexible as the children grow up and develop their own interests. Maybe it’s best to divide and conquer. You hit the Lego store with kid 1, and I’ll take kid 2 to get some ice cream. But I’m putting my foot down at the museums!! Everyone will go, love it, and thank me later!