I have to say that I thoroughly enjoyed listening to Episode 48 of Question of the Day, QOD’s Family Vacation.
Some years ago, when I first read Laura Vanderkam’s 168 Hours (EXCELLENT book, and one I still highly recommend, along with everything else she writes), I remember reading her confession about not enjoying some of things that moms/parents are “supposed” to enjoy, and I remember feeling so FREED.
There are things I am delighted to do with my kids. Read a story? Awesome. Have a meal or a snack together? Dude, I love food. Curl up with me on the couch and talk about your day? Yes. Monopoly? NO. NO NO NO NO. I will play Spot It for a decent amount of time. I will play other card games. I will even play the occasional game of Candyland. Jigsaw puzzle? SO IN. (We need more jigsaw puzzles in this family, frankly.) But, like, come and watch your sporting event or your swimming lesson or your play that you wrote in your room 10 minutes ago but that takes 4 hours to perform? NO.
Laura gave me permission to admit that I don’t like doing these things, and to focus my time with my kids on things I do enjoy doing with them, and that spread to other areas of my life.
The vacation episode made me realize that everyone has different ideas of what a successful vacation looks like, and my version doesn’t have to match up with anyone else’s — as long as it somehow works for my family.
James Altucher, a man after my own heart, said that when he’s on vacation, he doesn’t want to have to do anything.
For years, I have told my husband that to me, one of the greatest luxuries I can imagine is ordering room service breakfast in a hotel, and spending the day in bed with a stack of books and a giant tray of sushi. Seriously — the hotel can be in Holon. I don’t care. It has to be clean, and the breakfast should be good, but that’s really all I care about.
James takes this a little bit farther and plans family vacations where he rents a house with a pool located near a mall and a movie theatre. Then he orders food, pool tables, video games, and other small luxuries that his kids will enjoy. He spends his days reading books and doing nothing. His wife and kids can swim, play pool, play video games, and so on. They have daily outings to movies, and one day to hang out at the mall all day.
This sounds totally perfect. No getting up early to hike, no sightseeing, no crap. I love it.
Other people would HATE this vacation, and that’s cool, too. They can go camping on the beach (gross) or backpacking through Europe (grosser) or climb mountains (grossest). Those things do not say “vacation” to me. I might enjoy sightseeing on a trip, but I wouldn’t think of it as a vacation.
I once went to Italy for five days with a group of cancer moms, and that was awesome, but it was a totally different kind of trip. I would never have planned that kind of trip for myself, but I was very happy to let someone else plan every detail and just tell me where to go when. Also, I had no whining kids with me, which made a huge difference.
We took our kids on the most amazing vacation ever this summer, and it was awesome. Disney World and Universal with no lines, and tons of special experiences. But when we then tried to take them to see some monuments and museums, they were totally bored and everyone was unhappy. They would have been happier if we had skipped the touristy stuff and just taken them to swim or eat ice cream — or, frankly, if we had just left them alone with their various screens to chill out. That’s what they want in a vacation. I get it, I really do.
In Israel, “all-inclusive” vacations are very popular. That makes sense to me. One of our best family vacations (minus one kid who was in America at the time) was at an all-inclusive resort in Tiveria. The kids were so excited to sit by the pool, icee in one hand, popsicle in the other. The vacation was all about saying Yes. Yes, you can eat that. Yes, you can swim. Yes, you can lie on your chair and do nothing. Yes, you can eat again. Yes, you can have ice cream and a popsicle. Yes, you can have another soda. It was five days of YES, which is, to me, what vacation should be.
It’s really only very recently that I figured out that when my kids don’t want to go do something, there is no point in forcing them to do it. Letting them stay home means that the people who do go, have a much better time.
Stephen Dubner mentioned that his family has discovered the joy that can come from splitting up the family for vacations — he and his son might go somewhere while his wife and daughter go somewhere else (or he and his daughter and his wife and son). They can focus on doing something that those two people enjoy, without worrying about the other two. This is something that I never really thought of exploring as a full-fledged vacation, although we frequently find that when we take just the two youngest boys places, we have a LOT of fun. (Maybe because the two youngest boys are just plain awesome?)
I guess we just need to go on a bunch of vacations to test out all these theories.