Live, Love, Blend:
Let Them Argue!
And Other Things I Learned On Vacation
With My Brood!
When is the last time you took a family vacation? Probably too long. Oh, I know the excuses… it costs too much, everyone is too busy, it’s impossible to get the whole family together at the same time, my boss won’t like it if I take the time off… we’ve used them all. But as I sit right now on the patio of our Florida timeshare condo, on the final day of our vacation, I can’t help but think back over the week, the laughter, the bonding, and I know without a doubt that it was worth every ounce of the effort it took to get us here.
Do you have teenagers? If so, you know that most of them think family vacations are stupid. How many times over the last 3 months did I hear, “Are we seriously ALL going together?” or “There is just NO way I can be gone for an entire week.”?! True, one of our biggest challenges was keeping their schedules cleared. In fact, we did have to fly one boy home a couple of days early for a performance that he just couldn’t miss. (A performance of the Nutcracker just isn’t the same if the guy playing the Nutcracker is not there.) So yes, we did have to be flexible, even driving out in 2 vehicles to accommodate the kids that had to leave a day late or get back a day early. But for as much of the week as we possibly could all 7 of us stuck together. Every time I heard the kids (especially those teens) laughing together I smiled a secret smile. These kids were not all born siblings, but they are becoming family day by day, year by year. Sometimes we just have to force them to break out of their self-obsessed routines to remind them what being a family is all about.
For blended families, you must realize that each kid has a totally different perspective on what family vacations look like. For example, the youngest of our children travels a lot with her mom’s side of the family so she compared the resort and the outings to experiences she’s had with them, and being an 11 year old girl, described each and every difference at great length. Our oldest boy has done very little traveling so he really soaks in every moment and wants to make the most of each day. The other 3 kids have a variety of experiences… one tends to feel guilty about allowing people, even family, to spend money on him so hesitates to let himself enjoy anything he thinks is costing too much, another boy loves the outings but would be just as happy inside on his computer, and our college student likes to pretend he hates everything but secretly you can tell he’s having the time of his life. Luckily I follow them all on Snapchat so I can catch glimpses of the moments they are sharing with their friends. They are all so different, but we are creating shared experiences and shared memories that will last a lifetime.
As the mom, i.e. the person who does most of the planning, I learned a lot from this trip, things I hope will be helpful for you too…
- Leave your expectations at home. Vacation is the perfect opportunity to live in the moment. Open yourself up to be present in each experience and you’ll find no place for stress or disappointment. Let yourself, your spouse and your kids be who they are. Remember this is their vacation too so don’t try to micromanage their experience.
- Schedule downtime. Overly tired parents and kids are a recipe for meltdowns. We were gutsy in planning back to back days at theme parks but luckily we left the following day open for rest and poolside recuperation. This was a lifesaver! It was tempting to jump on the 3-day park pass bandwagon, but that 3rd day would have been a disaster. Know your limits people!
- Plan to spend more than you expect to. I tend to be the cheapskate of the family and will stress out when I feel like we’re over-spending. For this trip I secretly planned to spend twice what I officially budgeted. This allowed my husband to feel like I was really letting go, and allowed me to enjoy it when we surprised the kids with little extras. For example, when we went paddle boarding I would normally want to rent only the least expensive option and have everyone try to share it. This time I said, “hey, why don’t we also rent a kayak so we can take turns trying both?”. The kids were thrilled at the unexpected option, and we all had a lot more fun by being able to trade off when we got tired.
- Stay somewhere with a kitchen. The first thing we did upon arrival was go to the grocery store and stock up on breakfast items and snacks. Eating out can be unavoidable when you’re out and about, but starting the day with a good breakfast helps keep costs down and you know that everyone will at least get one healthy meal. It also helps to have foods on hand that are quick and easy for when you get back from an all-day excursion and everyone’s hungry and tired. For those of us trying to stick to a diet plan I make sure to have protein bars, nuts and beef jerky on hand at all times. Live it up some, but don’t do so much damage on vacation that you’ll have to spend the next month doing extra cardio.
- Let the kids argue. Often times in blended families, the kids don’t all live together full time. Vacation forces them to spend a lot of time together in close quarters. There’s bound to be an occasional outburst over missing headphones, lack of towels, who’s stinking up the room, whatever. Don’t feel like you have to jump in and smooth everything out. This too is an important part of learning to do life together. Remember, siblings born to one family fight too. It’s not always the blended family that’s the issue. Sometimes it’s just a thing families do, and working it out is part of growing.
Related post: Our Story Begins: Kids are from Jupiter
I hope this inspires you to start planning a family vacation. It doesn’t have to be far away or glamorous. Just get away and spend time together. We’re already planning our next trip! Pick a date and get started. Where will you go?