Seeing my summer dwindling with only a month left until Labor Day, I decided to plan one last getaway before school routines start kicking in. I can do this on the fly, however, having learned so much from our earlier summer vacation.
Our first trip of the summer took four months and countless Internet hours to plan, but three days after the summer solstice we were on a ferry to Nantucket. I stretched out on one of the benches at the back of the boat, my arms behind my head, my face to the sun. Ahhh…. All I could see ahead of me were 14 glorious days to laze on the beach, shop, eat seafood dinners on the harbor at sunset, and take relaxing evening strolls in town. I was abruptly nudged out of my daydream by my eight-year-old who wanted to promenade around the boat one more time. My husband had taken the first six legs, so it was my turn. It seems my relaxing vacation daydream forgot to include my very active son.
Kids have their own expectations about vacation. Although we were all using the same words to describe our trip – beach, town, food, fun – they had different connotations for each of us.
The beach for me means sitting under my umbrella with a perfect view of the harbor, a good book, and a fruity drink. For my son it means searching for shells, catching crabs, and making our way to the farthest sandbar in low tide. For my non-beach loving husband, it means, “Have a good time, I’ll see you later.”
We don’t all like doing the same things, but we also want our family vacation to actually include spending time together as a family. So we adjust.
We shorten our time at the beach so my husband isn’t totally left out in order to spend several mornings hiking the nature trails, which works for all of us. (Especially when it’s accompanied by homemade donuts at our favorite breakfast place.) Shopping requires some give and take. My son trudges through the art galleries with us for promises of souvenir shopping and I trudge through the antique shops with them for promises of a latte break. We throw in an ice cream harbor cruise for all of us.
The sunset dinners turn into 6 p.m. dinners because even on vacation (sometimes especially on vacation) a child can melt down by 9:00. Strolling around town after dinner and stopping on a bench to listen to the church bells could be a whole evening’s activity for my husband and I. It works for about 10 minutes for our son. So our evening excursions start to include a Kit Kat bar and Captain Underpants.
As for the beach, playing in the ocean with my son was better than any beach book. It helped that the water was perfect and I had plenty of sunblock. My son made fast friends with the other kids at the beach and I eventually got ditched for them. So I ended up getting my beach chair time with my fruity drink after all, watching him having the time of his life.
Vacations can be tricky. You don’t want to all go your separate ways, nor do you want to return from your trip feeling like you need a vacation from your vacation. It takes balance for everyone to have their own brand of fun. Balance, and lots and lots of ice cream.