My family and I went on a spring break trip to Florida. My goal for the trip was for our family to go to a place with a beach, with warm temperatures, and an ocean. I wanted to lay on the beach or by a pool and read a book, dipping myself into the water when I felt too hot, but otherwise relaxing. In my pre-trip planning conversations with T, he pointed out to me that my vision for what the vacation would be did not match up with reality. I ignored him. It is not as if I am new to this. We have taken many vacations with our kids, and each time my vision of the vacation does not match up with the reality. Apparently T had learned from each of those past vacations, and I chose to remain stubborn in accepting the truth. His advice had been to skip the vacation and just stay home with the kids where we are all comfortable in our routines so at least the anxiety that comes from being in a new place, sleeping in a new bed, etc. didn't come into play. As I said, I ignored him. I told T that it was important for me to give our kids new places to visit and explore, new ways to expand their worlds. He relented, and we planned the vacation or maybe more accurately I trampled over him and I planned the vacation.
Fast forward to the actual vacation, we made it to Florida and ultimately made it to our hotel on the beach. Our room was great - a 2 bedroom suite with a full kitchen and 3 televisions, a short walk to the beach, and a nice pool with ample lounge chairs around it. And then the reality of what it means to vacation with 3 other people, two of which are children, who all have their own agendas sunk in. The Girl deals with uncertainty by wanting to numb which usually means watching TV or some other screen - those 3 televisions in our suite were heaven sent for her. One of our struggles during the vacation became a battle with her about not just sitting inside and watching Cartoon Network or Disney Channel, but rather enjoying the warm weather we had traveled to. The Boy internalizes his angst, and then blows up when he can't contain it anymore. T and I have our own struggles that add to the powder keg and make a vacation with our family kind of uncertain and ready to blow at just about any moment for any small reason.
I think I finally get now that it is my expectations about what I want the vacation to be, and how I want everyone else to act that cause me (and the rest of the family as a result) the most angst. I know that I was somewhat determined to prove T wrong, to show him that our kids are now old enough for a vacation, and that we would all have a great time. If I had been able to let go of what I wanted to happen, and just enjoyed the what is happening perhaps things could have been a little smoother. Or not. I think the reality is that even though there were hungry whiney children (and adults!) who didn't eat exactly at the right meal time, and ate too much junk food, and watched too much tv, and freaked out over trivial things (me most likely) we still had fun. My kids got to go snorkeling for the first time in their lives. We saw a wild tortoise who was very curious about humans and seemed completely unafraid. We saw some beautiful sunsets - and I saw a beautiful sunrise while the rest of the family slept. We got to walk on a beautiful beach, bask in the sun, and swim in the ocean. We learned how to make perfect hotel Belgian waffles in a crowded hotel breakfast bar. We found some pretty shells. We tried to see manatees unsuccessfully, but even that failed venture has become part of our family story.
In the end, both T and I were right. The vacation was a disaster, and our kids are old enough to enjoy a great family vacation. Our summer vacation will likely be in driving distance for us, and I'm sure it will be terrible and fabulous at the same time. I make no promises about letting go of my expectations, but maybe I can snap myself out of them a little bit faster in the future. The best part of taking a lot of pictures while on vacation is that over time you forget all of the whiney parts of a vacation and you look at the pictures and remember the wonder and the fun, and the fabulous. Here is to lowered expectations, and a lifetime of memories. I wouldn't trade the messy, crabby, terrible, and frustrating moments because if I did, we wouldn't have what is real.