Vacations for my family, especially when I was married, were hard. I always felt so much pressure to have it all just right and it never ever went that way.
Last summer, we had a spectacularly bad one in terms of my own heightened expectations and planning… that ended with food poisoning. That said, it occurred during a time of great personal upheaval and smack in the middle of a transition from family-of-four to family-of-two-homes-and-shared-visitation. Therefore, my desire to control and make everything perfect at all costs was potentially and marginally intensified. Enter last week, when we went on one of the very best vacations we’ve been on; what was different? Well, a few things, but I am starting to realize that mostly what was different was me.
That old saying about “if mama ain’t happy ain’t nobody happy” holds so much truth.
Allow my tough experiences to be your gain, my friends.
Here are the top 3 Things to consider when you are a control freak on vacation:
1. Your people just want time with you – not the beautiful image of vacation you have in your head. Just the real, authentic, messy, imperfect, wonderful you. Go ahead and make all the lists, plans, and itineraries you want, but when it comes down to it, just be present.
One of my favorite things we did was hiking around the Blue Ridge Parkway. This was not the original plan, nor were we even sure of where we were going. It all seemed too far, the roads too windy, and just too many unknowns for this gal, but we went.
And mainly because I trusted the Eagle Scout new-man-in-my-life to just take the lead, with only a small amount of protest from me. And because I let go, we went on a serious adventure together – the trailhead we couldn’t find, and are still laughing about, the tunnels where the kids screamed “ECHO!” as we drove through, my littlest peeing off the side of a beautiful overlook cliff and the grand finale: the roaring waterfall we hiked to where we just played on the rocks, looked for bugs, and were generally happy.
2. Don’t try so hard to separate grown up activities from kid activities; chances are you’ll all find joy in different ways together. I typically approach vacation as a “the kids will love this” and the “adults will then get to do that.” And this time, I blurred those lines a whole lot. I (mostly) stopped viewing the boys as a commodity to wear out so they’d fall asleep like drunken pirates after a raid at like 7 pm so the grown ups could have their time, but instead I loved seeing them experience artists painting, street musicians performing, getting to experience and see play areas and gardens at breweries (I know right?!), staying up late for a campfire and smores, and the be-all-end-all: daily hot tub plunge!
I got to see so much more of them as people and doing so really required me to just chill the actual F out. Really, it’s possible. Hard. But possible.
3. I did not care about my clothing, bathing suit or accessory choices. When I usually pack for a vacation and I swear, this is since childhood, I would envision what I would like to look like and how I would like to appear to other people, as I am jaunting, enjoying, exploring, etc. This is the truth. It’s nuts, right? I did, as always, overpack, but this time, I did not get my nails done before we left and I did not spend a lot of time changing outfits each morning to get it just right.
I wore clothes that were functional and cute, but mostly because I felt good in them. I also wore a bikini in the hot tub every day. In the spring, after winter, wearing no spray tan, showing off my stretch marks. Yup. It was liberating to just be like Oh clothes? To cover my body so we can go do awesome things? Instead of, An ensemble that exudes the shes got it all, she’s so carefree, her kids are so perfect, they must eat organic quinoa and bunny-shaped avocados everyday image I have, in the past, so wanted the world to immediately experience when it first saw me.
The awesome part; When I did these three things, here’s what I got in return: starry nights in a mountain hot tub (brilliant shooting star included), muddy knees from kneeling in creeks, by firepits, and on waterfall rocks. Coffee in bed with morning kid snuggles. My children happily gathering, kindling on a hike for their smores fire later in the day… Memories.