Husband and I may have started a tradition that could be considered a bit unconventional, but it works for me. I say “may have” because this is only the second year of taking separate vacations with the kids. (As in, I fly solo with the kids on a vacation. Then he flies solo with the kids on vacation.) I don’t know how long we’ll do this — it would be nice to eventually have a family vacation– but for now it works and so far, so good.
Last year, Lola (my BFF) and I took our four boys (aged 10-1) on a weeklong road trip/vacation to visit my Mom & Dad in Durango, Colorado. It was a lot of craziness, dancing on the brink of insanity, yet we had a great time and made wonderful memories together.
This year, I took my boys (now 5 and 2) on a 13-day road trip/vacation again to Colorado. First, to visit my brother and his family in Castle Rock and then to visit my parents, where on the last weekend, we held our biennial Davis Family Reunion. My Mom & I had been planning this event for months and upon my arrival we were getting down to the nitty gritty of activities, games and meals for 30 people mostly from Texas (where we’re all originally from), but now spread out through California, Colorado and North Carolina.
I wrote about the road trip through Utah with the boys on my blog (and here) and overall I’m surprised about the number of comments that I received from people shocked that I would drive them solo for two days. I’m not exactly sure how to respond to their disbelief. Is it because I’m a woman traveling alone? Why is that brave or bold? Because I’m subjecting myself to two small boys in a confined space for two days? Now that’s risky to be sure, but I have faith in us.
The most special part of that leg of our trip was how the boys really took to the idea that “we’re in this adventure together and we look out for one another.” That thought was my designed intention from the start and I repeated those words frequently while we were gone. It’s so cute the subtle ways they demonstrated that theme with each other or an “I’ll protect you Mommy” attitude. My heart swelled during those moments.
It was also great to be out of our regular routine of errand-running, laundry laundry laundry, swimming lessons, library, lunch, nap, clean up fast because Daddy’s coming home, fix dinner, eat dinner, go to bed. (No, bathing wasn’t in the list because we are horrible about washing our kids. I’m turning us in.) On our vacation, we were on our own time. Without Daddy. It was just the three of us – with other crazy family members (oh the cousins are nuts) thrown in to the mix. It was nice not to rush, not to hurry and not to be late anywhere.
I love my extended family, don’t get me wrong. But there are good reasons why we live far away and only visit once a year. Spending more than a week with my brother, his family, my Mom and Dad (bless their sweet hearts) – what I’ll call my Family of Origin — is a great reminder of so many things. “You’ve come a long way, baby” comes to mind first. Secondly, I have so much respect and appreciation for what it takes to have a marriage last 46-odd years and they still roll their eyes at each other’s quirks and snarky comments and yet, still kiss each other good night before going to bed. It’s something quite amazing (the good and bad of it all). But the biggest challenge being with my Family of Origin and extended family (cousins, uncles and aunts) is always the return to traditional family values. There seems to be a line (that I crossed long ago) that exists in my family.
That line is the work that women do (and don’t do), what men do (and really don’t do), what we say (and don’t dare say), and those odd and subtle ways that we toe the line with each other to get along and play nice. Not that it’s overly suppressive or anything weird, it’s just a thin grey line that I can feel. It’s like a set of rules that we go by, which happens to be more traditional and old fashioned than the rules that govern my current life and in my nuclear family. I don’t live by those rules so much anymore — I’ve made up my own — so I forget how to be around that. It feels like an old pair of jeans that just aren’t comfortable or don’t fit well anymore.
But then again, that’s the source of the change that happened early on in my life. I was never comfortable in those jeans so I set out to make changes (dare I say, made “cut-offs” from those old jeans).
Therefore, it was so refreshing when my husband joined the boys and me for the family reunion on the last weekend of our vacation. To be in the space again of what’s now “normal” to me, with own unspoken set of rules and behavior, had me beaming with pride and smiling in comfort. My body and spirit quickly felt more at ease with Husband around.
I respect my history and past traditions, the people and places I’ve come from (both my Family of Origin and extended family). However, I’m in love with the family that I’ve created and hopeful for what’s possible for these boys we’re raising without those lines in place. I think those ‘rules’ are important to be aware of, but if it doesn’t feel good, then the world is a big place; go discover and make your own set of rules that you can live by. That’s what we’ve done.
There’s nothing like separate vacations at my parents’ house and facing elements of my past to make my heart to grow fonder for my husband, our little family and our future. I love my life, where we live, my darling husband, and my surprising and sunny two little boys. While our separate vacations may not be for everyone, I’m glad to find a greater appreciation during our time apart.
But the greatest reward in all this is that he’s taking the two boys on vacation next, and I’ll relish and take great pleasure in my time alone. All alone. Cheers!
by Expert Mommy, Jen Hibbits