Since moving to the midwest from the south, I've finally figured out the winter school schedule for the kids. You get a winter break, which is around Christmas time and two weeks long. You also get a spring break that starts before Holy Week and is roughly a week and a half. In addition to these breaks, you also get what is called around here, mid-winter break, another week off of school at the end of February. It's is mid-winter break when families take their winter vacations. This year we are going to travel during mid-winter break, to the south to see family.
It seems that as soon as we made the final decision to drive all the way from Michigan to Florida, the complications began. Was the car big enough for all of us? How long could we reasonably expect to drive before the baby expressed her discontent with the situation? How long could we reasonably expect to drive before the TEENAGER expressed her discontent with the situation? And underscoring every one of these questions was the big one: in the end, will all this effort be worth it or will we regret we even made the trip in the first place?
When I was a kid, my parents went to great lengths to make sure we saw most of our family every year. We drove 300 miles and 600 miles to visit both sets of my grandparents, we could drive another 400 and trek onward to Alabama to see my father's family. It didn't seem hectic; it felt relaxing. But as I try to plan and execute similar trips as an adult, I feel tense and stressed out.
For right now, our family's mid-winter trip to the south will not include a visit to my grandmother who lives on the beach in Florida's panhandle. It's a long story as to why, a story that, frankly, is too confusing and too frustrating to relate. Something inside of me wishes I could not only travel to the small beach town she lives in, but that I could travel back in time to those vacation days that were relaxing and refreshing.
When we visited, we spent hours outside, mostly at the beach. We'd swim and play on the sand in the morning, working up our appetite for lunch. Many times my mother and grandmother would bring lunch down to the dock and we would eat right there in the sunshine. By the end of the day after we had come back to the house and bathed and settled down, my body would feel untwisted, restful.
Now I'm realizing that this restfulness and carefree luxury was made possible by the adults in the scene who were perhaps tense or stressed out. The worries on their mind were similar to the ones I have now:
Will the girls get sunburned by spending too much time in the sun? Are they well-rested enough? I wish my parents would stop arguing so much. Do I bring along the children's tylenol because it seems like [insert child's name here] could use some. If I didn't bring it along, I going to have to drive all the way into town, find a drug store, and buy more. I wonder if [insert car problem here] is going to cause us problems later on this trip. I wonder if [insert relative's name here] is going to be happy when we arrive two hours late tomorrow in case car troubles arise.
As I'm looking back at my childhood vacations to the beach, I'm realizing that perhaps the best thing for me to do in this upcoming trip is to make sure these worries don't take up the forefront of my attention. I need a relaxing break and so do my husband and my girls. The only way to give them that chance to let go of the mundane every day responsibilities is to not let the every day stress get in the way.
So even though we won't actually visit the beach on this vacation, I'm going to try to remember how I approached each day when I was a child at the beach. Be flexible in each day's agenda and welcome its serendipitous moments. Let each problem come as it may and deal with them as blips on the radar, rather than letting them consume my thoughts from sun up to sun down. And remember to enjoy the company of those around me. This is my family, the ones I love, and the moments I have with them should be treasured. If I can achieve this state of mind, hopefully my girls will grow up and have memories of being carefree, just like I do.