In my BC history (Before Children), I avoided family vacations with the determined intent that I now focus on not cleaning my bathrooms.
A childless fool, with expendable income and immortality, I was able to pay for my own holidays to exotic locales, so why would I waste my paid vacation days to be stuck in a house with boring people who nap?
Why surround myself with people who cater to the never-ending whines of needy toddlers and who don’t applaud my efforts to fill their vacation home with the aphrodisiacal scent of slow roasting civet coffee?
“You should be happy I am giving you this privilege,” I told my family one morning, after they angrily woke me up at 6 a.m. demanding to know what I had done with their offensive, pre-ground, store bought coffee. “My life is very busy.” Then I leisurely applied my makeup and flat-ironed my hair while they paced.
My annoyance with them grew once I began the intricate roasting process. First of all, I had to roast on the stove like a barbarian (what kind of rental house doesn’t provide their own roaster?) and I was shocked by my family’s lack of intrigue at the first crack of the greenish-grey coffee beans. “Put down that crying baby and come look at this,” I demanded.
They chugged my coffee, with zero thanks. Obviously their unsophisticated palates could not appreciate a fine delicacy because from the corner of my eye, I could see them pointing at me and holding their hands to their throats.
“I’m exhausted,” I finally sighed and I left the kitchen. I purposefully left my mess thinking maybe they would appreciate all that I did for them once they cleaned it up. I went back to the closet that my family saved for me as a room and drank the couture wine that I had brought with me. If my family couldn’t appreciate my coffee, I certainly was not going to share my wine.
Fast forward a few years to 5 AD (After your social life has Died), and now my only vacation options are family vacations because they are the only humans who will spend extended amounts of time with me and my screaming children.
My husband and I found this out the hard way when our oldest son was 1 and I was pregnant with our second. We went to Key West with two of our friends, the only friends who could go on a spontaneous vacation to Key West — two single guys.
A pregnant woman and a 1-year-old in Key West in August with a bunch of single guys is like mixing chocolate and bacon. No. It’s like taking Coca-Cola and then frying it. Wait. It’s like putting roasted tomatoes over capellini in a blender with mint chocolate-chip ice cream: two things that are fine on their own but should never be combined. Then add 100 degrees of heat, 99 percent humidity and a Category 1 hurricane.
My sister-in-law says that sometimes you feel like you can literally see the bars on the windows when you have small children. And scratched into the bars are ominous predictions: You will never enjoy vacation again.
Usually I can figure out how to make every event into a funny story pretty quickly, but it has been four years since that disastrous Key West vacation, and it’s still the unmentionable holiday. But as evil as it was, it did solidify one thing in my marriage: separate vacations. With limited time and resources, my husband and I let each other go on mini-breaks with friends a couple times a year. The guys can drink and be manly, and the girls can gossip and eat out.
Maybe because your life has changed so much and you don’t want to admit it, or maybe because old habits die hard, you hang onto certain routines from your BC days long after your kids squash all the joy from them.
But as I was focusing on the loss of my independence, a different kind of joy was growing in front of me: family vacation. Kids bring a new kind of fun into your life, and it magnifies when you have parents, siblings, nieces and nephews to share it with. While the young kids distract us from our annoying idiosyncrasies, they also give us a chance to relive our childhoods by forcing us to make sand castles, body surf, and bounce those last two brain cells to death tubing behind a boat. And I hope my extended family is creating precious everlasting memories that will overshadow my kids’ torturous daily life. I’m crossing my fingers that my kids are more likely to remember an exciting trip to Miami with their cousins, than the six weeks that I forced them to sing mashup duets with me after watching too much Glee on Netflix.
Just as civet coffee seems pompous and time consuming and Folgers Black Silk coffee, sitting for hours in the coffeemaker, represents comfort and stability — my perspective on my family has completely changed. They may not be as exciting as dealing with fire opal smugglers in Mexico, or as exotic as eating octopus in Italy, but I had my BC days and now it’s time to enjoy the AD.
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