So there I was, standing outside the Detroit Zoo with my two children who were understandably cranky due to hunger and the boredom of having been in the car for over an hour and the being told that they can’t go in the zoo yet because Daddy forgot something back in the car that he had to go get. Suffice it to say, it was not my proudest vacation moment.
I fancy myself a fantastic trip packer. My children have never tantrumed on a plane ride and rarely do they become distressed on road trips. I attribute their awesome travel behavior to my ability to anticipate their needs and pack a bag that will help solve problems before they even are problems.
Tired? I’ve got their nighttime teddy bear and a special sleepy book out of the bag before they can even finish that first yawn.
Hungry? Choose from an array of healthy yet delicious snacks packed in an outside pocket so they are more easily accessible.
Hot? Cold? Sun in their eyes? Leg hurts? Bored of sitting still? Over excited for our destination?
I guarantee I’ve packed something in their bag that will solve it.
But packing a fantastic bag every year can start to feel a little….stressful. A little….draining.
Especially if life isn’t going so well at the moment. Especially if you’re feeling unappreciated.
Heck, if I’m honest with myself, even the simplest tasks have been hard since my husband and I separated.
This summer, I didn’t really want to go on vacation at all. I didn’t want to pack the bag. I didn’t want to anticipate the children’s needs. I didn’t want to do anything that would add more stress to my already stressful life.
So my huband did it all for me.
And I learned quite a bit in watching the results unfold throughout the trip.
1. He forgot quite a few key items, and it wasn’t the end of the world.
Sure, we had to shell out a couple bucks for a canvas bag because he forgot to bring something to carry our water bottles in. And sure, we had to carry our daughter around when she got tired because he forgot to bring her travel stroller. But these little inconveniences weren’t half as bad in real life as they were in my mind. Despite things not being “perfect,” we were all still so happy to be together and be experiencing new things that no one wanted to dwell on the few hiccups along the way.
2. The kids did tantrum, and it wasn’t the end of the world.
A tantrum on vacation is actually way easier to deal with than a tantrum at home. I always thought it would be the other way around but it wasn’t. Maybe its because the kids are so distracted by all the wonderful stuff around them that they don’t care to focus on the negative anymore than we adults do. Maybe its because the kids are so excited to move on to the next activity that they give up on the tantrum rather quickly. Maybe we just got lucky. But for whatever reason, the tantrums were pretty minor compared to what I expected. They ended quickly. We were able to stop the tantrum before upsetting anyone around us.
3. My husband does things differently than I do, and it isn’t the end of the world.
I’ve always believed (in theory) that my way wasn’t the only way, and that its good for my husband to figure things out on his own, even if that means doing things differently than myself. But it is sometimes harder to see things in practice than it is to be theoretically ok with something. Planning and packing for a trip is one of those things that we do differently, and its also one of those things that I have to make an effort to remind myself its ok to do things differently.
4. The world won’t end if I don’t do it all.
For so long now, I have insisted on doing everything myself. I tell people its easier that way. I am not a control freak, but I am an introvert and sometimes sitting down to talk to someone else about a plan, having them be part of the planning process, is more social interaction than my introverted self can handle. I need to learn how to let other people help me without emotionally exhausting myself in the process. It will be a challenge, no doubt, but for the sake of my sanity and also for the sake of my relationships with others, it is something that I need to learn how to do.
5. It is partially my fault that my husband had such a hard time planning and packing for our family vacation.
I set him up for failure.
He didn’t fail, not by a long shot. It was an incredible vacation.
But I did set him up for failure. By never letting him help me plan and pack in years past so he had no idea what I usually brought. By setting ridiculous expectations where the success of the trip is based on the children’s behavior. By believing my way was better than his way, even if I knew that belief was wrong I still let myself believe it.
But the biggest thing I learned was this: We work better as a team.
In public schools, the teacher doesn’t do everything when planning a field trip. Other teachers, PTA members, the principal, parent chaperones, etc.. help with the process.
To a homeschooling family like us, a vacation is like the ultimate field trip. Zoos, aquariums, museums, landmarks- we love them all for our vacation destinations! So why should I plan entire family vacation without the help of my parenting (and homeschooling) partner, my husband?
More to the point, why should I rob him of the experience?