For the fifth consecutive summer vacation, 14 of us piled into cars heading south, this year to Arkansas. We were missing, in every sense of the word, our son-in-law whose new job didn’t allow time off, even without pay. Technology kept him in the loop about our activities, and we’re grateful for that, but it’s not the same as being together.
We’re a congenial crowd with one set of grandparents, including me; three sets of parents; and seven children ranging from three 12.5 year olds to the youngest of the group who’s 5. Four girls, three boys, and each girl has a brother. On really good days, everyone is in sync with no bruised feelings or frustrated outbursts. Vacations typically score high in good days, but then again, nothing’s perfect. We’ve learned how to ride out the storms that likely will happen infrequently.
Vacation wisdom, as I call it, is what I want to come home with, besides good photos and great memories. So what did I learn in those days of abundant fun and cooperative weather? I realized more acutely that each person wants, though younger children don’t know how to verbalize it, to be acknowledged and cherished for who they are. They want to know they count as important and their feelings are heard and acknowledged. It doesn’t mean their every wish is our command. That will never happen, nor should it, but responses need to be thoughtful so family members of all ages understand everyone is important and loved. Some decisions won’t be popular, but their necessity can be calmly explained.
Awareness of our unique and varied approaches to life was reconfirmed with a four-hour boat rental. Turns were given to each person wanting to pilot the pontoon boat in the lake. My younger daughter and I declined the chance, but the children were especially eager to do so. As bystanders, my daughter and I concluded each person’s style of being captain says a lot about individual personalities. One particularly outgoing pre-teen was ready immediately to charge ahead with considerable speed and confidence. Her almost the same age cousin was tentative, as her mother put it, in her willingness to assume responsibility for the boat’s movement.
The same was true with the boys; one who bursts onto the scene in most situations wanted to similarly speed across the lake; another was more cautious, but his demeanor showed his eagerness to get moving; and the youngest boy cousin was cautious and timid, much like he is whatever the task. The two youngest girls were content co-piloting with their Dads, smiling all the way. The carefully supervised activity commanded their attention and delight.
On day seven, we said farewell to our week together, sad the vacation was over. We consider it a successful event when we regret leaving each other. We’re already researching next year’s destination, planning for more family fun, “vacation wisdom” and sweet memories.