The sixth annual Family Vacation includes seven children, ages 6 to three 13-year-olds. Eight adults are in the lead only slightly, although the children don’t seem to notice they’re outnumbered. Likely because they realize they are outranked, whatever our numbers. Finding equally enjoyable activities for 15 people is difficult, but family dynamics include learning to share, cooperate, negotiate and trust that love and fairness will prevail. Besides, equal is a concept that really doesn’t exist in families or life in general.
It’s easier to figure that out while enjoying comforts of air-conditioning and satisfied palates. Water enthusiasts think swimming pools and the Gulf are unanimous fun choices. But we have some exceedingly fair skinned relatives so proper preparations are essential. Sunscreen merchants love when we take a summer vacation.
We’ve learned, each in our own way and time that life’s pleasures require moderation. Too much of a good thing all at once results in chaos, confusion and discomfort in varying degrees. Abundant sun, ice cream, chocolate and especially rides that turn upside down or in a viciously fast circle can have most unpleasant repercussions. Those lessons seem to require annual reminders, and age doesn’t necessarily give anyone a free pass.
“That’s just not fair,” say the first-borns in each family unit who strive continually for justice, appropriately portioned out.
Hours spent in an amusement park in blazing hot July weather tell volumes about people’s character, resilience and adaptability. I didn’t know that growing up and didn’t try to earn high scores in any category. Now I work diligently to impress the need for cooperation among my grandchildren. In theory, they comprehend more than they want me to know. In performance, they need reminders.
It’s sweet to listen to one brave soul trying to convince a frightened one to try a particular ride. There’s no name calling or references to character defects, just sincere wishes to share the thrills with cousins. Sometimes bravery happens later in the day or it’s postponed for a year. Hopefully there will always be another time.
Amusement park food often tastes simply amazing, especially if someone else is paying for it. A generous aunt and uncle treat for lunch and while everyone graciously shares, it’s not economical to eat a meal where roller coasters and upside down circular devices are featured. We spend our funds only on food, as drinking fountain water is wonderfully cold and available in vast quantities for free.
Memories come tumbling through my mind as I remember amusement park thrills from my childhood and my Mom always in search of a place to sit down. It’s taken a fair number of years, but I’ve become my Mom. Games of chance are as intriguing today as they were long before the wonders of technology took over. And they are just as difficult to win at and explain to a determined child the odds are stacked against them.
Later that evening we go out to dinner. The waiter compliments the adults on the children’s manners, ability to order their food and good behavior. We’re humbly proud. They’ve listened to our instructions. Or maybe being brave at the park makes them feel and act grown up. Perhaps amusement parks are the answer. At least for now.