Wait – how does this thing work again???
Oh … I remember now…
I’m coming to learn here in my ninth year of parenting that family vacations aren’t meant to be relaxing.
And I think that’s actually ok.
As I write this tonight, I find myself on the tail end of what’s honestly been a pretty great family vacation. Yesterday we spent a special Fun Friday at Kennedy Space Center where we learned about the history and future of space flight, and even got to see a rocket launch! Today we celebrated Christopher’s 9th birthday with a day at the beach and splashing around a pool with a huge water slide, and presents, and cake, and all of the usual pomp and circumstance.
Between the rocket launch and visiting the ocean, they got a couple of new firsts that we’re looking forward to revisiting in the future … but the weekend certainly wasn’t a cakewalk by any stretch of the imagination, either. For every cool memory, there was also a tantrum about wanting to go to the gift shop or not wanting to do whatever it was that the rest of us did. There was the same brotherly love/bickering that we face at home, and hell, somehow in only a day and a half Legos are strewn across the floor, just begging to be stepped on here, too!
Another version of me who would’ve looked to this trip for a break and some nice relaxation would’ve been gravely disappointed, yet it was sometime yesterday in between an argument and staring up at the Space Shuttle Atlantis that incredibly made 33 trips into space during my lifetime, it dawned on me that trips like this one had to be different than the relaxing getaways that I’ve shared, just me and my wife over our years together.
At one point I was reminded of a quote that Chevy Chase had in the remake of Vacation where Russ tries to justify his own vacation frustrations, “It’s about the journey, not the destination, right?!” only to have his Dad counter, “No! The journey sucks – that’s what makes you appreciate the destination!”
And mind you, this was before what I had expected to be a quick 45-minute drive to our next hotel that evening turned into a three-hour drive that felt like it would never end!
Building up to that rocket launch in the hot sun, or waiting in line to see Atlantis when the kids just wanted to go play, or even struggling through entirely too long lathering everybody up with suntan lotion before walking out to the beach – those journey were all varying degrees of brutal, but the destinations … filled with inspiration and excitement, reverence and emotion, and just wild and crazy awe … those were pretty fucking great.
It’s easy to lose sight of those, dare I say, magical moments when the rougher ones seem far more frequent and demanding, especially when we’re back at home and surrounded by the usual, daily grind.
Maybe it’s about learning to push through those less desirable moments without letting them grow big and ugly, or lowering one’s expectations to not let them register.
Or maybe it’s about accepting that all of the moments, the good and the bad, add up to life just the same, and that one can’t exist without the other.
Granted, less tantrums and more rocket launches would be swell, but you can’t launch rockets every day. At least not for a few more years, anyways!