Saturday, August 29, 2009

My Vacation Ahh Ha Moment!

For the past 4 years I have meticulously planned what I thought would be fantastic vacations that would thrill the kids, instead I repeatedly came home disappointed, frustrated and broke.

This year it hit me, I've been approaching family vacation all wrong! Despite the time, money and effort I put into creating our "Perfect Family Vacations" nobody was really ever happy. Evyn (my teenager) was almost always angry that her brother had to be part of our vacation. So when I would say "Let's go do…." she would refuse. She didn't want to go anywhere her brother went (which was everywhere since it was only the 3 of us and leaving him alone was not an option). Then as if on cue, Nicky's agitation would increase - being asked to wait and the tension oozing from me as I begged, cajoled or demanded his sister to join us, only sent him into tantrum mode - reinforcing why his sister didn't want to hang out with him. I couldn’t believe I was begging kids to have fun.

I started feeling frustrated, angry, sad and hurt because it seemed to me that at the very least my big kid could be appreciative or show some visible signs of excitement. It seemed I was the only one who cared if we had a good time. But, in retrospect I realize that I didn't just care that my family had a nice vacation I had packed a extra bag filled with single parent guilt and desires to create fairy tale memories in our very un fairy tale life.

After years of failures I finally learned and this year I got it right. I learned that I cannot "plan" a perfect vacation for our family, because nothing ruins a trip faster than loading it down with too many expectations. I learned to drop all my ideas about "how vacations should be". I learned that I was delusional thinking that my kids would be magically transformed into different people because we were on vacation. So I gave up my fantasy this year and accepted that I can't make us the family you see in the travel video's! So on this trip, I gave in (I didn't say gave up) and just let the cards fall as they may and we actually had moments where we looked like one of those vacation video families. Incredible!!!

So how did I get there, I had to:
• Drop all expectations of having the perfect trip.
• Not spend so much money that if they don't have fun, I will feel angry or resentful or in debt.
• Accept that my kids don't seem to care where we go as long as there is water (preferably a pool)
• Plan a vacation where a pool is the centerpiece.
• Get the teenager her own room (even if it means a cheaper hotel)
• Resist the temptation to pressure my daughter to participate in activities with us.
• Be willing to just go about my business, CALMLY no matter how either of them behaves.
• Eliminate activities/plans that had to attended at a certain time or you forfeit your money because they create too much pressure.
• Commit to enjoying myself, not making them enjoy themselves
• Repeat to myself “Pressure Free” and resist my natural tendency to over plan
• Keep vacations local. Airplanes, passports and borders are too much when traveling with my kids.
• Nothing takes the joy out a family trip faster than stress. Just find a place, park us, relax and enjoy each other.
• Pack our cloths and not my guilt! :)

We’re home now and I’m happy and so are the kids and if I may be so bold, I think they even enjoyed each other.


  1. Hi Donna,
    We're in the same boat with Ethan. He HATES going anywhere with Casey. Period. Even to a neighbor's house for dinner. The place I go in my head & heart when Ethan won't join our family is very gloomy, negative and self-defeating. Watching both children struggle and try to break free of the constraints of having an autistic sibling is heart-wrenching. And the guilt of parents who have this issue of "one is; one isn't" is overwhelming. Thanks for sharing that you're not the only one who has been driven over the edge trying to re-make an imperfect family into a picture postcard perfect family.
    Your pal in this journey,

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