We’re going on vacation! No, let me clarify that. We are going on a family trip. They are two completely different animals. When I think of vacation, I think of me lying face down on a massage table in the middle of some exotic rain forest, sipping a strategically perched piña colada out of a coconut shell. There are no people below the age of 15 allowed anywhere near my “vacation” locale. No worries about meal preparation, because we dine at gloriously adorned, trendy island haunts where there are no kid menus, no sippy cups and no whiny little people demanding your constant attention.
In contrast, we are heading to my home town, Chicago, for 4.75 days of family, old friends, and celebrations. Btw, our schedule really is optimized, based on many years of past research, to facilitate family familiarity and closeness, while desperately attempting to avoid the inevitable familial fighting, frustration and frenzy. Several years ago we concluded that the 5th day of any family visit resulted in me sobbing for hours in a corner of my old childhood bedroom and swearing to never return to the Windy City ever again. But 4 days wasn’t quite enough time to see all of the warring factions of family members who for whatever reason, can’t manage to be in the same room at the same time. Hence we schedule all trips back east for the carefully calculated 4.75 days.
The optimist in me is excited about the trip. The realist, leery. I don’t think we ever stop wishing for the perfect family who loves each other unconditionally, would go to the ends of the earth for one another, and fights tooth and nail to grab the check first at the end of a meal. Well, one out of three isn’t so bad. And no, I’m not saying which one.
We’ve got a lot planned and the last week or two my kids have been on super-sensitive and whiny mode. It’s been maddening and I’m deeply concerned about how to muddle through the next week. My husband drew up a contract and challenged all of us to sign it. As I’ve said before, he really would’ve made an excellent attorney. For my part, I have to control my tendency to scream like a madwoman and curb my propensity for vulgarity. (It’s ugly, but I believe in full disclosure). The boys contracted not to whine, wail, wallop, and whimper during our travel time. They agreed to “go with the flow,” sometimes compromise and do what other family members want to do, and be respectful, kind and warm to everyone they meet (especially adults.) That is also the husband specific contractual agreement. It will be harder for him than the kids.
The consequence you wonder? Only those of us who honor the contract will be included in next month’s family outing to Seattle. We’ve discussed it and honestly have every intention of staying true to this. Zero tolerance. Anyone who breaks the contract stays home with a mean old sitter we’re on the prowl for who makes little boys eat liver and onions and doesn’t believe in chocolate chip cookies. If you know anyone, please forward her resume. I have a sinking suspicion that we’ll be hiring.