Everyone knows that the last day of school signals the official commencement of summer, as well as the moment when anxious cries begin to rise from parents everywhere who cannot afford at least a couple of weeks of summer camp for their children, or have merely forgotten to send in the registration forms.
For me, it is also a time when thoughts regarding our lack of definitive upcoming summer family vacation plans arise in my noggin, and when I sit back in my wicker chair and ruminate on vacations past.
There predictably comes a moment during every family vacation when I say to myself, or perhaps out loud (with a psychotic gleam in my eye): “Next time, I’m going on vacation alone!” Translated, this means that my children Ophelia, Harold, and Charles have irritated me to the point of my wishing I had used more stringent methods of birth control.
They have individually, or collectively done something that has caused me to mentally calculate how many spa treatments and massages I could have had for the price of taking them on a family vacation. To shelter, clothe, feed and entertain them.
Now, this sentiment isn’t something uttered only by single mothers of three, nor is it limited to the mouths of single parents. Or widowed single parents. Anyone who has children has uttered this at some point. And if they haven’t uttered it, they have thought it. And if they say they haven’t thought it, they are lying.
I know this to be true, because I vividly remember feeling this way even when I was married to a living, breathing man. And I have married friends, and I know they often wonder why they, too, have brought their kids along with them on vacation.
Vacation: n. a respite or a time of respite from something.
So if we are in search of a respite, why do we usually bring along the very things we need a respite from? You may as well bring along your taxes, your oral surgeon and your gynecologist, too.
I love my children. They are the bright stars in my universe. I have never honestly wished I hadn’t given birth to them. There have been times, however, when I have honestly wished I hadn’t allowed them to climb into the car with me as I embarked upon my “respite.”
Now, in addition to moment No. 1, there comes a second moment during every family vacation when I have what I like to call my “little nervous widowhood breakdown.” Translated, this means we have done or seen something that has made me think of Drew, miss him immensely, and has made my heart break for my kids.
Perhaps we are having breakfast in some quaint little town, far from home, and it’s the moment when I see a family. Or, more specifically, a couple. Their teenaged children are walking ahead of them, or their young children have run off to play. The man puts his arm around the woman’s shoulders, pulling her gently toward him. The woman puts her arm around his waist, and leans her head against his shoulder.
If you’ve been married, you know what they are thinking. They are thinking, “Ahhh, yes. This is how it all started. Just the two of us. Just the comfort of one another. No matter how crazy life gets, no matter how imperfect things sometimes see, we still have this. And this is what it’s all about.”
I witness this, and my eyes flood with tears. Always.
Obviously, this moment hits many single parents on a gut level. Whether you’re widowed, divorced or otherwise.
I love vacationing with my kids. We have experienced magical moments and we have treasured memories that we will never forget. But, many times, as a family of four, rather than five, vacations can be bittersweet. So if you are fortunate enough to have an “intact” family, put your head on your spouse’s shoulder – no matter how imperfect life may be – and treasure that comfort.
And if you’re brave enough to venture off on vacation, alone with your kids, “may the Force be with you.”