Family vacations change with the family as it ages and changes. There’s less obvious work for the parent as kids no longer need to be diapered or constantly watched, but the stress doesn’t completely depart. The kids now have some of their own interests that compete for family time but still haven’t fully developed the sense that their interest isn’t necessarily the most important. And there’s some friction as they think that they’re ready for more than a father thinks that they can handle. The family vacation is a work in progress, evolving with the kids and their growing bodies and interests.
So what are some notes that I made during the past 10 days?
- Invest in an Auto FM Transmitter that connects an iPod or mp3 to the car stereo for everyone to hear. Kids have the capacity – especially as they reach the teens – to download an enormous amount of material and many are actually willing to play it for you. In our case, Eldest, Middle and I each played two selections from our respective devices with the caveat that they had to be appropriate for younger ears and middle-aged sensibilities. We consequently heard everything from Don McLean’s Miss American Pie to Psychostick’s This Is Not A Song, It’s A Sandwich and Glee’s cover of Queen’s Somebody to Love. I’m continually surprised at the variety of music that’s shown up and that’s surprised in a mostly good way.
- We usually travel with another family whose kids are roughly the same age and our Eldest kids are old enough to do some gallivanting on their own. Naturally, Youngest wants to tag along and we’ve been fortunate that our combined six kids mesh well together and are willing to be responsible for Youngest. That said, we try to give the elder kids some freedom without the responsibility of monitoring a youngster and set aside concentrated time to keep Youngest occupied. When Youngest does move with the older kids, we are explicit with them that he’s with them and they are now responsible so that we can avoid an episode of finger-pointing about a lost child. Even so, there were several minutes at Monticello when the older kids split up and didn’t verify who had the boy, leading to a PracticalDad wandering the Dependencies at Monticello and working the cellphone furiously.
- I no longer hit them with all manner of details about what we’re going to see but now concentrate on what I consider to be of the greatest importance that they should know. Most kids don’t give a rats butt about history and the effects of the French Revolution on Jefferson’s architecture; that will hopefully come with time. But I do try to give them enough to have a perspective on what they’ll see. In our case, I wanted the kids to understand that the Skyline Drive in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia was actually a jobs program in the Great Depression. Why would men live out in the wilderness to build this? Weren’t they bored? No – they needed a job and sent the money home to support their families. It will vary with the family, but too much information and they’ll get the 1000 yard stare.
- Surprisingly, you still have to monitor discipline and that’s especially the case with teenage boys. Get several teens together and the tendency will be to insulate themselves from the outside so that they’re not paying attention to others around them. Texting will occur in inappropriate places and horseplay will erupt around Senior Citizens who can’t afford to get knocked over and it will continue to be an ongoing responsibility for a parent.
- Understand that the kids will still continue to feed off of one another and the idiocy quotient can reach astounding levels. I frankly enjoy them now more than before and that’s perhaps because I realize that the family vacations with all of the kids present are now numbered. Before, there was no governor on the kids’ collective engine and I felt compelled to provide one but now, let them revel in their goofiness and enjoy it for what it is.
No two vacations are the same and some will be long remembered while others will quickly be forgotten. Your approach to them will help set the tone for the category that the kids choose.