reality is a thin veil of sunscreen

Summer is a good time to go on vacation. Winter means spending more money and time to get to a tropical clime.  It’s easier to pack, dress, travel, eat, and be outdoors when the weather is warmer.  And people look better in the summer.

I’ve read a few recent blog posts recapping summer vacays. I like this: I get to know a little bit more about the person as well as cherry-pick their good ideas about what worked for them.

Following suit, I have tried twice to recap what we did on our holidays. The first time my husband said it sounded like a book report I was writing for school. I could have provided an index for it. Did I really enjoy my holidays so much that it came out sounded formulaic? I realized that it wasn’t so much what we did that I found interesting, but more what I learned this year about  vacations.

Our vacation this year involved kids (our own), and travel (driving 5+ hours in a spell), and family. We often do the same thing for summer vacation: visit my parents and my husband’s parents. Both grandparents get to see grandkids. We get somewhat of a break. It is not our usual routine. We are not at work.


A quick thunderstorm with hail before we go for a swim.

But there needs to be balance. Here’s what I’ve learned thus far:

In the process of having adventures to look back on, no one should be suffering in the making of these memories (namely me). If someone doesn’t want to do something, weigh this into the overall appeal of the factor. My parents generally forced me to go camping when I was a kid thinking it was good for me. To this day I suck on this resentment and still don’t like camping.

My husband and I are always falsely optimistic that going on vacation means a break from our kids. We do go see grandparents who do a lot with them but everyone gets tired.  We do get a break, but we still need to manage, intervene, monitor, cajole, and maintain some semblance of routine and sanity. As the kids have gotten older I’ve found that physically removing myself from the situation makes it easier for me. Each to their own! Now my husband and I book ourselves into a hotel for a few nights and let the grandparents (and kids) have their fill.

People are funny about their homes and their stuff. No matter where you go -or how happy your guests/family are to see you- both parties need to remember you don’t think or act the same way about everything. It’s not ‘understood.’ Showers, meals, quiet times, TV shows, and where to go eat are all up for debate even when you’ve been raised by these people. People also may have expectations that you will just “fit into” what they generally do and everyone will get along doing the same thing. I say let your guests take the lead on most things: do what they do even if it makes no sense. They may also adapt to you as well. When you start to find that these accommodations and alterations are seemingly more work than staying at home (usually day 3-5), it may be time to move on.


Kids and cousins walking to the river for a swim.

It’s a different road when you travel with kids. You can’t explain everything to a small person’s satisfaction even if you use logic. Especially if you use logic. The kids don’t understand what 4 -5 hours or 600 km really means. No, the road isn’t straight the whole way and you can’t watch a movie on a windy road. No, I don’t think you can try it for a little while.

At a certain age, everyone packs their own stuff. Car travel means you can bring so much (unnecessary) stuff! I gave the kids lists, but had them pack their own suitcases. I purposely did not bring a watch. I packed an extra bag of only fitness wear for MY vacation.

The sign of a good vacation is a change in routine. A good vacation means you get to do what you want, and you get home feeling lighter and energized. Who am I kidding when I say this? No one gets home from vacation feeling the overwhelming need to get back to work and feeling super rested. But I had stayed up late and slept in. I ran and exercised when I felt like it. I drank coffee in the middle of the day. I watched a movie one day when I first woke up. This was not even remotely close to usual for me.

Albeit not work and a chance to live a little more slowly, a vacation is a thin veil hiding behind sunscreen when we take leave of our senses.

Do we really assume it can go on forever?


17 thoughts on “reality is a thin veil of sunscreen

  1. Tania, if a vacation could be permanent it would just be a routine. You hit on exactly what it’s like to visit family. By Day 5 I’m itching to return to my life in NYC, not my life at The Grind, but just my life in this soot-covered place that houses my own infinitely more comfortable and much larger bed.

  2. For us the sign of a good vacation is when we don’t return more tired than when we left…unless it’s because of destination race! And everyone has to be happy or it sucks. We have resigned ourselves to the reality that we all like different things and it’s OK to split up – Papa goes to look at boats while kids play on the beach and I go for a run. Now that’s a perfect vacation day…

    • It’s so true that everyone has different interests and to keep everyone mostly happy means splitting up. I’m lucky that my family is more tolerant than I am: they are much more forgiving and willing to entertain themselves while I go run than I am when we go do what they want. While I like us having the time together, the venue of opportunities is equally important.

  3. Tania, I have a rule about staying with family. Three days max! That seems chinsey, but any longer, and discomfort sets in. It seems like a short time, but being in someone else’s house means operating by their rules. I’m always exhausted after a vacation with kids in many ways. You’re so right about this. At the very least, it’s a break from the routine.

    • Amy, as much as I think we all get along — it’s all vacation brain thinking. We lasted 5 days and I think everyone was happy for the change after that. It really IS about operating on someone else’s rules, many of which seem to be strangely unspoken and based on whims. Vacationing with kids is all about the kids; it’s hard to get around that fact.

      • Well, good for you for lasting 5 days! I think you did good! Yes, it’s about the kids. There’s no way around that, it seems. I guess it’s probably better to just be honest with yourself and accept it. At least you got a change of scene.

  4. What is this vacation you speak of?? I haven’t had a ‘vacation’ in so many years I forgot what it is. I’m self employed, which means I get no vacations. Ever. 🙂

    • My husband was self-employed for many years. It seems like working for yourself means you are working 24/7. Sure, you get to be home, but you also never get to leave the office. I think the trick is to maybe leave town & leave the work behind as well.

  5. I am also quickly learning that vacation with grandparents does not automatically mean a break from the kids. In fact, since C is so young, it is actually more stress than it’s worth to leave her with her grandmothers; we don’t live in the same town as them, so she’s only seen them a handful of times in her entire life. If we just leave her with them overnight, it becomes such an ordeal to get her to understand that we are coming back.

    • Although you may trust, love, appreciate, and respect a grandparent doesn’t automatically mean your child will. And it’s a different relationship with extended family – they are not you and for most kids it’s a lot to get used to. I found I also worried a lot when my kids were young that they would be “expected” to act a certain way. That still happens, but I know my kids can speak up for themselves now.

  6. Pingback: Our Summer Vacation Video (Part Two) « Swim In The Adult Pool

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