Vacations should be fun and relaxing, but as any parent of youngish kids will tell you, family vacations are often just pockets of fun and relaxation in the middle of a base of low-lying (and sometimes high-flying) stress. We just got back from a long weekend that left us all a little harried by the end of it.
Our family likes to camp. Both Holly and I have fond memories camping while growing up and we’ve gone at least once per year since LoudBoy was two. We do tent camping at state parks and usually have a pretty good time. We typically stay for either a long weekend, or a full week, and in either case we find some time for chillaxing, hiking and beach time while doing some nature-friendly activities. LoudBoy and I did a boys camp weekend last year and that was really fun and relaxing too, and not having the female dynamic was interesting and led to a way more low-key atmosphere that what we felt this past weekend.
Instead of going with just our family (wife and kids), we brought along dog Dum-Dum AND we camped with probably our best family friends. The dad is same person doing boy’s weekend; Holly and the wife are good friends; and they have kids the same age and sex as ours. On paper, it should have been a lot of fun and relaxing since the kids would take care of themselves and adults could enjoy our own company. However, I just felt pretty stressed the whole weekend. The underlying dynamic of multiple parties having control over various tasks and items was part of it (the too many cooks in the kitchen idea), the kid dynamic with brothers and sisters at the site was at times problematic, groups wanting to do different activities at different times, waiting for one party or another to get ready or complete a task, and add to the mix that the interplay between spouses was a little dark at times too. I should also mention that there’s a reason why LoudBoy gets his name, and it’s not awesome to have to shush him every couple of minutes at 7 am because he can’t control the volume of his voice.
The site became a little cramped, and while the dog did pretty well overall this weekend, she had a lot of anxiety, barely ate and was not her normal self. I think maybe we just had an off weekend as a group, and Holly, me and the other dad were all a little grumpy.
We’ve been friends with these people since college (14 years) so know them very well. The husband is pretty dark humored and very jokey about sex matters. Like he can’t help himself to make some comment about every other sentence. In small doses it’s funny, and we all have a little twisted sense of humor and a fun little banter as a group. When spending time with just the guys it tends to die down pretty quickly. With women in the mix, it just continues, on and on and on. It gets a little annoying when you have to hear the whole weekend sexually overt jokes and innuendos about your wife.
In these types of vacations, with this many parties, the kids seem to draw WAAYyy too much attention. On the beach they did their thing (it’s amazing to see how they can play quietly and industrially for hours given nothing but a small shovel and some buckets) but that was probably the only down time we had. Everything was go, go, go. Set up, make food, clean up, go somewhere, do something, are you hungry? thirsty? With four kids and four adults it felt a little chaotic. At no point during the long weekend retreat did I feel my wife and I spent any time together. These types of vacations are for building childhood memories and nature appreciation and life skills (how to build a fire, fish, use a pocket knife, pitch a tent, hike), but at the same time, us parents need to get satisfaction out of it too and I didn’t feel much of that this weekend except the satisfaction of seeing your kids do something for the first time (in this case, first time fishing, they were very excited).
Getting home on Sunday, everyone was pretty mentally and physically exhausted. We spent the afternoon inside, doing laundry, legos and movies. Holly and I talked a little about the chaotic weekend and cleared the air. I was a little mad about a rebuff of affection and lack of effort to make time for each other, but like many things it boiled down to some lack of communication and differing thoughts on the same situation. It is now water under the bridge as we made time for reconnecting and we’re back to our normal selves. In many ways, the routine of home life is less stress than this type of vacation.
In a month, we’re going away to a cabin for a week, just our family. I’m hoping the experience is much more relaxing than this past weekend was.