In my fantasies, going on family vacation is full of “making memories” and good old fashioned fun. We’ll make lanyards and sing songs around the campfire! We’ll go for an invigorating hike and take in the breathtaking views! We’ll roast marshmallows!
For whatever reason, I always seem to leave out the reality of family camping trips: dirt, ticks, kids whining, bad food, camping gear falling out the back of our camper on the freeway, fungal camp bathrooms, irritable park rangers, other loud campers, blowing a tire on our car, keeping the camper clean, dirt, mud, somebody poking an eye out with a hot wire hanger, dirt, exhaustion, work, dirt and more dirt.
We used to own a pop-up trailer and it was fun the first time we went camping. After that, it was just exhausting. You always had to crank this or jack up that, manhandle the fold-out couches/beds, duct-tape this and jury-rig that, only pee and never poop in the bathroom, use the kitchenette faucet but the not the bathroom faucet. Every time we pulled into camp, it took at least three hours to unpack everything and by then, I was ready to go home.
I think I could enjoy family vacations again if I could just do this thing called: adjusting my expectations. Mainly, I need to stop fantasizing about All The Memories We’ll Make and just be pleasantly surprised if we all arrive home in one piece.
If I can go into a family vacation expecting we’ll break down on the freeway like ten minutes into the trip or that I’m not going to sleep well for an entire week or that things are Just Gonna Get Dirty And It’s OK–then maybe I could enjoy family vacations again.
I feel like I need to do this for the kids’ sake. After all, they only seem to have fantastic, amazing, when-can-we-do-it-again? memories from our camping trips and family vacations. They barely even remember The Great Rain Out of 2005 when it rained for days, flooded our campsite, soaked half our food, muddied everything and freaked me out so badly that I fled into town and booked myself into a hotel room. To me, that was the WORST trip ever. But all my kids remember is how much fun they had splashing around in the puddles.
After the twins were born, we quit family vacations for a few years. I mean, there was just so much stuff to schlepp and I we didn’t have a personal sherpa. We only took a few Mommy & Daddy Alone trips because I figured *I* was the one who needed a vacation. But now, the twins are five and I’m suddenly seized with that feeling of: they’re growing up! ack! we need to make memories!
The older kids have told the twins about our trips to Yosemite–remember when Jude almost drowned in the river? yeah, ha ha that was AWESOME! and remember when we went surfing at Refugio State Beach over Thanksgiving weekend and that one guy was FRYING his turkey in peanut oil?–and the twins just stare at the older kids like: wow, our family was such a cool family before WE showed up!
And then they turn to me: “Mommy, why can’t WE go on a trip? When? WHEN? We wanna go camping in the rain!”
O, children. Ye know not ye ask.
But they won’t listen. Excuses, excuses, the say.
They have a point. The twins aren’t babies anymore. My book is almost done. The older kids can help around camp. Oh, dude. I’m gonna have to do this, aren’t I? Worse? We sold the pop-up camper. We’re gonna have to do this family vacation IN A TENT.
Or maybe I could just procrastinate and then, whoops, it’s time to go back to school!
I know what I’ll do: I’ll pretend we’re preparing for the apocalypse. As long as I can get myself into a IT’S THE END OF THE WORLD! mentality, I can whip up enough adrenaline to pack, wrap and stack our camping supplies in record time. Nothing motivates me like impending fire and brimstone.
Being raised fundamentalist has its benefits. The End of the World may not be at hand, but at least I know how to kickass at camping!