The above is the result of a breakfast table discussion between the kids and me on the morning of our departure for a short vacation last week. In case you're wondering, the black letters can only be described as a Learning Experience, which we shall call "Permanent Marker is Not The Best Choice for Dry Erase Boards."
Hey. We all have to learn these life lessons sooner or later.
The four red marks represent everyone's vote AFTER we filled in the grid together. See, I realized that too many times, we depart for a trip in a high-stress flurry, with the Professor and I sulking in the front seat over the kids' failure to pitch in to an ideal degree. "All hands on deck?" Make that a few fingers. But usually, that's because we never quite transferred the thought, "We should all work together to make this trip happen" from our brains to the kids' ears. There's no group buy-in on the "all hands on deck" mission.
So this time, we began with the end in mind. And lo, our departure was both peaceable and reasonably prompt. Larks serenaded us on our way down our street, and angels flew by strumming their golden harps. Fluffy little kittens waved bye-bye.
Fast-forward to the vacation. We take this trip twice a year with my in-laws to a resort in San Antonio. And when I still had a babe in arms or a toddler in diapers, the idea of plopping myself in a beach chair and zoning out for the duration was simply out of the question. But now that all my kids are fairly self-sufficient and like to run in a pack with their cousins, I have more of a choice. Part of me wants to just relaaaaax. (And, truthfully, I do.) To slip the moorings of their demands and needs and lose myself in a book. To not get chlorine in my hair.
But. I have an end in mind. That end is a vision of a family that plays together instead of just making it from one day to the next. Of grown children who include time with their parents as part of their fondest memories. Of time spent deliberately enjoying them, rather than just managing them. Of no regrets, once they enter the years when bobbing around the pool with Mom and Dad has decidedly lost its lustre.
So, the Professor and I both endeavor to strike a balance. We need rest. The kids need independence. We also need them to grow up without us growing old, which means making a point of having fun together. That balance is different for every family, and kids whose loving parents don't play with them on vacation will probably turn out JUST FINE. I mean, they might grow an extra digit and develop a lifelong nervous twitch, but other than that? JUST FINE.
But with faces like these, who can resist?