Do you know how to take a vacation? Does that question even make sense?
I ask because the truth is - I don't really know how to take a vacation! I'm not good at relaxing and taking it easy. I'm not good at having nothing to do.
When I look at it critically I know I'm really good at working. I'm really good at supporting my family, which is not a bad thing by any means!
Traditionally we see fathers as the "bread winners" of a family and have no problem with male figures working excessively, vegging out in front of the TV ignoring everyone, and occasionally coming up for air during vacations.
I even witnessed this particular monster when I worked in the Outer Banks of NC back in 2003. Most families would arrive on Friday or Saturday and hit the shops where I worked on Sunday or Monday. By Wednesday, the dads in most families were looking pretty bewildered. They wore expressions along the lines of "Is THIS really my family? Is this really my wife? Is this really my kids?"
When I saw this sort of thing happen in the store it was usually in the midst of an all-out family tantrum. Kid wants a toy + Mom wants to teach the kid a lesson about money + tired from a long day at the beach = Total Family Meltdown. The dads always stood on the peripheral, and I always had an urge to shove them forward into the melee with a command: "Face what you've built!"
Because this is what we build! When the focus is only work, work, work, that doesn't leave a lot of room for family. It's should be no surprise when halfway through your vacation you realize you're surrounded by strangers you live with every day of the year.
Luckily, I haven't had a super disturbing wake-up call during this vacation. Even though I am my family's breadwinner, I've seen this particular issue too many times to fall prey to it. I was raised by a father who was largely absent, endlessly working, working, working to pay for my mother's ever-increasing need to spend money.
So my kid's occasional lapses into defiant, typical 4 year old behavior never comes as a surprise. What has been a surprise is seeing just how much he's changed since the last time we came to Pensacola, and the realization that these young years are slipping by so very quickly.
Sometimes it feels like my little boy will be little forever. I can remember him being 18 months old and developing the most annoying habit of pretending to fall over whenever I walked by. He'd scream and cry until I picked him up, gave him a hug, and worked with him on my lap.
At the time, it truly felt like he would be 18 months old forever, and unfortunately I didn't always stop and give him a hug and a kiss when he pulled the fake-falling stunt. Sometimes I was just too busy, too focused to take the time.
And now my 18 month old baby is a nearly 5 year old little boy and again, I forget that he's always changing, always learning, always growing. It's so easy to assume he'll be this way forever and I'll have plenty of time to catch it on camera, to give him those kisses, and to play that game one more time.
Last year around Thanksgiving, I had a huge wake-up call when we lost Jinjo, our greyhound, and the first dog I ever really loved. I woke up to the fact that you really never know how much time you have. You might have days or months or years, but you never know when something might happen to change the game forever.
It was at that point that I made the decision to stop hording my love, to start showing it more freely and, more than anything else, to stop being such a workaholic all the time. To take a vacation and to actually have fun and BE fun.
That's something I find missing from motherhood in general. It seems we're able to provide fun: to drive to fun places, to buy fun snacks, to even hire fun babysitters, but BEING fun ourselves?
For a long time I've had a hang-up with this. What will people think if I play on the beach with my kid? What will people think if I dress up and go trick-or-treating for Halloween? What will other moms think if I go swimming with my son and get my hair wet? What will they think if I get into the bouncy gym? What will they think if they see me having fun?
As totally silly as these questions may seem, they actually do run through my noggin, accompanied with a good dose of stress whenever they come up! The good news is I've finally started to laugh at myself when most of these question come up.
As a wonderful reader once wrote to me via email "What other people think of me is none of my business." Who cares what I'm doing or look like so long as we're all having fun?!
So this Halloween instead of staying home, working on a quilt or the site, I dressed up with my guys and went trick or treating for the first time in many years. We all had an absolute blast walking around as Iron Man, Lieutenant Uhura, and Commander Riker.
For the record, no, I'm can't rightfully call myself a trekkie, but Josh probably could!
So as we head for home early tomorrow morning, I'm coming back feeling great. We've had a truly wonderful vacation, but even more importantly, I've learned how to take it easy, have fun, and ditch a truckload of worry.
Let's go quilt,