Do you have a vision of the perfect family vacation? I do, somewhere in there. I think I will know it if I see it – but I haven’t yet. I know I have seen it on television somewhere or projected it onto someone else’s family that seemed to have some sort of perfect bliss/fun/camaraderie. I have had moments like these, but they have never lasted as long as I would want.
I just returned from a long weekend in the mountains with my parents (97 & 90), my three siblings (61, 59, & 51) and their spouses. We hiked, ate, read, played cards, golf, tennis and tried to play croquet. It was a really nice weekend – with family.
We have so much in common. We grew up in the same home. We shared the same culture and community. We went to the same places, attended the same schools. Our friends were brothers and sisters of our sibling’s friends, and they were the children of my parents’ friends. We had so much in common.
But we are so different now. We are different from each other – different friends, different interests, different commitments and values. I live in a different city than they do, and they have their own very unique world back in my home town. We share big holidays, special occasions, the same story and the same blood. We are family.
I can’t help but compare last weekend with family to a time away with my friends. A weekend with them is so different. We share the same interests. We share more recent history. We share the same community and the same values. We raised our children together. These are the people we socialize with, pray for and with regularly, call on the phone, and kid about their personal foibles. They are the people we “do life” with.
But my friends weren’t there when I got caught cheating in the sixth grade or didn’t make varsity or won the music award in the fifth grade. They weren’t there contending with me for my “place” at the family dinner table or teaming up with my brother to pick on my sister. My friends today know me… but there are things they can’t know.
We have done these “get-aways” (adults only, only we aren’t the only adults anymore) for many years. And it has been a good thing. Even though we now live different lives with different worlds, those times have kept us connected in a good way. While there is inevitably some “sibling rivalry” (as the counselors call it), we generally like and enjoy one another. In some unique, special way, we love each other.
Now what is odd for me is to think about going on vacation with my kids, who are no longer kids. They are 32, 28 and 26. And they share so much – the same parents, the same house in which they grew up and in which Lynne and I still live, the same hometown and school systems and swim club. But today they each have their own worlds, their own careers, their own groups of friends and places they live. One lives in Durham, one in Tampa, and one has just moved back to Charlotte.
What is it like for them to go on a family vacation? They too have so much in common and so much that is not. They now have different interests, different friends, different commitments and values.
Now I am in the role of my mom and dad. Lynne and I are trying to orchestrate this melding of differences and similarities. Now we are trying to take our grown family in this direction and orchestrate a special time together for a week or a long weekend.
We just began a conversation about Christmas vacation. We asked our three children their opinions and guess what? We have three different ideas! Surprise, surprise!
We have our vision of what family vacation could and should be with our grown kids. And sometimes those trips are wonderful, and often they fall short of the vision. They aren’t the same as trips with our friends. Nor are they the same for them as trips with their friends. But we are family. And we know and love and are committed in ways that don’t make sense but make life more meaningful. We all want something with each other. We all want more than we can get. What we want is good.
We are trying to build something lasting, forged over time, built on the shared heritage and long-standing relationships that can’t be replaced with new found friendships. We want something special with our own family.
And we will keep trying!
Palmer Trice is an ordained Presbyterian minister. He is married to Lynne, has three children and has been in Charlotte since 1979. In his spare time, Palmer enjoys golf, tennis, walking and reading.