I realize that the idea of vacationing with teenagers is a delicate subject fraught with anxiety and dread. So rest assured that, as a mom, I will discuss this subject in a mature and tasteful manner devoid of expressions such as “I’m leaving the ungrateful lazy butts at home”. Because that’s not what this annual family ritual is about. No sir. The annual summer vacation is about making magical memories filled with sunsets on the beach, Disney castles and kids punching each other in the face over which radio station to listen to in the car.
Like most families, my husband and I drag our butts to work 51 weeks out of the year, just so that we can earn that ONE magical week of pure bliss – the Summer Vacation week. We anticipate it all year long, look forward to it, imagine how great it will be to pretend like we have no responsibilities for one whole week. There’s just one kink in the fantasy – teenagers. There’s nothing on earth more difficult to please than a bored, moody teenager who hates everything. Instead of suggesting 87 different ideas for vacation, and getting a “meh” as a response for every single one, I sometimes think it would just be easier if I stayed home for a week curled up in the fetal position.
But NO, we press on, because damnit, we’re going to make magical memories even if it kills us! The whole goal of a family vacation is to bond together, enjoy each other’s company, not drown your sister in the hotel pool, and have fun. Trying to force a teenager to have FUN is like putting a ball gown on a hog and taking it to a dance. You’re not fooling anyone because the hog, though dressed appropriately for the occasion, looks totally miserable and, you can tell, would rather be back home in his mud pit texting his friends on his I-HOG, rather than be on the dance floor with you. But still, the vacation fantasy persists.
Maybe it’s because we keep trying to re-capture the wonderful memories we have of being on vacation when we were kids. We fondly remember the wonder of waterfalls in Arkansas, hiking in the mountains of Tennessee, floating down the river on an inner tube, night swimming and many other memorable moments. But what my parents probably remember is four annoying kids arguing and fighting over stupid crap like “Mom, his leg hair is touching my side of the backseat.” I wonder how many times my Dad felt like pulling over, dumping all four of us into a roadside ditch, and continuing on to his vacation destination. But he didn’t because, “damnit, SHUT UP you ungrateful brats, we are making magical memories!”
It amazes me to look back at our vacation photo albums from just a few summers ago. In those pictures are two ponytailed little girls hugging Mickey Mouse, canoeing with Dad, jumping the waves in Florida and happily swimming in icy mountain streams. These are the same little girls who are now brooding, unresponsive teenagers being forced to go have fun for a week with their LAME mom and dad.
This happens to be one of those years where we are on a budget, which is code for we are kinda broke, so our vacation will not be entirely glamorous. This adds to the yawn-factor for our teenagers, I’m sure. The local beach and a Texas river trip ain’t what you might call pure excitement. Believe me, I, more than anyone, wish we were going on a thrilling ocean cruise to Cozumel or a road trip to California, but that ain’t happenin’ this year. So you take what you can get, make the best of it, and most of all, enjoy NOT being chained to your desk job for a week. Having a job makes you infinitely appreciate any kind of vacation, which is another reason why teenagers have no idea what a privilege a vacation is. But you can bet they will someday.
Life is backwards, you know? In our older years, when college and wedding bills are all paid, and we are retired, we will have all kinds of time (not just a week) and lots of extra money (hopefully) to spend on vacations. But it won’t be the same. Because even though we’ll have time and money, we won’t have what matters most… those brooding, sullen, annoying, argumentative and bored young girls who truly make our lives worth living.
So, Amanda and Emily, here’s a message from your mother on the occasion of our 2013 Summer Vacation:
It may not be a trip to Paris or New York, but it’s still a family trip, so you are GOING, and you WILL HAVE FUN! You will laugh and smile, you will not punch your sister in the face, you will unplug your damn smart phones, you will put down your teen romance novel and get in the pool, and you will TALK to your parents. And you WILL BE grateful because, damnit, we are making magical memories!!! Love, Mom.