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Our Family Vacation: An Exhausting Trip Became a Treasured Vacation

I’ve been told that when kids are five years apart, each one is like only children. So, I have two only children. My son looks like my side of the family and my daughter, who is 16, looks like a clone of my husband with red hair on her head. And like many siblings, they have completely opposite personalities. I like to say that they exist on parallel planes. They know that they’re in the same family, but their lives hardly ever intersect. One is in college, prefers quiet alone time and is very intellectual. The other is in high school, needs to be with people all the time and is very outgoing and silly.

Since their opportunities for spending time together are limited, and because opposites attract, they have always gotten along pretty well. Especially for siblings.

Siblings Getting Along

Still, when I started to plan our family vacation, I wasn’t sure how well they would get along. We all decided that Italy would be an ideal location. Hotel rooms in Europe are usually pretty small, so we booked two rooms. I wondered how that would work for them and hoped for the best. We signed up for a Trafalgar tour and my husband and I sat next to each other and let them do their own thing. We thought they’d meet new people and make new friends.

We were wrong. They didn’t meet new people; they just enjoyed hanging out with each other. They got along so well that we overheard a couple saying, “Wow! How liberal parents are now to let this young couple go to Europe on their own!” We wondered who they were talking about until my daughter said, “Mom–someone thought that Evan and I were boyfriend and girlfriend! They asked me how my parents felt about us traveling alone together out of the country!”

We had a good laugh. I guess they’d never seen siblings get along so well. I too was a little surprised. Maybe they were just enjoying the trip, or were relaxed because there were no pressures. Maybe they were enjoying that they didn’t have to hang out with us at all.

Trip vs Vacation

I did notice something interesting, though. When the kids were younger and we traveled with them, it didn’t feel like a vacation, it felt like a trip. The last few family vacations have felt like vacations. In fact, now I notice that the kids kind of feel like they have to help and manage us, versus the other way around. My husband and I needed help figuring out how to use the phone we rented for Europe; I almost walked into the Men’s room by mistake; I couldn’t figure out the time change. And they were our translators as they both speak fluent Spanish. They needed to remind us of instructions from the tour guide.

I could sense that the kids were thinking of how tiring it was for them to bring us along!

I’m wondering how many more family vacations they will be willing and able to attend. I think our days are numbered so I already started to plan something exciting for next summer.

Any ideas?

Valerie Newman lives in Connecticut with her husband and two kids. When Valerie started mixing up her kid’s college applications with her mother’s nursing home applications, she knew she was part of the sandwich generation.

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