My husband and I just finished celebrating our thirteenth year of marriage with an extended weekend trip to Mackinac Island. We like to take our kids to the Island every summer but we usually also go away, just the two of us, to celebrate our anniversary. This year we decided to combine the two trips and make it a family celebration. We love the idea in theory. In reality…well…there were moments when we found ourselves questioning the wisdom of foregoing our relaxing adult weekend to instead listen to whining and manage fights.
When I was a kid, I can count the number of times I stayed in a hotel on one hand. There was the one big trip to Mackinaw City with a day trip to the Island and Tahquamenon Falls. Then for a couple of years we spent a weekend in Midland at the Midway Motor Lodge just for fun. When I was in high school, we went to Chicago for a cheerleading competition. That was pretty much it.
Back then, my parents owned a small cottage on a beautiful lake and that is where we spent our summer weekends. I loved it and wouldn’t change it. Because we rarely traveled, those trips seemed like such a big deal. On Mackinac Island I was so grateful that my dad let me get a rabbit’s foot and a box of jumping beans for a souvenir. I remember my mixed feelings as I held that bag of treasure. I was so excited about my purchase, but I also felt guilty knowing the money my parents had spent. I’m not kidding. That is really how I felt.
Things are different for my kids.
I wouldn’t even say that my kids are particularly well traveled, but they’ve definitely been to more places than I had at their age. We are fortunate. I have my summers off and my parents own a larger cottage now. They allow us to spend as much time there as we want. So we go for a few weeks in July and from there, we venture to other destinations in Northern Michigan. July feels like one big extended vacation.
I guess it is no surprise that my children begin to feel entitled to fun and figure everything should be about them. Most of the time, it is. But this weekend, we wanted to be able to have a leisurely dinner or sit on the hotel porch with a glass of wine.
After a particularly irritating round of brother-pick-on-brother, we had to have a sit-down. I laid out my theory that they are suffering from “vacation spoiled-itis.” I contrasted their experiences with mine growing up in an effort to highlight what gratitude might look and feel like. We informed them that we had no intention of having a bad weekend simply because they couldn’t get along. We then explained that there are babysitting options available and we’d be happy to arrange for that. (This is actually true. Mission Pointe offers day camps and we were inches from enrolling them.) Finally, we said in no uncertain terms that this trip was actually NOT about them. In fact, it was about us. It was our anniversary trip and we usually celebrate that on our own.
After they got over the initial shock of this information, they recovered very well. They were sweet and adorable for the rest of the trip. In the end, I’m very glad we brought them. They are a huge part of our what we were celebrating.
As we strolled around the Island, we laughed at the conversations we overheard.
“I told you if you spent all of your money at the first shop you wouldn’t be able to get anything else…”
“If you kids don’t stop whining…”
“No, you’ve already had fudge and popcorn…”
As we observed the pinched faces of parents as their toddlers wailed or teenagers sulked, we knew our situation was not unique. It is the universal experience of parents expecting our kids to stay grounded and grateful while giving them much more than we ever had.