So this is us on our last ‘mandated’ family vacation. Ben heads off to college in August. Unless the money fairy miraculously visits us
and we are able to squeeze in a summer getaway within the next 3 months, every trip after this one will be because Ben has been ‘invited’ and he ‘wants’ to come with us. The following year Jacqui will join the ‘invitation’ ranks and then the true test of whether or not spending time with us is appealing will come into play.
To be fair, we most often ask their opinion before planning a vacation and they both say ‘yes’. This trip included. To be extra fair, if either were to say ‘no’ we all know I have the ultimate veto power if I believe it’s important enough. Of course the common question in these situations is “Important to who, Mom?”. OK, so I have the mother gene that says “It’s important to me so I want it to be important to you.” I try really hard to fight that urge. But sometimes it is just what a mother has to do.
Is there something wrong with feeling a little family obligation? After all, there is always going to be something shinier out there. And if you won’t do what is ‘right’ for your family, will you do it for your friends? Will you do it for your children when you have them? For your spouse? We can laugh about my control issues around family time, but this is a serious matter. And a really tough balancing act.
Jeff and I have a phrase we use when we have to attend a function or social gathering that is important to one of us but feels like a poke in the eye with sharp needles to the other. We call it ‘because you love me’. It works well. We both acknowledge the pain we are putting the other through in order to satisfy our (insert rational or irrational feeling of the moment……’I don’t want to be seen alone’…….’My boss expects you to be there’………’He’s one of my best friends, I’m sorry his wife is a complete lunatic’….you get the idea). And yet we each put ourselves, with a smile, through the pain trusting that the other would not ask if ‘going it alone’ was an acceptable solution. We don’t question the other’s motives. We just go and make the best of it.
I want my kids to have that same level of trust and understanding. I don’t want to ask them to attend something ‘just because’. I want us all to want to be there. As a mother I get to direct that for a while. My ‘while’ just ended with one of my children and is about to end with the other. Let’s hope I taught them well. Let’s hope we are ‘shiny’ enough that going on a vacation with us, ‘the parents’, will still be fun when the choice really is their’s to make. Let’s hope that when they make an alternative choice I am proud that they are able to make their own choices and we will have fun anyway. Maybe they will join us the next time.