With the end of the semester, we packed up our household and headed out to the other side of the country to visit my parents in southern California. We’re staying for two and a half weeks. My whole family always looks forward to these visits tremendously, since, being so far away we see each other rarely. But the first couple days I never enjoy.
The kids miss their friends, the structure of school and homework, their toys, their musical instruments, and need a lot of attention. There aren’t other kids around – the time here is adult-focused. There’s a fair bit of acting up, vying for attention, behaviors that are easier to quell at home. The food is different, and everyone seems to get more finicky. Even though the semester has finished, there’s always all the catch up work to do, the huge email inbox with correspondence that needs catching up. I am helping with two ongoing research projects that, like my kids, really can’t be left unattended for long and with all the time I’ve spent in the last week getting us ready to go, I feel a strong tug in this direction. My parents love seeing the kids, but they also want to visit with my husband and me. We’re just as busy as at home, but our system for dealing with getting it all done while keeping everyone happy is scrambled.
I know from experience that the dynamics get easier as our visit progresses – everyone settles into their space and activity and we all find time to be together. In fact, happily, one of the best ways to ease the transition is for my husband and me to plan a little overnight vacation on our own. So that we have planned. And I remind myself that every year we look forward tremendously to these visits for a reason – they work out well. We just need to get through these first couple days.
This is the beginning of a summer full of transitions. After our visit with my parents we go directly to a marine biology lab where my husband, who has a 9-month appointment, does his “vacation-research” every year (and, with lots of other kids and sitters around, I’m able to balance my work and kid time well). I like these summer travelling “sabbaticals”. Sharing the academic year schedule with my kids and my husband, travelling together, is one of the great perks of academia for me. We start the summer off with a bang, and a crash, and an ouch. But it works.