Last week, our family traveled to Belgium for a brief vacation. We hadn't seen much of Ben for the previous several weeks. He was busy with the start of school, his girlfriend and other friends, his band, and soccer. One reason I was looking forward to this trip was the prospect of spending time with him.
I know families that function well at home, but fall apart when they travel over issues like early vs late rising, whether visiting museums is more fun than shopping, or, when these conflicts can't be resolved, whether it's
preferable to sightsee independently or in lockstep.
Our areas of conflict, on the other hand, tend to be home-based, centering on late school assignments, dirty socks on the floor and, until recently, exactly when the kitty litter was last changed, and by whom. In an
environment in which housework and homework aren't issues, we are free to enjoy a shared sense of adventure, curiosity about other cultures, and a taste for exotic meals, cooked and cleaned up after by people who aren't us.
The vacation wasn't stress-free; they never are. There was some tension over the volume of the TV in our shared room; over perceived hogging of the communal iPad in the absence of our usual assortment of individual electronic devices; and at one point over what constitutes a dominant national language as opposed to an official one, with a side debate about whether the other language in this case should rightly be referred to as
"Dutch" or "Flemish."
For the most part, though, it was great. On the plane home, we played cutthroat Scrabble on the shared iPad and reminisced about the high points of the trip, which, we agreed, were many.
As soon as we landed, of course, the picture changed. Ben immediately started texting his friends, making arrangements to meet. He deposited us in Penn Station and disappeared until later that night, and we've seen him only rarely in the four days since.
I know that his preoccupation with other interests is going to be, increasingly, the norm, and fun together time with Mom and Dad the aberration. But I hope that there will be more trips like this in the future we do share, and that our enjoyment will forge a template for great vacations with his own family.