When I told people this past week that we were heading out of town for a week at the beach, I got lots of oohs and aahs about how fun it would be, and lots of sighs of envy. But then when I went into the details and dropped in the bit about how we were going to a family reunion and would be staying in a beach house with seven other families, everyone I talked to shrank back, holding their hands in front of them in horror (or as if they were warding off some evil force).
A family reunion?
The people I know well made jokes about it; the people I didn't know well put on polite and curious smiles and asked subtle, probing questions designed to break me down and force me to pull my hair out on the spot. But I wasn't too worried, to tell the truth. Family reunions can be messy, loud, chaotic, and stressful. But they also can be messy, loud, fun, and memorable experiences--in all good ways. And even if they are frazzling at times for the adults, the kids usually feel none of the stress the adults feel--those adults who worry about bedtimes and overstimulated kids, and too much junk food and too much horseplay in the hallways while Aunt K is napping.
I told our neighbor-friend the day before we left--after she had regaled me with tales of woe from the last family reunion she had attended--that you have to keep your sense of humor when you go to a family reunion, especially when it's not YOUR family, but your husband's. In that spirit--the spirit of keeping my perspective light--I offer up ten family reunion beach week travel truths, and I'm sure I'll come up with another ten by the week's end.
1. Consider adopting a vegetarian diet before you head off to your next family reunion. This way you won't be tempted by massive egg and bacon breakfasts and sausage jambalayas, and you'll feel oh-so-healthy and good while you eat your cereal and fruit.
2. And even if you DO overeat on taco night, having to go up and down three flights of stairs five times during dinner to check on your son (who has decided to eat his separate dinner in front of HGTV in the downstairs unit) will certainly help you burn off the extra calories.
3. If you bathe your daughter at 5:00 p.m. in the hopes of making bedtime an easier experience later, she will certainly decide to make elaborate sand angels on the beach at 8:15 p.m., while you are trying to drag her back to the beach house for bed.
4. If you decide not to put sunscreen on your kids because it's overcast and drizzly and you'll only be going to the beach for a short while, the sun will immediately come out 5 seconds after your kids are wet and completely covered in sand.
5. You'll spend too much money on last-minute buckets and shovels, and your kids will decide that the best sandcastle building implements in the whole world are an empty plastic box and a styrofoam cup they found on the beach.
6. It takes exactly the same amount of time and effort to get kids ready for the beach, whether your beach house is right across the street, ten minutes away, or two hours away.
7. Of course it's guaranteed that the minute you set foot on the beach and unload, one child will suddenly decide he/she has to use the bathroom.
8. If you score three .50 cent hardbacks from the thrift store before your beach trip, in the hopes of actually reading them, you'll still spend the better part of your vacation reading books with titles like Moonbeam Bear and Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs.
9. If you upload lots of cool songs on your iPod in the hopes of listening to them while reading your three .50 cent hardbacks on vacation, your son will promptly break his own headphones and spend most of the trip listening to downloaded "Fetch!" podcasts with yours.
10. Time has a way of standing painfully still during the rough times, and moving too quickly over those postcard moments. When you're a parent, you sometimes have to work extra hard to see the angel through all the sand.