I have come to the conclusion that my current life stage could be titled, “Juggling for Dummies” or “The Idiot’s Guide to Managing Life in the Sandwich Generation.”
Admittedly I was just trying to do a great thing when I started planning a sojourn in Europe for my family, but, well, it isn’t going so well. Not even a week in and I have a grumpy teen, a basically immobile mother, a chatterbox pre-teen, an adult son who has his internal clock reversed and a husband who would rather be home working. Are we having fun yet?
Some back story: My mom and dad own points in a European travel club and spent a month together every summer in Europe. My dad died early in 2009 and I have become the reigning traveling Diva. My mom still loves to travel, so we planned a trip for a month to take her to Europe, with my husband and soon-to-be fourteen-year-old daughter for the first two weeks, myself, younger daughter and mother for an entire month. Thank goodness there were still a couple of remaining brain cells functioning and I decided to import a friend to join the fun (chaos) the second half of the trip.
I figured a pool, beaches, WiFi, sleeping in (although due to jet lag there has been entirely too much of that!) and new vistas would be ample for enjoyment. What was I thinking?!?!
It is hard enough to find something we can all agree on at home, plunk a multi-generational mobility challenged group in the middle of a foreign country and the complaining begins…in three part harmony, no less.
So, allow me to pass on some hard earned observations (that I forgot but knew once upon a time) from the middle of the sandwich:
* Don’t expect to make everyone happy. It is simply impossible. Especially with teenage girls.
* Plan a family conference in which everyone gets a chance to provide input to planning the trip. Of course, some input may be vetoed, such as, “I am not going” (teenage daughter). There is still such a thing as a family trip and parents still get veto power. But it may still be a wise idea to make family dialog part of the program.
* Make sure you don’t make assumptions about when the last day of school is. No kidding. I did this and I have a college education. I assumed the last day would be the same as last year and undershot it by a week. The problem with this was not academic, but social. Every party and field trip under the sun was missed by our daughters, lending more fuel to the fire of whiny moanies.
* Understand and accept that a lot can change between the time you book your vacation and when you actually take your vacation. My mom’s mobility has basically become immobility, and we are not at a wheelchair-friendly location this first week. It is very steep and the walkways are uneven. But we are adapting. We were given a great back road parking spot and I had the foresight to purchase a travel wheelchair before we left. Little did I know it would become a main staple of our trip.
* Don’t ever give up or lose your sense of humor. It is priceless and aside from strong coffee (which I gave up, made the move to decaf, something I swore would never happen. Of course that could have something to do with my inability to think things through sensibly) chocolate croissants and a glass of whatever special beverage of choice is in the evening) may be your main survival skill.
* Make sure you have at least one other conversationalist on your trip. My husband is a quiet guy, my mom’s cognitive state is altered, my teen daughter is snarky, and my younger daughter hasn’t quite achieved the appropriate balance in her conversational skills (she talks way more than she listens) and so our older son who came along has been a Godsend. But he leaves after the first week. Aside from helping with my mom, my friend who will be joining us, will fulfill this role.
* Learn from trips gone wrong. Don’t assume that if you don’t change your plans or expectations things will go any better the next time. Making the same decisions expecting different outcomes is the definition of insanity. There is enough of that in life as there is, you don’t need to pay for the deluxe version by taking a vacation!
And smile, smile, smile. You are still creating memories that will be the fodder of stories to come. They just may not always be the idyllic ones you hoped for.