A Dad Learns About Maintaining Balance on a Family Vacation

“Don’t mess with contentment!”

That was the advice of a close friend after sharing with him my most recent parenting foible.  A persistent theme in my parenting is the desire to plan a time with our kids that will meet all my expectations. (Note that I want them to meet my expectations.) I have written about it before and, although I have learned that I cannot create situations that meet with what I hope, I remain steadfast in a desire to create memorable experiences.

The 18th century’s calling

We planned a trip to Colonial Williamsburg. A short jaunt during spring break that I thought would be enjoyable and educational for the kids. I involved them in the planning. My daughter was interested in certain activities, including an archeological dig, and my son thought the muskets and tri-cornered hats were definitely what he wanted to bring back home.

On the trip down we encountered a few fights between the kids but I held out hope that they would be as excited as I was to visit the 18th century. Our arrival told me otherwise— the 21st century was still beckoning with a pool. I conceded, but only as long as we went the village first.

The kids held to my itinerary, but their requests to go to the pool kept mounting. I gave in, but did not compromise my determination to make sure that we would also enjoy the things that we had traveled so long and paid so much to see— not just spend time in a pool.

Hardly a compromise     

It needs to be pointed out here that my wife was the voice of reason throughout this experience. She told me to stay calm and remember that my interests were not exactly the kids.

I had hope that the kids would enjoy the special programs that we had planned to sign up for. That is where my first disappointment was met. When my wife went to sign up she found that every extra program was filled.

Although disappointed, I held fast to visiting the village. We walked around most of the village until it was time for lunch. By this time there was fighting, moans of “I’m tired”, requests to buy something, and demands to go to the pool. It mounted through lunch as I continued to get frustrated. Finally I said that they should go back to the pool, but that I was going to get my money’s worth and visit the village by myself.

Direct, not dictate

That is exactly what they did, and I was left with visiting the village myself. As I walked and fumed, I realized that there was nothing I really wanted to see without them. After an hour, I walked back to the hotel and met them at the pool. They were having fun but were now more amenable to going back to the village and seeing some more sights and buying some gifts.

We had a wonderful evening that night and even were able to experience some things together— like I had hoped we would.

In the end, the lesson was that I should direct, but not dictate, so that everyone can have fun and be sure to never upset contentment.