There’s nothing quite like a family vacation, is there? The planning and processing, the hunt for the perfect location, the fun of picking a time and place, the non-fun of squeezing a budget together…. It’s an experience like no other, and summer is the perfect time to pull it off.
We’ve never done a big vacation with all five of us, so this year seemed like a good time to start. After much debate and discussion, we decided on Mexico, the Maya Riviera to be exact. I hyper-ventilated my way through airline reservations (we all know how much I love to fly), figured out the resort and accomodations, filled out passport applications and ran around like a crazy person to get them for the kids (that’s a blog unto itself); we coordinated calendars, shopped, packed, made 57 lists and somehow got everyone to the airport on time with all necessary pieces of self and luggage.
Perhaps it was the exhaustion resulting from such a herculean effort, or perhaps it was the distraction of having all three of our children on an international flight as their first time in an airplane….or perhaps it was my amusement at the flight attendant that kept sneaking us contraband snacks (he would hide them under his apron, then lean over pretending to ask for my drink order while dropping cans of Pringles or bags of cookies in my lap and then pointing to kids – he was smitten with Emry), but my usual flying anxiety/nausea was more under control than usual. So, yay for that. It helped make up for the fact that I had to get out of my seat to take Emry to the potty every 10 minutes.
We made it safely through the Cancun airport, sailed through customs and smiled as Drew practiced his Spanish with every customs agent and airport or resort employee he saw. It was late when we got to the resort, so our real fun began the next morning.
What a great place this was! I cannot say enough good things about Tres Rios Haciendas – if you ever have the chance to go there, do so. Food, staff, views….fabulous, every bit.
We purposefully didn’t buy any international plans for our phones, and the resort only allowed internet access for one device per room (best idea ever), so we were unplugged for seven days. Seven whole days of family fun and togetherness with no interruptions. It was amazing.
There is something to be said for times of rebuilding and bonding in your core group. It’s easy to overlook, and gets away from us if we’re not careful.
We were a unit, totally and completely together, in a strange place, with a different language, new experiences and non-typical foods.
Our kids ate it up. They tried everything! Every. Single. Thing. Food, activities, sports, communicating…..they were in the thick of it as we cheered them on.
They were addicted to virgin Pina Coladas, and our two non-Spanish speakers learned very quickly how to order them in Spanish. They would do so quite frequently, bringing a “round” for everyone at regular intervals (at least they were serving each other, right?).
We did get tweeted by the lifeguards more than once. I can’t point fingers here, since Mommy was the first one in trouble – apparently, they do not want you doing back flips off the planters in the center of the pool. Who knew?
Also, our children can’t resist – if they see a bridge, they want to jump off of it. It’s a compulsion. We’ll work on it.
Safety concerns aside. we stuck together and learned just how fun we are as a whole. We had conversations, and laughed at jokes. We were amazed anew at the differences in our children’s personalities, and the speed with which each picked up particular skills. Drew was a natural under water at scuba (he’s got a few years before he can go on a dive) and snorkelling, and his Spanish was a beautiful surprise to the staff and vendors. Luke put his salsa skills to good use, dancing on the beach with his mom (and he wasn’t even embarrassed by me), and blew both his dad and the dive instructors away on his first scuba adventure. Emry jumped, swam, played and charmed everywhere she went. She made friends at every turn, and the staff was literally in tears when they had to say goodbye to her.
It was fun, yes, but it was also inspiring to watch our kids experience so many cool things, and to embrace the foreign with abandon. We lose a little of that as we grow, I think. We forget to let go of our preconceived notions and our comfort, and to just jump in with both feet, shouting for joy and ready for adventure.
Different doesn’t have to intimidate; it can exhilarate just as easily.
And whether we like the experience enough to repeat it, or discover definitively that a particular enterprise is not for us, the lesson is in the learning. There’s a humility to that, and growth that comes from it.
We spent seven days together as a family, and it was glorious. We found out new things about each other. We watched each other soak up every drop of verve and vivacity from our time in Mexico.
That’s LIVING. It only works if you’re all in.
Solidarity, sisters. The family that plays together, stays together.