So I got back from vacation this weekend with Mr. Mary Tyler Mom and Mary Tyler Son. Oh yeah, and three other families who happen not to be related to one another. Communal vacation, yo! They’re not just for hippies anymore!
Mr. Mary Tyler Mom is much more of an upstanding citizen than myself. He actually maintains friendships from his childhood that go beyond the virtual friendships of facebook. I envy him that. Anyways. For about a decade this group of pals and spouses have been getting together for an annual summer reunion. They were always fun. Long, lazy weekends with beer and food and great conversations about how we would manage to screw up the kids we had not yet conceived.
This year our destination was a beach house, with the Atlantic Ocean in our front yard, in Emerald Isle, North Carolina. It was our triumphant return to the gathering, as we have been out since moving to Cancerville in 2007. This post is gonna focus on the good, the bad, and the ugly of fifteen folks in a house meant to accommodate twelve, but if you want another take on the same vacation, one more focused on taking a communal vacation when you’re in the midst of grieving your daughter, you can read this one:
Okay. Where was I? Oh, yes. Communal vacations. I gotta say, they’re kind of intense. Lots of kids, seven for those keeping score at home, between the ages of 2 and 9. And one grandfather to boot, subbing for a wife who was back at home working. So fifteen folks, all told. The house was beautiful, and honestly more than adequately sized for our needs. Kudos to the gal who set us up, the Martha Stewart of Iowa, as I affectionately (and yes, somewhat enviously, call her). But, as promised, this will focus on the good, the bad, and the ugly of communal vacations.
- Communal vacations encourage you to go places you would not go on your own. I am not really a beachy gal, so were it not for the planning and enthusiasm of others in the group, no way I would get it together to bring my family to a week on the North Carolina shore, which is definitely worth a visit, despite the shark that took a bite out of a girl’s leg roughly twenty miles from where we were swimming.
- When you spend time with other families, you watch them parent, and if you’re smart, you’ll learn something. For reals. Each of the four families there are different from one another, and each has something to teach me about raising Mary Tyler Son. Like I am not offering nearly enough vegetables. Or family games can actually be fun, instead of the mind numbing exercise in patience I have always assumed them to be.
- You get the opportunity for a seven year old girl to develop a Mom Crush on you. Mid-week, this beautiful girl says to me, “I don’t mean this as an insult, and don’t take it as an insult, but you are the most childish of the adults here.” Ha! I love that. Mary Tyler Mom is not too self-conscious or uptight to know that coming in second in the kid’s Michael Jackson’s Dance Expereince for Wii contest is Fun. Fun with a capital “F” Fun.
- When four families from three different states commit the time and $ to vacation together, there is the expectation that you will do things together. And this is not bad, but when you do everything together, this has the potential to be bad. It needs to be watched, monitored, and understood that individual family time is A-OK.
- Food can be problematic. Some of us are vegetarian, some of us produce our own food, and some of us eat pb and j for dinner. Gratefully, given the affection and familiarity of the families, this was not such a problem. Except on the last day, in a mad dash to get out on time, we ditched vast amounts of food on the next door neighbor, lest it not be tossed in the garbage. Methinks we overpurchased in an attempt to appease all the different palates.
- So some of the families gathered at the beach are more lax with screen time and sweets than others. Yes, it turns out that when you lose a kid to cancer, things like nightly dessert or daily Diego don’t seem so bad to us. But for other families, standards higher than ours are important. Except, of course, for the adults. We freaking spent all day extolling the virtues of healthy eating and outdoor fun, but damn, as soon as that last precious little angel was tucked away for the night, didn’t we adults begin our orgy of chocolate and electronics. Word. Between the eight adults, we had four iPads, six laptops, and seven smart phones. And let’s just say that I wish we had bought some stock in M&M/Mars before we left.
- Communal bathrooms suck. Thank the Good Lord above that we were tucked away in a small room with an equally small bathroom, but it was ours. Private. Not to be used by others. If we had had the room across the hall, we would have needed to host the more than occasional youngster, beer drinker, or passerby. Yeah, Mary Tyler Mom does not do communal bathrooms. Martha Stewart of Iowa, God love her, knows this about me, she must, as she knew which room to assign to whom.
So there it is, folks. Communal vacations, on the whole, are definitely something I would recommend. In general, know who you’re traveling with, know one another’s quirks, embrace your own bad traits and be kind in embracing others. And don’t, for the love of God, get eaten by a shark.