"Why do we do it?" This is the question I pose my walking buddy. Why do we invite, look forward to, and lay elaborate plans to have our grown children--and their children--join us for a vacation? I'm asking her because she, like me, admits to having pre-trip anxiety.
Some of those anxieties revolve around the relationship between our children. Like me, her son and daughter do not live near each other. They see each other at various family events--and only occasionally plan a visit to each other's homes. Her daughter, she says, doesn't have much in commonwith her sister-in-law; ditto son and son-in-law. Though there's good will between the two young families, there isn't a strong bond pulling the families together. The reasons for that can become all-too-clear when everyone's on vacation in a big house on a small lake in an aging town in Vermont.
My friend talks about one regular sore point. Her daughter is not a morning person. That is, mornings don't mean a march out to the mountain for a vigorous hike. They mean an extra hour or so at the breakfast table, flipping through magazines, having a second cup of coffee, letting the kids amuse themselves. Her husband takes himself off to the golf course.
Her son and hjis wife are early risers who see the morning as the best time to get out into the fresh air and hike, row the boat around the lake, play tennis and ride bikes with their kids.
My friend says she can feel the tension between the two families--feelings not exactly of disdain but of, well, mutual non-admiration. She can feel her daughter feeling guilty but unrepentent about lingering over coffee and wondering why her brother and family are in such a hurry in the morning. It's vacation, isn't it?
She can also sense her daughter-in-law's disregard for her daughter's morning routine. There's so much to do, so much energy to expend--time is awasting. How could anyone sit around when the air is so fresh and the outdoor activity so inviting? Shouldn't her niece and nephew be paddling a canoe or playing tennis or doing something invigorating outside?
It's not a big thing. It's a little nagging worry that my friend has that her daughter might feel resentful; that her son may look down at his sister's "laziness;" that the two of them are never going to be buddies. By extension, does that also mean they won't lean on each other in times of emotional stress? The week together only emphasizes the differences, even as it builds family traditions and mutual experiences.
As she sits and watches it, my friend feels her inner aggravation rising--even though there's no one to be angry at or disillusioned with. It's just the reality of the family dynamic. Not bad. Just not all that she could wish it could be. I have a different set of specifics but a similar dynamic. I second the emotion.