We never took vacations when I was growing up. We never loaded up in the Family Truckster to drive out to Wally World; we never went to the Grand Canyon; we never went anywhere on vacation. I’ve read in several places that if you get vacation time from your employer, not using it is like leaving money on the table; I’ve read that taking time off is good for me — healthy, essential. As far as I know, though, Dad never took a single vacation day from work, the entire time I was growing up.
Oh, three or four times we got to go along with Dad on a business trip, but that’s different — while Dad was doing whatever he did for Dow on a trip, Mom and I would go see something. Or sit in the hotel.
When I was in kindergarten, we went to Washington, DC. It was the first time I flew. I know we went to some Smithsonians…I think Dad went to them with us, but I can’t remember much beyond the GIGANTIC green locomotive I saw.
When I was between first and second grades — and this is the big one — Mom and I joined Dad in Europe for three months. Dow had already put him there for three months, and we went there for the final three months. I was seven, and I thought it was great. We drove from our house in Germany to Holland, to Switzerland, to Italy and Sicily. All of those trips were so Dad could do something for work, though.
When I was 10, I flew to Washington, DC with Dad — he had a conference for work. I sat in the hotel room and demolished the mini-bar’s peanuts and snacks. No, I didn’t know it was super-expensive at the time. We did go see things after the conference…but then I got to fly home as an unattended minor.
And the last one before my parents divorced: When I was 14, we all loaded up into the car and drove from our home in Michigan to Cincinnati, Ohio…because Dad had a work thing. Mom and I saw the Cincinnati Zoo and the Air Force Museum in Dayton. Dad took us to Benihana.
But to load up and go somewhere as a family…just for a vacation? It never happened. Not once. The trip to Cincinnati was the closest, because we at least climbed into the car and drove there, but it wasn’t really a vacation. It was still a business trip that Mom and I tagged along on.
Mom and I took a couple of weekend trips without Dad — we went to Mackinac Island and the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, and to my aunts’ house in southern Michigan, but those weren’t really vacations either…just weekend trips without Dad.
So, I’m happy to be able to say that I’m not raising my family the same way. We’ve taken the kids on a vacation of some sort or other just about every year. Some of them were abysmal, like the trip to Kentucky and Mammoth Caves when my oldest girl was still a baby — we fought tooth and nail the whole way and the kids cried almost nonstop. One trip was life-changingly bad — when we drove to Williamsburg, Virginia and suffered from carbon monoxide poisoning that put me in the hospital overnight.
But for the most part, our vacations have been a good experience. We’ve been to Williamsburg (a second time to set things right!); Atlantic Beach, NC; Mackinac Island; Galveston, TX; St. Augustine, FL; North Georgia; and now that we live in Florida…Northern Michigan. We’ve taken the kids to Disney — someplace neither my nor my wife’s parents ever took us — Johnson Space Center, and other attractions. We’ve hit beaches on the Atlantic and the Gulf of Mexico. More, though, we’ve just taken time to go somewhere and relax, and not have to get up for school, or work, or anything but just a week of whatever we want to do.
I don’t know how my parents managed to never do this. Maybe it helped them get divorced sooner. I couldn’t imagine going to work and coming home, year after year with no breaks. I look forward to our vacations, and I enjoy them when we’re on them. And this year for the first time ever, I have enough time built up at work to actually be gone for TWO weeks this summer. I don’t think I’ve taken more than a week off since the twins were born, 8 years ago.
We have four kids, and any trip we all go on is an expensive undertaking, and a juggling act trying to find things that’ll interest all of them. But we do it, and we do it because we want to do it. My parents had one kid. One. Me. A vacation wouldn’t have been much more than throwing stuff in a car and going. But we never did.