Some people feel a little sad when the holidays are over. It makes sense. We spend all year waiting for Christmas and spend tons of time shopping, baking, going to parties, traveling, you name it…and then, in a blink of an eye, it’s over. It’s crazy, isn’t it? Why do we look forward to it so much when it’s not even the real reason we celebrate Christmas? I think it’s because we know it’s the season to spend with family, a once-a-year reunion for a lot of us, a chance to catch up and make new memories. It sounds great, doesn’t it? All “Norman Rockwell-y”, carols around the tree, going to church together, laughing around the big kitchen table, everyone’s so happy!
Hello! Welcome to the real world! Okay, this may be a reality for some people, but reality for my family is a little different. A lot different.
This past Christmas, we traveled to Georgia and spent a few days with my side of the family. We live in Florida so it’s not an extremely long trip, like when we lived in Texas. Just making the decision to go is the first step. Now, don’t get me wrong; I LOVE my friends and family and I miss them terribly. I always cherish our time together and wish we had more time. But it’s just such a job to make ANY trip happen. Here’s how the trip goes.
- Step 1 – There is the endless barrage of questions from my son (Tyler, who has Down syndrome): when are we going, what time are we leaving, how long does it take to get there, what highway are we taking, when do I need to pack, how many movies can I take, how long are we staying, can we stay longer, why do we have to come back that day, can we leave tomorrow, should I pack now, why do I have to take a coat, why can’t I wear flip flops, why do I need long pants, is it time to pack yet, what time do you THINK we’re leaving??????? And then there’s my daughter whose only concern is whether or not she can stay at her cousin’s house every night. The questions never end so I’m not even going to pretend that step 1 ever ends.
- Step 2 – Consists of lists, packing (each child wants to pack their own suitcase), mom checking said suitcases, issuing orders to go and re-pack according to what is on the list, mom re-checking, mom going to each child’s room and actually handing listed items to children to put in their suitcases, enforcing the one suitcase policy, agreeing to the extra pillows, blankets, and stuffed animals that didn’t fit in suitcases, explaining to Dad that we’ll find room for it.
- Step 3 – Is the car ready? Tires checked? Oil? Gas? DVD ready? Dog supplies? Luggage? Snacks? Kids? Dogs? Wait! Did everyone potty? Go potty! NOW! Because I said so!
- Step 4 – Hit the road! Ride back by the house to make sure we actually shut the garage door. We’re on the highway, ten miles later realize we forgot the air mattress! Keep going, it’ll be easier to stop and buy one later. Hit mile 11 and come to a complete stop. Creep at 5 mph for the next hour, try to calm husband and avoid what to looks to be like an imminent implosion. Assure my son that, YES, we are STILL in Florida! Stop to eat lunch in shifts so we don’t leave our two dogs alone in the car. (We have a howler that tends to draw attention… exactly what she wants!) Enforce the potty break rule…GO! Hit the road again. Answer call from my dad and explain that no, we are not in Georgia yet. Decide to take “back roads” for a change. We enjoy the scenery but not the slower pace. Explain to son, town by town, where we are because he’s tracking our progress on the atlas. Assure my daughter for the 50th time that we probably will not arrive in time for her to spend the night at her cousin’s house. Reassure her that she will live. Stop for gas. Hubby fills car so I jump out with both kids and take them inside to use the bathroom and get a snack. Look out the window and my hubby had taken the dogs for a walk… across the street, thus leaving the car unattended with keys in the ignition, purse on floorboard, backseat full of electronics and gifts. Panic, hurry kids to restrooms only to find out they’re out of order! Back on the road. Get to Macon, Georgia and stop to purchase and air mattress. We finally make it to my dad’s house, hours later than we’d anticipated arriving. It’s freezing and the race is on for the bathroom! The guys unload the car and the real fun begins. My son has his “own room” at my dad’s. He stays with my dad every time we visit Georgia, no matter whose house the rest of us stay at, he always, always stays with my dad. The rest of us are left to figure out sleeping arrangements. Hubby and I will take other guest room and tween daughter will sleep on air mattress in living room. Wake up at 3 a.m. to daughter plundering through suitcases; she was confused and thought it was time to get dressed for the day. Try to sleep on bed much smaller than we’re used to, wake up with back ache and dark circles under eyes. Day one of vacation now begins.
As you can see, taking a vacation is not as easy as simply jumping in the car and leaving. I know it’s like this for many other people. What makes us different, though, is the stuff that we deal with regarding our son’s disability. It’s the kind of stuff that we deal with daily and privately, but it’s hard to keep it private when we’re staying in someone else’s home. It’s the stuff like trying to make him understand that he might not have his own special seat in the living room like he does at home. It can be stressful keeping up with things like whether he actually pulled all of the sheets off of his bed because he doesn’t want to touch them (he takes his own), whether he tossed the bathroom mats out in the hallway because he can’t tolerate them touching his feet, whether he flooded the bathroom because he didn’t pull the shower curtain all the way, did he drink all of their orange juice, did he eat too much, did he get upset about misunderstanding something, has he come out of his room at all to visit, how is his hygiene, has he offended anyone with his explicit honesty, the list goes on and on. It’s exhausting staying on top of him, trying to explain to others why he says and does things, why he needs alone time sometimes. WHY? And then trying to assure them that we do try to watch his diet and make sure he gets exercise.
My family loves us and they mean well, but it’s hard spending time during the holidays with family. But I know it’s stressful for them when we stay with them…which, in turn, stresses me out.
Can anyone relate? I’m not complaining about my family; I love them more than they will ever realize! I just feel like we live on a different planet sometimes because much of my life revolves around someone they haven’t had to deal with. Add that to the normal stresses of traveling and you understand why I feel relief that the holidays are over and we can get back to our routine. And back to planning the next trip…
– Laurie Lam, Springible Contributor