A few days ago my family got home from a week-long vacation in the Poconos. My parents have a time-share villa there that belong to my grandparents for over 30 years. I went there many times as a kid, so it’s associated with a lot of good memories. Between those memories, new ones made with my kids and their grandparents, and a few days spent with my sister and her kids, you’d think that I’d come home feeling good. And I did – sort of. Ever since we packed up to go home, though, I’ve been in a funk.
It started as I did my paranoia check, walking from room-to-room, double- and triple-checking to make sure we aren’t leaving anything behind. As I checked my parents’ room, the usual meloncholy associated with good things ending hit. Then, before I’d left the room, I was suddenly overcome with sadness from missing my grandparents. It didn’t take long before missing my deceased grandparents turned into dread and panic about watching my parents get old – and worse. In short order my thoughts took me into the future, seeing Amanda and myself as an old couple sharing the villa with our grandchildren. You might think this should be a pleasant daydream, filled with hope for the future, but between imagining myself old enough to be parentless and terror about my own mortality, it was not.
The 8 hour drive home (including stops for bathroom breaks and food) gave me ample time for introspective thought. I reflected on how different vacations are with children than without. It’s hard to relax and do things you enjoy when you’re focused on the happiness of your children (and rightly so). Unable to really relax and do the fun things I wanted to do, I focused on helping my kids to have a good time and make good memories with each other, their grandparents, and their cousins. Fretting about that amidst the usual chaos of family life, amplified by the excitement and stimulation of vacation, made me anxious in ways I wasn’t fully aware of until I thought about it in retrospect.
As we got closer to home, what I can only describe as PTSD hit. What if home life is as exhausting, stressful, and rancor-filled as it was before vacation? What if we go right back to our rut of impatience and yelling? What if the relative peace, calm, and cooperation of vacation don’t continue at home? Then, upon approaching the last turn before our house, Joel said something that cut me to the core. Suddenly recognizing where we were, he shouted, “NO! We always fight there!” I hope by “we” he just meant himself and his siblings, but even excluding his parents wouldn’t bring much comfort. Obviously, I wasn’t the only one dreading returning to the status quo ante.
Since getting home and unpacking everything, I’ve been bothered by all these thoughts, and I’ve added to them sadness and anxiety (depression?) about the ways that I’m not living my life the way I really want to. I don’t mean that things haven’t worked out the way I wanted, per se. Nobody gets everything they want, and I know I’m fortunate in ways that many are not. What I mean is that I’m not reacting to the diversions, disappointments, and difficulties of life as gracefully as I want. I’m disappointing myself, and I worry that I’m disappointing my family.
So…yeah…if I seem blue when we talk, this is why. Is this just what life after vacations is like when you’re a parent? We haven’t been able to afford the time or money to take vacations (Heck, we didn’t even have a honeymoon), so we don’t have many experiences to compare to. Has anyone else experienced this, or it just me?