I have a love-hate relationship with vacation. I love seeing new places, eating good food (cooked by others), and relaxing. I hate being away from home, traveling with kids, and packing/unpacking. My little idealistic voice always talks me in to yet another vacation. This one will be different. This one will be better. Your kids need childhood memories…
While no family vacation is without some challenges, we’ve had some pretty good vacations over the years. My favorite was also my least favorite, until this year. This year was the epic fail (or “epic hell” could also be used to describe it).
We learned years ago that low-key vacations at the beach work best for our son, Ricochet. And, frankly, they work best for this momma, too. Being free to run, play, explore, and chill out brings out the best in our kid with ADHD and autism. No schedule, just making it up as we go.
We’ve had many family beach trips that were barely memorable. Trust me, that’s a good thing when memorable is often because of struggle.
This year we had a special family vacation planned. Our daughter graduated from high school and we had been promising for years to take her to New York City the summer after graduation. My husband and I love NYC. We knew our daughter would like a lot about it too (she’s fantasized about the big city most of her childhood).
The problem was, I knew it wasn’t a good fit for Ricochet. I didn’t suspect it was a bad fit, I absolutely, positively knew it would be a monumental challenge for him. Then, we chose to take him to NYC with us anyway. He’s part of our family — how could we possibly consider excluding him from our family vacation?!?!
I reminded myself that I always advise families not to exclude activities because their child has challenges, but to accommodate their needs so they have the same childhood and life experiences. I became resolute that I could follow my own advice and make a vacation in NYC work — that Ricochet would enjoy the city, despite the noise, crowds, and long days of walking. My resolve never made it past day 1. By day 2, it was clearly an epic fail.
A Hectic Schedule Does Not
In order to see and enjoy NYC, one has to have a plan and a pretty strict schedule. There’s far more to see and do than anyone can accomplish in months and months of trying. Before our trip, I researched and made a list of all the places we wanted to eat, shop, and see while in NYC. I categorized them by area of the island, and then assigned a day to each area. I also made sure to pack electronics and headphones for Ricochet. It really was a noble effort.
We split the nearly 12-hour drive into two days each way, stopping for the night in Virginia going up and coming back. We got into the city and settled in time to grab some dinner. We chose to find sushi for our daughter, since her anxiety about her brother on this trip was already getting the best of her. And we found great sushi less than a block away. Ricochet was already agitated from two days of driving and me trying to navigate driving in NYC (far enough to get to our apartment rental, I’m not completely insane), so we let him order what he wanted and play electronics during dinner. Yummy food, peace through dinner: Score!
Then we decided to explore some of the city on foot. We didn’t pay a fortune to sit in a tiny apartment in NYC.
It didn’t take long before Ricochet’s ankles and legs were hurting and he began whining. To his credit, he does have some orthopedic issues that cause some pain, but we didn’t realize how serious that could be because we’ve never walked for hours like that.
Of course, he became hopelessly stuck on his legs hurting. He started refusing to go places and begging to go back to the apartment shortly after if he did. His perseveration was mind-numbingly annoying. That wasn’t his fault, that’s the way his brain works; but it made all of us completely miserable. I started to sit in the apartment with him about 50% of the day while his dad and sister went out and had fun (my feet were swollen and painful too, due to fibromyalgia, but I had been pushing through).
Barely anything got marked off our trip’s “bucket list” as completed. We made sure to hit a few, but mostly changed our plans entirely to accommodate Ricochet. That ended up giving his sister a chance to have some alone time with Daddy, and some with me, as we traded off spending downtime at the apartment with Ricochet. She and I got to have a fancy lunch with a friend and go see Wicked! on Broadway, which was amazing!
I guess I should say that my plans and overriding my intuition were an epic fail, but not the vacation really. We learned more about Ricochet (including that he needs custom orthotics again), and his sister did get to experience NYC, as she dreamed of doing.
Next summer, we are most definitely going back to the beach! 😀