How To Have a Successful Multi-Family Vacation
It was just about a year ago that I brought my daughter with me to visit a dear friend, and after years of trading visits to one another’s houses, our kids got to hang out together. As much fun as it was, there was just one problem—my son was jealous that his sister had met Kira’s kids and he still had not. It had been a simple scheduling issue, but I understood his disappointment. For months I joked that we’d obviously reached the point where our entire families had to get together. My son had missed out on meeting the kids, and although I know Kira’s husband and my husband knows her, the husbands had never met, and that felt weird, too.
When our big family trip this year was declared, I felt a surge of glee beyond the excitement of seeing the family on vacation; we were headed to a rental in Colorado? Perfect! We would spend a week with the family, then extend our stay by a few days so that we could go visit Kira’s family—the rental was just a few hours from their house. At long last, we’d have our entire families in the same place. It would be perfect.
Well… I think I’ve mentioned that my husband had very little experience with kids before we married, though of course I think he’s the world’s most awesome stepdad. (On a good day, the kids might even agree with me.) Kira has four children, twice as many as we do. Kira’s four children are all incredible, and she’s the kind of mother I often wish I will someday be (patient and loving really don’t convey the depth of her abilities, but it’s a good start). Together, we spent several days with three times as many children as we normally have on hand.
“Are you okay?” I finally asked my husband, the day before we left.
“Sure,” he said. “And everyone’s great—I’m really glad we finally did this—but… it’s just so… loud.” He wasn’t wrong. Also, he may have been a little shellshocked.
Kira’s middle son and my daughter are, we have been joking for the past year, pretty much the same person. That meant double the frenetic energy of teenagers capable of being either the sweetest person in the room or the most trying. My son fell into step with Kira’s youngest son, both of them by turns exuberant and petulant. They spent most of our visit working on Gerbiltopia, a complicated arrangement of cardboard boxes and tubes and packing tape designed to make the resident gerbils either feel very regal or very lost. And of course Kira’s 5-year-old daughter was twirling around in the middle of this mass of teenagers, too. It was wonderful. And messy. And loud. And I’m not sure my husband had been quite prepared for it all.
Of course there were moments, too, when my kids crossed the line and I cringed. You always hope they’ll behave well at someone else’s house, and of course they did (for the most part), but in those moments I worried. I knew Kira wouldn’t judge, but I found myself worrying about my husband’s reaction, her husband’s reaction, even the other kids’ reaction. And it was… pretty much fine. We’re all human. All of our kids are still learning how to be cooperative humans. And in the middle of the loudness, there was a lot of love and understanding. I guess there sort of has to be, with this many kids around, but I was still grateful for another safe haven for my children, even if it’s one thousands of miles away which we only get to visit once in a great while.
I left feeling like I hadn’t gotten enough time with Kira. I never get enough time with Kira, because really I would like Kira to live next door. But the time we got was wonderful, and I was glad for our entire families to finally meet and loved every minute of all of our kids running around together.
Last year, my daughter declared Kira’s kids her bonus siblings. When I asked my son how he felt about finally meeting them all, he cracked a joke about how it had been about time that he’d met all his extra brothers and sister. And when my husband thanked Kira’s husband for his hospitality, he invited him to bring the family down to our place for the next visit (and he meant it). It wasn’t perfect—there were squabbles, and moments of real tension, and a couple of times I wished I had one of those time-turning devices so that I could go back and stop my children from saying or doing something—but it felt like a big family reunion. I was both sorry to see it end, and happy to return home.
As for the husbands… well, let’s just say both of them have earned their nominations for sainthood. I’m not saying we’re difficult women to love, I’m just saying that in the middle of a giant swarm of teens, seeing another man field the same issues with good humor may have provided a bolstering, virtual fist-bump maybe neither of them knew they needed. And I feel pretty certain that they were both left with a deep gratitude for only the number of kids they have, too.
I’d say that’s a pretty successful trip, right there.