Yes, I Am Allowed To Take a Vacation. So Are My Kids.

Something really weird happened to me today.

My kids and I are on vacation. I know, shocker. Everyone else takes a vacation and there are photos and stories and Instagrams and Snapchats and canceled plans – “sorry, going to be in Cabo that week!”

I take a vacation and everyone acts like I’ve gone on a two week cocaine bender and spent the electric bill money on a balloon of heroin.

My kids wanted one thing for Christmas: a trip somewhere. Anywhere. We so infrequently leave the area, and having just about everything under the sun they could ever imagine or want, it’s what they naturally asked for. I had a trip planned that was drivable, in our Christmas budget, and would involve stuff they enjoy (shopping, tennis, waterpark, etc.).

Then as Christmas neared, it all sort of fell apart.

First, my dad had surgery on his hip and it was taking much longer to recover than planned. That meant he would need someone to stay home with him.

My husband was SWAMPED at work, I mean swamped; so a vacation was not exactly ideal for him either.

But the kids and I were still all about it; packing and getting those little travel sized bottles of our toiletries…we were just about ready and the day was swiftly nearing for us to leave, then my oldest daughter hurt her knee and rendered herself un-vacation-able.

The resort was nice enough to refund me our entire booking, and I quickly sprung into action to salvage Christmas. I filled the bottom of the tree with some basic gifts I knew my kids would appreciate, and started trying to plan a substitute vacation that wouldn’t require so much physical activity on her knee.

I mean…a trip was what they asked for, and had already been promised…

So I said I would take them to El Segundo to shop and stay for a few days before the holidays; that didn’t pan out because Christmas chaos got in the way. Then I thought *well how about Solvang for New Years.* Didn’t happen. My kids started getting that whole *things Mom promises never come true* air about them, though, so you guys can imagine my delight when both of their tennis teams got invited to the section championships…

…in the same exact place our original trip was planned for (only further out enough in weeks for my daughter’s injury to heal).

Easy peasy, right?

So I got back on the horn with our reservations and the plans; I kicked our activities planning and packing back into full swing. I had an entire bag of those travel sized toiletry things now. My dad and husband’s restrictions were still in place, but that wasn’t going to stop us this time.

So on Tuesday, we headed out. And we are here now.

But I’ll be honest with you guys: I’m not really enjoying it.

We slept really late yesterday, and I woke up feeling like shit. Not like I was ill, but like I should have been up doing things.

We are on vacation and all I could think about was doing the laundry and wiping down the counters.

I took the kids to explore the town a little. We came four days ahead of the rest of their team mates, so we have time to kill and there is a lot to do here. Because my kids play tennis and we’ve never been to the BNP Paribas, I took them to the Indian Wells Tennis Garden to have a look around. We headed out to the Living Desert Zoo. Then we ended our day on a local court so they could get in some pre-tournament practice.

I felt awful the whole time. Same thing: others are still up at home working, going to school, doing their chores. And we have the gall to be here enjoying ourselves?

Today – Thursday – has been no different. I woke up feeling unsettled. Like we needed to be doing things. Productive things, not enjoyable things. Not relaxing things.

Definitely not relaxing.

My kids homeschool, so they aren’t missing school or anything; and actually they worked on school all through the public school Christmas break. So while other people we knew were in Hawaii and Cancun and Cabo and Chicago and Bali and Thailand and Big Bear and Aspen, we were at home doing school work and canceling our own plans.

Still, I woke up looking for educational things around the area we could do. Because I just feel like I shouldn’t be taking breaks, from anything.

Why is that?

Then today it came to me, like an epiphany: I feel like shit because I am still letting others influence my feelings and thoughts.

I still let other people’s comments affect how I live my life.

I still let other people’s negativity impact my knowing that how I’m raising my kids is the right way for us.

In the weeks and days that led up to us leaving this past Tuesday, I found myself explaining over and over again to every person I saw just why, how, and what was the reasoning behind us going to the tournament early.

And to be fair, people often questioned or commented or even demanded answers.

“Oh I wish I could afford to go early” – from someone that spent their Christmas in Mexico.

“Wow, must be nice to not have kids in school so you can do whatever you want” – from someone whose middle schooler skipped the first week of school this year to go to Europe.

I counted a whopping 15 questions and comments as I sat here this morning, from people we have seen or talked to over the last few weeks, that were all along those lines.

This is my perpetual dilemma, and it’s weird and I’m tired of it. No one else feels they have to ask permission or explain themselves for the way they live their lives to me. So why do I?

Today I realized that it’s perhaps just the aftermath of all the years of me putting myself in this defendable position. The tangled mess of those years of opening myself up to the judgment and opinions of others won’t unwind overnight. For whatever reason, I still don’t allow myself to enjoy my life. Which is a shame, because I’m teaching my children to do the same.

I fell down in my quest to enjoy life unjudged and in peace this last week or two, when I apologetically explained and defended to everyone that asked just why we would have the gall to do something so heinous as go on vacation. But, I’m correcting that right now before it’s too late.

Something really weird happened to me today. I caught myself allowing old habits to creep up and ruin this experience. I am allowed to take a vacation. So are my kids. The details of it – where we are going, why we are staying there, how we can do such a thing when other people are at school and work – is just a fact of life.

Sadly, I can no longer go to my local FedEx Kinkos

I’m thinking about getting a map of a fifty mile radius around my home and tacking it up on the wall, then placing pins in all the places I can no longer go. On the map would be the big Ventura post office, for I would be horrified to experience that whole ‘lady and her bizarre flatus‘ thing again. I don’t go to the Starbucks near the Barnes and Noble because a guy I dated works there, and I’d rather not deal with that. Needless to say, I find a lot of sort of stupid reasons not to go to some places around me, and then sometimes I find myself making such a fool out of things that I would rather not return for fear of more humiliation. Today was one of those days.

Although, to be fair, it was really my 69 year old father that added the Ventura FedEx Kinkos to the list of places I can no longer go to.

Let me back it up a bit. You all remember I declared myself on a vacation from life, so to speak, in preparation of my three week, cross-country trip home for the first time in over a decade. Of course, when I say “home” I mean Chicago – I have never and will not consider California to be welcoming enough to call “home.” Both feeling a little homesick, my father and I decided to take this trip together in spite of all the family vacations that turned complete disaster when I was little. So we are only a few days away from departing on what is sure to be an exciting, educational, and likely insane cross-country trip.

The world travelers, years before our current traveling madness.

Because we are traveling as light as possible, though, we ended up having to ship out the majority of our clothing for the time we will be in the Chicagoland area. This really seemed like the easiest and most logical decision, particularly because in addition to clothing we had an assload of souvenirs to take back for friends and family.

So flash forward to today and my 69 year old father in desperate need of a hip replacement decided it was the day that we must take our packed clothes and souvenirs to FedEx to ship. Enter the triad of actions that made it such that I can no longer go to my local FedEx Kinkos:

Incident One: Dad took FedEx employee liberties

So we walked into the store and it was a combination of the Kinkos copy shop and the FedEx shipping center. Behind the counter there were a variety of dollies and rollers that can be used for unloading and loading boxes, and there were two employees working. Rather than ask one of the readily available employees, though, my father just stalked behind the counter as if he works there and took a dolly. I started laughing, the employees started laughing, my dad muttered “whatever” and walked out to the car to load our boxes onto the dolly.

Incident Two: Dad dropped the f-bomb

I handed all the paperwork over to the woman working behind the counter and apologized for my father taking employee liberties, and she giggled and began to input all the information into her computer, and asked me the usual questions about what is being shipped, how we want to ship it all, etc. As we were finishing off all the input of the paperwork, my dad stalked back in with the loaded dolly, looking like he was going to fall over. Remember that I mentioned a few paragraphs up that he is in desperate need of a complete hip replacement – an operation he vehemently opposes. So he was hobbling a little and I was of course wondering why he wouldn’t just let me handle the dolly to begin with (we won’t go there), and he walked up to the counter and said loudly “Jesus, it’s like I’m a fucking stevedore.” Enter more Heather-employee laughter.

Incident Three: Dad announced for the entire Kinkos and FedEx to hear that we are not transporting any illegal goods

For absolutely no reason at all, my father then proceeded to announce loudly to the entire store that we were not transporting any illegal goods. I have no idea why, but for weeks prior he was worried that we were going to get in trouble for shipping California souvenirs to other states, or for sending so many boxes at one time (he said it may seem suspicious). I think my dad has been watching too many Columbo mysteries on television or something, because his paranoia seemed a little odd and out of place. In any event, he felt it necessary to announce loudly that nothing was being shipped illegally, in essence heightening the humiliation factor to a level that was beyond my own level of tolerance. I have a pretty high threshold, but this was just too much. So I said I’d wait in the car and left, laughing and simultaneously covering my shame in the process.

My father is quite clearly just as crazy as I am. When he came out he informed me that his devastating charm secured a smooth shipping of the packages. I’m sure that was it, dad.

You faithful blog followers can now begin betting on what bizarre happenings will take place on this trip. With the whole-family dynamic in place who in God’s name knows what will go down. This FedEx Kinkos incident was only the beginning.