We’re on vacation.
Yeah. Me too.
When it was just Mark and me, we could do pretty much whatever.
We took some vacations that were pretty intense, like England in late September, 2001 (yes, a week after 9/11). We took some vacations that were more laid back, like a completely unscheduled week on Edisto Island, SC. And we took a couple live-aboard dive boat vacations. Eat, sleep, scuba-dive. Bliss.
But we’re learning that vacations with the girls are different.
First, trips with kids are just different. That’s kind of a given. Trips with teens are a different kind of different. Again, a given.
But trips with teens who were adopted at an older age? Uniquely different.
Because kids from challenging backgrounds and hurt places form expectations and process things a little differently.
Kids from “normal” backgrounds have probably been traveling with their families since before they can remember. There are certain things they just know, like what to expect on a long road trip. Lines. Everyone crammed into a little hotel room. Rain. Slow restaurants. (I’m not saying they deal with these things gracefully…)
Kids that didn’t grow up with us? They don’t have this foundation.
Their expectations are influenced by things they experienced before joining our family. Family vacations were not part of their reality , so all they knew was from watching TV and movies: something is always happening, and it’s usually spectacular or hysterical.
We know life isn’t like that. My girls will say they know that too. But before they lived with us, when they saw things like that in the movies, somewhere deep inside, they thought that’s what real family vacations were like.
We are vacation warriors. We want to soak in every possible attraction our destination offers. We don’t want to miss out.
Fast forward to our first real vacation with Mash. At our “one-year-family-anniversary,” we took her on a carribbean cruise. Six days, five ports, three broken curfews, two days confined to the cabin, one destroyed mom.
She thought it would be The Suite Life On Deck. It was more like Titanic.
Looking back, Mash remembers the good stuff, but it was way too much for her, even after being in our family for a year.
We made the same mistake with Lena. Spring break Road Trip To Florida. She’d been in America for 3 months. That was stupid of us.
We should have known better.
The social workers try to prepare us that kids who have grown up in difficult circumstances. The explain that kids who have spent a lot of time in the highly structured environment like an orphanage or in completely unstructured environment like the streets have a hard time adapting.
They tell us to not over schedule, to pick our battles, to set expectations up front.
But when you have a teenager who’s trying to balance teen boredom and need to individuate and push boundaries and grow up but also adapt to a new family and connect with people they’re not really entirely sure they can trust and are thrown into multiple new situations in a day and not know what’s expected and what’s appropriate and what’s not and where to go and how to act….?
Heck, that would be too much for me to deal with too.
What does this mean?
If you have adopted kids….keep these things in mind. We didn’t. And we paid. And we’ll pay this week, I’m sure. Just hoping that we’ll get a repeat-customer discount.
If you know people with adopted kids , support them be extending patience and grace. Don’t question or judge when the kids react differently from yours or when we make different parenting choices.
If you ride on airplanes, try to show patience to others (and yes, i’m far more guilty of this than all the rest of you combined. This is for me, too). When you see kids or teenagers acting out, please try to pack the judgmental glares in a TSA-approved zip-loc bag and cram it in your carryon. The situation might not be quite as simple as you think.
Have you taken a family vacation that didn’t turn out quite like you’d planned? Leave a comment…
p.s. Lest I appear to be complaining, I’m not. It’s beautiful down here and I’m truly thankful for my precious in-laws, their willingness to share their time-share week with us, and their generosity in taking care of things in The Fort while we’re gone. Thanks, guys!