“Go to the beach,” I tell them, pointing out the front door towards the breaking surf.
“No way. It’s 50 degrees outside,” they answer.
“Read, draw, play cards, actually talk to each other,” I tell them. Or argue. Because that ends up being the most likely thing they figure out to do. Family vacations are brutal. Some are better than others, but my job never changes - I'm required to be the concierge, the coordinator and the go-fer all rolled into one person. I’ve got the entire family looking for guidance on how to spend down time. And with work 24/7 (Alpha), water polo and violin (Olivia), lacrosse (Jackson) play and practice, guitar and chorus (Teddy), no one in my family knows how to have down time except Charlie (who is always on down time).
By Wednesday Alpha is beyond done with the togetherness of doing nothing. Grabbing the keys to our only vehicle, he makes a beeline for the front door explaining, “I need to make some calls so, I am going to head out where there is better reception.”
Marooned, with four cranky over scheduled kids, panic sets in. So I do, what I promised I would never do. I start to create my perfect Peters vacation on Instagram for the world to see. Call it escapism. Call it masochistic. Call me delusional. Think what you will. I chalk it up to survival.
It starts with a sunset, with Teddy throwing a stick (at his brother, not in picture) on the beach: “Sunsets are beautiful, even when it’s 50 degrees. #PetersPerfectvacation #lovingfl.” It was 40, with 35 mph winds. After getting blasted for the ten minutes we watched the sunset the Peters race back to the tiny beach bungalow to continue the vacation's #1 activity - arguing. The feedback immediately comes in. “Is that white sand?” “Gorgeous.” It makes me feel better. Who needs reality?
I post the most magnificent picture of the swamp we toured on an airboat. The sky (with just the right amount of clouds) is reflecting in the water, the lilies and seagrass, remarkable wheat and green. “Making the most of Liv’s water polo tournament. #FLeverglades #PetersPerfectvacation.” In fact, Alpha was working and I piled all four kids into the car to drive across Florida (4 hours across a straight, flat boring stretch known as Alligator Alley) to drop Liv off at a tournament. We squeezed a 2 hour Everglades trip in just to be faced with the shockingly long return trip 4 hours that felt like 8 back. “Your picture is perfect,” read one of the comments. It should have made me pause.
The next day I capture Jackson rrunning with the seagulls. I post another beauty. “Flying home. #PetersPerfectvaction #itsablast.” Wishful thinking. No airplane in sight. We are spending another 48 hours in Florida with the entire Baby Boomer population of America before heading home. “Heaven” was one of the comments back to me.
“Mom’s addicted to her phone,” Alpha tells the kids. I was perusing other perfect picture possibilities, tuning out the card game in an ice cream shop we had found in Sarasota. Little did he know, I was the token dealer 100% of the week for gin and just taking a break.
There was a debate going on in my head whether to post the older kids kite boarding (otherwise known as standing in water holding a kite, while listening to instructions for two hours in the cold water). I had a few good ones where they were in their wet suits with the sail behind them. It gives off the impression we were never in an ice cream shop arguing while playing cards. We are that sporty family everyone envies, the one that does extreme things on vacation. Successfully. I could make all my friends feel terrible about sitting in ice cream shops on vacation. Just by pressing share.
“Oh my god,” I say.
“What?” Alpha asks in alarm. I look up from my phone.
“Seven days in, I don’t hear arguing.” Looking around the ice cream table at my happy sunburned crew, feels good. “It’s a nice moment,” I tell them, slipping my phone into my pocket as I pick up my cards.
“Mom’s got a couple aces,” Charlie announces. “I saw them.”
It’s bumpy for sure. Coming off the hectic schedules of four kids who would really rather be with their friends than each other. But once the dust settles, and the tan sets it, we are all better for it. Calmer, rested and happy. It turns out playing cards in an ice cream parlor really is the perfect vacation.
So good, in fact, a picture could never capture it.