swim gogglesMy girlfriend said to me, “Two weeks?! I’ve never gone on a two-week vacation with my kids. I can hardly handle the stress of even packing a bag for a weekend!” Hmm, maybe I should have thought of that.

This is the “dream” vacation that is sure to be fraught with reality, AKA normal kid behavior plus that special dose of reality called RAD (Reactive Attachment Disorder). It’s like a cross between a crossword puzzle and Pandora’s box: will they or won’t they be able to handle the positive experiences of Disneyland, Sea World, and Universal Studios, not to mention assorted baseball games, beach excursions, and–if Mom gets her way–the J. Paul Getty museum. We’ve been a forever family for nine years now, and my oldest son starts his senior year of high school in three weeks. We decided that now is the time to take that special family vacation because it’s the last summer we will all be “together” (if we’re lucky).

Actually, my oldest son is doing so well that I know that’s true. He will graduate, I’m sure of that now. He has started a welding program at the local applied technology college, which he enjoys and is quite good at. Although I have to laugh that it’s his first exposure to ex-felons with tattooed necks, and, let’s just call it very salty language. I told him, “Welcome to the real world. There are all kinds of people out there.” Finally, in all probability, my son will be serving a mission for our church next year at this time. It really is the last time we will all be together in this way.

We’ve been on the road for a total of six hours and are still speaking to each other. We have my seventeen-year-old who has been regularly snarky to his siblings, but that’s normal, right? We have my uber-helpful daughter who is being bugged unmercilessly by her ten-year-old brother sharing the bench seat with her in the van. Again normal, right? And then there’s my ten-year-old who is so excited he can’t stop whistling, singing, chirping, talking, fussing, crying, and annoying all humans within earshot or elbowshot. Borderline normal.

So far Justin has forgotten his pillow and his goggles, and left his swimsuit in the van, which was parked several football fields away, or at least that’s how far it seemed as I was walking back to it with a whistling, chirping, fussing ten-year-old right next to me. But we’re on vacation. When the goggles episode began, things began to look dark. I reminded Justin that when his goggles were mentioned this morning, I said I hadn’t seen them in his backpack and that he had assured me then and there that he had most certainly packed them.

Of course the longer he looked without finding them, the louder he howled, and when he realized his goggles weren’t in the backpack, but were in fact 300 miles away, the vacation was already on the rocks. I took my husband aside and said, “Look, we’re all going to have a much better time if you just go buy him some goggles.” He said he’d already thought of that. We seem to be in agreement that natural consequences and teaching moments will take a backseat to family harmony (or what passes for it) on this trip.

I’ve already identified that Justin will be the one we need to put a big warm circle of patience, understanding, and tolerance around. And apparently a few more dollars. If that’s all it takes for us to make some happy memories on this trip, it’s a bargain.

Photo credit: www.fifadey.com/121.jpg