I just realized the only time my little family can get together and do something this summer is during one weekend in August.
My teenage daughters’ lives keep expanding and the old idea of family vacations has gone the way of training wheels, kindergarten, and day camp.
When they were young, summers felt long and relaxed. There were whole weeks to explore other parts of the city, and we had annual pilgrimages to Coney Island, the Bronx Zoo, Central Park, and Staten Island (well, at least the Ferry part). We had time to visit our friends who moved to the suburbs, where we discovering new, delicious ice cream shops. And there was always the big family trip to New Hampshire to visit Gram and Grandpa. We had all that, and a family vacation, too.
But now our lives are on 12-month calendars. Sports practices start in August, there are journeys with friends that last days, and even vacations with other families. Or they can travel on their own, for instance my older daughter is going solo to her aunt’s for a visit and a college tour.
I always thought that family time is important and that mom, dad and children going on a vacation is significant.
But as the kids age, and I look at how my life has turned out, I’m not so sure that is the case. All of my siblings live in different cities and come together only sporadically for family events.
But all the children and spouses have only been together for a big birthday party once or twice a decade. Sure, when the family converges, but in reality, my adult family relationships happen in small groups or one-on-one.
My girls are moving in that direction, forming their grown-up relationships with aunts, uncles, cousins, and me. More and more, of our time together is tête-à-tête, and I see the future, meeting up with one of them for a meal or event, visiting them on their turf.
Part of me resists giving up the family vacation. There’s something gratifying about having the kids around and being together. But that may just be a vanity play, a self-indulgent occasion for me to feel patriarchal and self-important.
Maybe it’s best to scrap the annual expedition before it becomes a dreaded childhood memory for my girls, where I try to make them feel guilty for running off on their own instead of spending time with me. Maybe its time to look forward to a new version of the summer vacation, when they want to do something together, and I get to babysit the grandchildren.
I want to believe that family life is unchanging, but it’s not. As my children are grow up, our family life evolves. So it’s time for me to get with the program and move into the next stage.
But I still enjoy that one weekend we have together.
Read The Dad every other Thursday on BrooklynPaper.com.