Family Vacation

Brooke tells me I’m a nerd. Gracie tells me she knows everything already. And it is only the second day of a too long vacation.

We don’t vacation well. Never have. Brooke’s version of a vacation is a congested city of 8 million people. Mine is primitive wilderness camping, never staying at the same place two nights in a row. Gracie’s version is a trip to the movies and a never ending MP3 player. So when I bought a RV, I figured it was the perfect balance. It was small, thus enabling it to park in normal parking spaces and navigate the tight corridors of the city. It was new, complete with two TV screens and MP3 hookups. And it was about as close to camping as I would ever get.

First we tried to kayak. Gracie brought her headphones and MP3 player, stopping only to ask how much longer and check her watch, even before climbing down from the dock into the kayak for the first time. Brooke just sighs. She’s being polite, but even she looks at her watch. Still I paddle on. They’ll get the idea, I tell myself. They’ll learn to like it. I even start to lie to myself. But 100 feet from the dock, Brooke sighs again as she zigs to the left and then to the right. At this rate she’ll paddle ten times what I do. I offer help. “Lean into the stroke,” I say, “you need to always paddle on both sides, just with less intensity.” She instantly shoots me a look that makes me want to put a bit more distance than a paddle length between us. She says nothing. Gracie just keeps singing. I distinctly hear a line from a recent Miley Cyrus song between the misdirected words. “It’s a hoedown, showdown”, she sings off-key.
Minutes later I give up as Brooke beaches her kayak for the fourth time and Gracie asks for the seventh time when we’ll be done. The RV is still in sight and the paddles are barely wet. Yet I know it is not worth pushing. At this rate Gracie will lose her patience and Brooke will begin to hyperventilate after all the sighing. Better to dock the kayaks and try something else.

Something else is the beach. We park the RV at a beach campground that’s sure to please. Electric, water and a scenic view. And for a moment, even Brooke seems to approve. But then again any excuse to get out of the RV is an improvement to her after riding 22 hours in the past three days. “Can we watch a movie tonight,” Gracie asks. I relent, after all, I’m going for Dad of the Year. Maybe this might work after all.

I suggest a trip to the beach to fly kites. It’s about all I can think of when the temperature hovers in the 50s and the wind howls. Luckily I checked the weather from home and packed with this in mind, even packing a special kite just for Gracie. Gracie can’t wait. Even Brooke this time breathes a sigh of relief instead of impatience. I join her.

Moments later we’re at the beach. No movies, no paddling – just time as a family. I unfurl a parafoil kite for Gracie. It’s guaranteed to work in any wind. Then I get out the special kite – a double stunt kite with a 50’ tail that’s been sitting in the corner of our basement for 12 years. Gracie’s eyes widen. Brooke rolls her eyes and calls me a nerd. “Somehow I knew you’d have a kite like that,” she says, “you just couldn’t be normal.” She’s probably right. While my friends shined their sports cars and played football, I was busy flying kites and driving a minivan. Gracie can’t wait to give it a try. Yet after one attempt she’s clearly frustrated. “This is stupid,” she yells. I offer to help, holding the strings from behind until she could get a feel for it. “Dad, I know how to do it,” she yells again, “let me do it.” I step back. The kite falls to the ground. “Arghhh!” It’s still “stupid” to her. I put the kites away and we head back the RV.

Tonight we watched a movie while the sound of the waves beckoned at the door. I guess it could have been anywhere, even at home. Still, what mattered wasn’t the kayaks, the kites the RV or the movies. It was about being together. 22 hours away or in the comfort of our home we’ll find that common ground, even if I’m still a nerd and Gracie knows it all. And somehow I don’t see either of those two things changing for years to come.

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