The Brady Bunch always had the best vacations. The ’70s sitcom family of nine (mom, dad, three girls and three boys from previous marriages, and housekeeper Alice) would joyfully pile into their trusty station wagon and immediately start singing fun traveling songs – in perfect harmony. All six kids got along. And they were all so happy to go wherever father Mike decided.
Sure, they might have had to wait for youngest daughter Cindy to go back in the house to use the bathroom, when everyone was explicitly told to ‘take care of that’ before they got in the car. Youngest son Bobby may have got lost for awhile at the bottom of the Grand Canyon chasing a ‘little Indian boy’ around. Greg may have hurt himself surfing in Hawaii. The family might even have gotten locked in a ghost town jail for awhile.
But everyone always had the same interests, helped each other out, and everything always turned out, well, perfectly.
Am I the only one who wishes for that idyllic family vacation experience?
To be fair, we’ve had some great vacations too, with our two kids, that I’m truly grateful for. We’ve hiked national parks on the East and West Coasts, swam in the Atlantic Ocean off the Outer Banks of North Carolina, seen the sites of Southern California with my snow-birding parents (see pics below), even sang in the car together at times and had a ball at Hershey Park.
But even with just two kids, it’s not like everyone has always wanted to go the same places and do the same things. Or jumped around for joy, like all the Brady kids always did when hero dad Mike announced another fantastic surprise vacation destination.
Daughter Jamie, in particular, has always been pretty vocal about her likes and dislikes, particularly around vacation venues. And we’ve definitely had some ‘less-than-Brady’ moments on our real-life trips.
Like relentlessly grouchy Jamie on one trip refusing to speak throughout an entire restaurant meal (even to order) when we scolded her: “If you don’t have anything positive to say please don’t say anything” (original, I know!). Another trip had her laying down her bike on a beautiful trail, refusing to pedal one more mile. Stopping in the middle of a mountain hike, laying down her backpack, sitting down on the ground, refusing to go one more step. Snarky remarks like “Can we please eat anywhere that doesn’t have the word ‘dog‘ in it?” when were were lining up for a quick hot dog snack bar at a lovely seaside setting where she went on a mini hunger strike.
Or the ill-fated camping trip where the car broke down; the bears (or raccoons?) got to our food; a nesting, red-winged black bird doggedly attacked us while we were rowing on the lake; the kids freaked out over daddy long legs on the tent. There’s probably more I’ve blocked out of my memory. We certainly weren’t ‘happy campers’ and, needless to say, we did not plan any more family camping trips for awhile!
The bottom line, though, is I wouldn’t trade our family vacation memories – the good, the bad or the ugly – for anything. They’re a time of togetherness and fun, for the most part. But I have come to realize, too, that some of the best family moments can happen spontaneously, without the pressure of trying to make everything ‘perfect’ – like talking at the dinner table, riding around in the car on local errands, sitting out in the backyard or up in one of the kids’ rooms just having a chat, hanging out with the cats and laughing about some of our vacation escapades, adventures and even mishaps.
Share your favorite vacation memories?
(By the way, I didn’t ‘throw Jamie under the bus’ … she’s painfully a little proud of her past behaviors! And she’s gotten WAY more fun, pleasant, amenable and mature now as a young adult!)