Vacation is Not Supposed to Be This Way

Dimples is doing pretty well on vacation, but she has a hard time figuring out what to do.  I’ve said it so many times, but I still have to remind myself, she is happiest with structure. Free-flowing days filled with sunshine do not bless her little heart.  She wants to know what is coming next, which is a bit tough when what I want next is to hang out on the beach with the kids.

We were invited to stay in this lovely home for two weeks – two weeks – can you even imagine!  We’ve never taken a two week vacation and I wasn’t quite sure we could pull it off,  but Russ could bring his work with him, and much of what I needed to accomplish could be packed as well.  With Whidbey Island only a six hour drive and a ferry ride from home, we knew the older kids could join us sometime during our stay.  It was perfect.

Then we looked at each other and remembered our vacation last year; it was a huge challenge for our little girl. We couldn’t quite imagine how to make it work.  We talked about bringing a helper along whose sole job would be to keep Dimples moving happily through her day.  I looked for day camps and VBS programs on the island that would fill her mornings.  After loads of discussion and some prayer, we made the decision to sign her up for camp during the second week of our vacation.

I felt so guilty that my stomach hurt.  This was going to be our family vacation and it just didn’t seem right to have one of our young children absent.  It felt like failure and my heart was heavy. A good mom wouldn’t do this – would she?

I worried about Dimples’ reaction.  Would she feel rejected or unloved?  Would she wonder if she really was an orphan and not a true member of the family?  I debated how we should tell her the plan.

As it turned out, it came up quite casually.  She was sitting on my lap in the family room talking about vacation when she asked me, “What are we going to do all day?”  I began to list the fun things awaiting us, “We’ll walk on the beach, build sand castles, read books, play croquet and volleyball, swim, and have a great time.”  She wasn’t sure that sounded so great to her, so I asked her if she had enjoyed going to camp in June.  She gave me a happy smile and launched into telling me stories of the great activities at camp.  I asked her, “Would you like to go to camp during part of our vacation?”  She paused for a moment, “Only me?” “Yep,” I replied, “Only you this time.”

She had several questions about camp and was happy to know that it is the camp facility we been to as a family each Labor Day weekend. She would eat in the same dining hall, swim in the same pool, and climb the same climbing wall that she already knows.  She relaxed, smiled, and said she would love to go to camp.

I was flooded with relief.  Maybe this was a good idea after all?

I still get choked up thinking about driving her to camp this Sunday, but deep in my gut I know she is going to be happier moving with a group from one activity to another than enjoying long, lazy beach days.  The “perfect mom” part of me can’t let go of thinking, “This is not the way it is supposed to be.”  But much of our life is not the way we thought it would be, and as parents, we have to make the very best decisions we can for everyone in the family.

I hope that one day Dimples will be able to relax and enjoy family vacations.  I want that life back, but today, it just isn’t possible.  Until then, I’m thankful that we found a happy solution this year.  She’ll be up soon and the questions of, “What are we going to do today?  Are we going anywhere? What’s for dinner? Do we have to go to the beach again?,”  will begin again and I’ll answer as patiently as I can.

I’ve hesitated to share this because it’s painful for me and touches something deep in my heart about my success or failure as a mother, but this blog has never been about making my life look pretty.  My greatest hope is that other families will be helped as we navigate parenting children from “hard places,” both when we do it well and when we fail.

The kids are up and ready for breakfast, the sun is shining on the water, and the mountains are lovely in the distance.  It’s going to be a good day.

Lisa

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Let me introduce myself. Russ and I are the parents of twelve children by birth and adoption, and sometimes more through foster care. I'm the creator of One Thankful Mom which has been as much of a gift to me as to my readers. In 2011 I became a TBRI® Pracitioner* and have lived and breathed connected parenting ever since. I'm deeply honored to be the co-author, together with the late Dr. Karyn Purvis, of The Connected Parent; it is her final written work. I love speaking at events for adoptive and foster parents. I'm also the co-founder of The Adoption Connection, a podcast and resource site for adoptive moms. I mentor and encourage adoptive moms so you can find courage and hope in your journeys of loving your children well.

0 Comments

  1. Donna
    August 3, 2011

    Oh I can so relate in so many ways. Our new normal has changed too. Trying to navigate and learn that this is good, not second best, but good for this child and isn't that what the goal is. To help them to become who God's plan is for them:)
    blessings,
    Donna

    Reply
    1. One Thankful Mom
      August 3, 2011

      Donna, so true, this is not second best – it just is what is needed. It's nice to hear from you.

      Reply
  2. Susie
    August 3, 2011

    Your life looks beautiful!

    Reply
    1. One Thankful Mom
      August 3, 2011

      Susie, it is beautiful – just so different from what I had imagined. I find that in the losses and challenges, God keeps blessings us with his kindness. This amazing house and our lovely hostess are a perfect example. I still can't believe we are here.

      Reply
  3. coffeemom
    August 3, 2011

    Dear Lisa, You know as well as I do that there are no "supposed to's" in parenting a kid from hard places. We both fiorget that tho… Brava to you for coming up with a solution to a tricky quandary. She will have more fun, more success, with this camp. You get some breathing room. The family can all relax a bit,, each in their own way. Oh, wait…. That is exactly what a vacation is supposed to be after all! Brava to you for having the clarity and courage to do what works, rather than what is somebody's standard. That, my dear, is total success as a mother. Enjoy every moment.

    Reply
    1. One Thankful Mom
      August 3, 2011

      Coffeemom, you know my life all too well! Thanks for the encouraging words. I've been reading along on your family journey – I apologize for not commenting!

      Reply
  4. anita
    August 3, 2011

    Rest assured that nobodys life turns out the way they think it should, and nobodys children do either. Gods ways are not our own and his timing is not ours. Don't beat yourself up over your own expectations. We do our best to raise our children with the tools and knowledge in our hands. I love your honesty.

    Reply
    1. One Thankful Mom
      August 3, 2011

      Anita, you're right, it's those pesky expectations that get me!

      Reply
  5. Emily
    August 3, 2011

    I think you are a wonderful mom to recognize your child's needs and follow through with what will be best for her. You shouldn't have any guilt about that.

    Reply
    1. One Thankful Mom
      August 3, 2011

      Emily, thanks for the kind words. It's tough to let go of guilt! I'm working on it.

      Reply
  6. Amber
    August 3, 2011

    You are awesome. It sounds like you have made a very thoughtful, wise decision for your daughter and your family. I think you are making the ultimate mom choice- doing what you think is best for your daughter and will make her happy. I am proud of you! Thanks for the honesty…you will probably help others with this post!

    Reply
    1. One Thankful Mom
      August 3, 2011

      Amber, I do think this is best for her and I think she will be happy, but still, it's hard! Thanks for commenting.

      Reply
  7. Chantelle
    August 3, 2011

    Thank you SO MUCH for being willing to share that. It really blessed me because just today (again) I was feeling guilty about some of the tactics we've been advised by our therapist to use with our attachment challenged child (like putting her in school, etc). It is so hard to let go of those "good mom" expectations we put on ourselves, huh. Thank you. You bless me yet again. ((hug))

    Reply
    1. One Thankful Mom
      August 3, 2011

      Chantelle – I hear you! I have had to let go of so much that was part of my idealistic mothering. I'm glad to hear you are getting help from a good therapist.

      Reply
  8. Barb G
    August 3, 2011

    Our son needs structure too. He even asks what we are eating for our next meal when we are eating! I try to introduce some diversity to his life, because we want him to learn to be adaptive, but he struggles so. You actually gave me a great idea for him. Thank you! On our next vacation, I'm going to make up a 'schedule' for him, a la cruise director style. I might block out several hours at a time for certain activities, but for the most part, we do get up and go while on vacation, and we have an idea of what we are going to do, which days. Of course, I will introduce a bit of flexibility into that schedule too, or he will be like a drill sargeant, moving from activity to activity, as it is listed. Maybe it will help him have a successful vacation. Thanks for sharing! It helped me see things thru his eyes a bit more. 🙂

    Reply
    1. One Thankful Mom
      August 3, 2011

      Barb, I'm glad it helped! Yes, we are keeping a schedule this week and I have a menu planned for each day. Dimples chose dinner tonight and I already have chicken with curry sauce simmering in the crock pot. I packed my rice cooker and crock pot and I'm so glad I did.

      Reply
  9. mommafoster
    August 3, 2011

    I agree with Emily! : )

    Reply
    1. One Thankful Mom
      August 3, 2011

      Thank you.

      Reply
  10. Jennifer
    August 3, 2011

    We just got back from our family vacation and I was the one that needed to back off from the plan. Mark, Zeke and I my dad happily explored Montreal while I stayed in the rental apartment and read. I was the one overstimulated and anxious in the foreign city. I can only imagine what it would be like to be a child from a "hard place" in such circumstances. If camp makes her happy DO IT!

    Reply
    1. One Thankful Mom
      August 3, 2011

      Jennifer, it's nice to hear from you. I'm glad you figured out how to navigate your own vacation. We have such high expectations and sometimes we need to loosen our grip and let go.

      Reply
      1. Jennifer
        August 3, 2011

        What I meant to write was that I took one day off from our whirlwind adventure. Not the whole time. 🙂 I did manage to get in a canoe trip, science museum, quadricycle ride, exploring the Old Town and pier. I skipped the BioDome and underground mall…

        Reply
        1. One Thankful Mom
          August 3, 2011

          I'm glad to hear you did have fun! It would have been a shame to miss the whole thing.

          Reply
  11. Mama D's Dozen
    August 3, 2011

    Sounds like a good plan. Two summers ago, we had to take a family vacation and leave a child behind (w/ friends). It was best for the child. It was best for the family. But, it was HARD for the mama.

    My child from hard places also needs LOTS of structure … asking throughout the day what is next, what's for the next meal, etc… We are a totally spontaneous and flexible family, which makes things difficult sometime.

    Funny Story: We had 2 big kids get married in July, which added a bit of stress to the family schedule. On the morning of one of the weddings (just a few hours before the wedding) she found an old Homeschool Assignment Sheet … brought it to me … and asked, "Is this what you want us to do today?" I had a hard time not cracking up laughing. But, I kept a straight face and said, "No. We won't be doing any homeschooling today. Remember, we have a wedding today, and Mama needs to go decorate this morning." She just desperately wanted/needed a schedule for her day.

    🙂 🙂 🙂

    Reply
    1. One Thankful Mom
      August 3, 2011

      I remember when you took that trip. It's hard to completely understand the intense need for structure, but when I can keep it in my mind, we all do so much better. I'm glad to hear that you didn't try to homeschool on the wedding day 🙂

      Reply
  12. Kylee
    August 3, 2011

    Once again, this post blessed me! Your vulnerability in sharing your life with all of us is so refreshing. Although I am yet to know what it is like to parent kids from hard places, I do know what it is like to be big sister to kids from hard places. Just moments ago, as passive aggressive behavior was coming out in my 6-year-old sister, I was struggling to show gentleness and patience. In some odd way, it is reassuring to know that there are other families, who are also experiencing similar circumstances and leaning on the Lord for every ounce of strength, even in what should be those simple, everyday tasks.

    Praying for Dimples, as she heads off to camp on Sunday. You ARE doing a great job and are doing what is currently the best for Dimples. Don't allow satan to creep in! Prayers and hugs from (very hot) Texas!

    Reply
    1. One Thankful Mom
      August 3, 2011

      Kylee,I agree, it really helps to know that we are not alone. We can learn from each other and share the joys and sorrows. It's funny how blogging has opened our world in these ways. Thanks for the comment.

      Reply
  13. laura
    August 3, 2011

    Our new normal is way different than I thought it would be. Last year I beat myself up about 24/7, questioned my husband, God, others. This year! Different story. What we're doing in our family works for us right now and everyone is thriving.

    What YOU are doing in YOUR family is working for you right now. I know it's hard to let go, but the Lord is leading you through this unknown land and He knows what's best for Dimples. Y'all are doing a wonderful job loving your Dimples, considering what's best for her. Thank for sharing your heart.

    Prayers from Texas. Enjoy your cooler weather!

    Reply
    1. One Thankful Mom
      August 3, 2011

      Laura, thank you for the encouragement. It's a new journey and we're still finding our way. I'm glad you are making progress in your family.

      Reply
  14. Jennifer P
    August 3, 2011

    After many sabotaged vacations, I can relate. Still, it is hard on a mother's heart. Feeling your pain and praying for all.

    Reply
    1. One Thankful Mom
      August 3, 2011

      Jennifer, it's good to know other moms understand the complexity of these decisions.

      Reply
  15. Julie
    August 3, 2011

    You are totally a rockin' good mom! Thank you for your honesty. You are the best mom Dimples could ever ask for. Keep on keepin' on. And have a fantastic vacation! 🙂

    Reply
    1. One Thankful Mom
      August 3, 2011

      Thank you, Julie. I know you get it!

      Reply
  16. Ann
    August 3, 2011

    A "good mom" does what is right for each child individually–even when it is something we never thought was "right." Thanks for sharing.

    Reply
    1. One Thankful Mom
      August 3, 2011

      You are wise friend, Ann. Thank you.

      Reply
  17. Jane@DandelionWishes
    August 4, 2011

    Thank you so much for sharing. I have 3 little ones from hard places. As they are growing it is painful to me that I can't create the kind of family time we used to have when my older kids were little. These three are challenging and their needs are different from one another. I am just learning to accept God's plan for our family at this time, and accept reality. Your story gives me hope for having a different kind of happy family.

    Reply
    1. One Thankful Mom
      August 4, 2011

      Jane, I just popped over to your blog and it is lovely. I think it is so hard to accept that parenting children from "hard places" is different, isn't it? We want them to heal and then we want to parent in the ways we always have. We want our family culture to remain relatively the same, some tweaks here and there, but much like it has always been. For some families, I think that comes true, but for many of us, the changes are so significant that we hardly recognize ourselves. It is taking me a long time to figure out just what our family culture is now. It is different, to be sure, but still good. Thanks for the comment.

      Reply
  18. lisa h
    August 4, 2011

    on vacation also this week and really struggling as a mom. It's certainly not the rest I hoped for. Rather, it's my same hard job I do at home, just with a different geography. Trying to create an environment that my five older bio kids will enjoy (jet skis, high energy, bike riding, skim boarding at the beach) and an environment that my 2 younger sensory-processing-disorder adopted ones can tolerate such as less stimulation, structure, consistency with their activities and menus (they're not jazzed by shrimp and grits like the rest of us are) is exhausting. There *are* moments of fun and peace in our trip. There *are* times of laughter and family joy. But, those are isolated gifts and not the overall character of the trip. Reading "Wrestling with an Angel" by greg lucas and am reminding of the goodness and faithfulness of God in the midst of my fatigue.

    Reply
    1. One Thankful Mom
      August 4, 2011

      Lisa, I hear you! Even with easy-going kids, vacations are still lots of work. Russ and I were just saying last night that we are loving the time with the kids, but we haven't had a moment to breathe. They are staying up late doing fun things, like canoeing at high tide, and they're still waking up early. Add to that the diversity of the unique needs of kids from "hard places" and there is tons of work involved. I've been trying to feed Dimples every 2 – 3 hours, so it seems I'm always cleaning up the kitchen. Thanks for the comment and I hope you find a bit of rest in the whirlwind of vacation.

      Reply
  19. Teresa
    August 4, 2011

    But you're doing what SHE needs….giving her structure and taking away the element that makes her most uncomfortable…sounds like a GREAT mom to me!

    Reply
    1. One Thankful Mom
      August 4, 2011

      Thank you, Teresa. She was just saying today how much she is looking forward to camp.

      Reply
  20. shannon2818
    August 4, 2011

    Thanks for sharing that. I get that "failure" feeling a lot too. It sounds like you made the right decision and hopefully she'll have a great time.

    Reply
    1. One Thankful Mom
      August 4, 2011

      Shannon, tonight I was folding laundry preparing her things for camp and I felt sad…but I also know she will have a good time. It's complicated, isn't it?

      Reply
  21. Bonnie
    August 4, 2011

    Boy, can I relate!!! We took a family vacation while one of our children was at camp too. And I felt the same way…grieved that we couldn't have the vacation that "I" dreamed of. Nevermind if it was anyone else's dream…Like others have said, we have to do what meets the needs of the child and the rest of the family.

    Reply
    1. One Thankful Mom
      August 4, 2011

      Bonnie, I'm glad to know we aren't alone in this decision. I would love to hear how it went for all of you and whether you would do it again.

      Reply
  22. Su Su
    August 5, 2011

    sounds like a good mom to me 🙂

    we recently brought home a 7 year old from Ethiopia. . your blog has been an encouragement. . I have cried thru many a post. . .

    Reply
    1. One Thankful Mom
      August 5, 2011

      Su Su, I'm so glad you've found my blog helpful. Thank you for the comment.

      Reply
  23. Tressa
    August 5, 2011

    Thanks for sharing – so transparently. You're a wonderful mother. I hope everyone enjoys the 2nd week of vacation!

    Reply
    1. One Thankful Mom
      August 5, 2011

      It's looking like the transition may be a little bit rocky, but I am as confident as I can be that this is a good thing. I'll be sure to post an update after I take Dimples to camp.

      Reply
  24. Robin Douglas
    August 6, 2011

    Hi Lisa, I've been reading your most recent posts on my phone while traveling to Whidby Island! The coincidence made me smile. We've been on the road from Colorado Springs for three days and the lack of predictability is wearing on Beza. It's too hard to type it all on a phone but I appreciate your post so much. A reminder that she's not intentionally being difficult –the unpredictabiity of a long road trip is a challenge for her. We're almost there but we have to go home again! It was so much work to pack 12 people and arrange to leave the house that I havent planned out all our days. What sounds lovely to me will be stressful for her…which will be stressful for all of us!! Anyway, thankful for you sharing your family's experiences to encourage the rest of us. You are a wise and compassionate mom and friend to the adoption community. We're staying in Mutiny Bay…wave if you see a crew that looks alot like yours!

    Reply
    1. One Thankful Mom
      August 6, 2011

      We have a lot in common! I hope your time on Whidbey is lovely — the combination of water, mountains, beach, and bald eagles is incredible. I hope you get some rest and downtime before you make the long trip home. I'll keep my eye out for your family!

      Reply
  25. Cari
    August 7, 2011

    Hi Lisa! I just read this post today, and I can totally relate to the questions you said Dimple's asks in your third to last paragraph. Our daughter {13, adopted last summer} is constantly asking what's for the next meal or what we're doing next. We went to a cabin for the weekend last month with my siblings and families and with all the unstructured time our daughter had several meltdown moments. It was not a fun weekend for me at all. But your idea of that child going to camp during the family vacation has me thinking. It makes sense that they just cannot enjoy a lazy summer vacation day, because they thrive on structure. If I could find a camp that would allow our daughter to go into an age group that matched her social skills and not grouped by grade or birthdate, then I think that might work for us. At least to give us a bit of normalcy back a couple days a year. 🙂

    Reply
  26. jen
    August 8, 2011

    Oh my! I totally think you have found the success that you feel you have lacked. You have done what is best for everyone, what will bring everyone joy/comfort, and what is best for your daughter (despite the fact that it is uncomfortable for you). You rock!

    Thank you also, as this is a great reminder to me that I need to take some care to schedule/plan/prepare our coming vacation days.

    And finally, I do wonder what this looks like as our children get older. Do they ever learn to self-regulate in this area? Do they ever learn to deal with the unknowns of life (as adults we can sure plan a LOT, but there are just some times that we don't know what the next meal will be – though we know there will be a meal – or what the next hotel room will look like or exactly what the meeting is about.) Do you have any thoughts about this?

    Reply
  27. amber
    September 7, 2011

    Lisa… your blog is so helpful to me. I was in a really dark place last week and I just did not know if I could do it anymore. But, I took a much needed break by sending my trauma boy to my mom's and I read through your blog. You have helped remind me of many things I had forgotten. You are right… this may not be life as I imagined it but it is a fulfilling life.

    Reply

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