Recently all my siblings (there are four of us) along with our spouses, children, and our mom and dad – got together for a five day family reunion in Yellowstone. It was our first such attempt. My parents and two siblings with their families came from Southern California. My youngest brother travelled from Milwaukee, and my family went the distance from Utah.
All in all, the vacation was great and a lot of fun. I learned 8 important lessons I thought I would share with you.
Lesson 1: Ghost Stories are not appropriate for 3 year olds. Even those that aren’t scary. Even more inappropriate are ghost stories where the alleged paranormal activity occurred. My sister said she forgives me, but I am pretty positive that I am getting stuck with the psycho therapy bill for my niece.
Lesson 2: Don’t act on sudden urges to take up trail running – especially when all you will be doing for the next five days is lugging kids around on day long hikes. The first morning of our trip I got up early to take a short run which turned into, “I think I should try trail running,” right at the end of my run. It was fun and invigorating, but my knee’s have been sore ever since.
Lesson 3: Not all park rangers have a sense of humor. I learned this lesson on more than one occasion. But after watching old faithful erupt, (my younger brother and I had all sorts of fun creating innuendos around that one) I asked if we could pay a visit to “less than faithful. “Nothing but blank stares and a punch in the arm from my wife.
Lesson 4: If you get altitude sickness easily, don’t eat junk food like the end of the world is coming. No further explanation needed.
Lesson 5: You’ve changed a lot since being a kid, and so has the rest of your family. Communicate as politely and clearly as you would with a new acquaintance. This will ensure accurate expectations during the trip.
Lesson 6: Take family pictures first. The longer the vacation moves on, the less patient everyone gets.
Lesson 7: Let go of your your normal weekly habits. If your kids normally go to bed at 7:00, but your siblings kids go to bed at 9:00 – let them all stay up till midnight. Really, what is one week of breaking bed time standards going to do? If you normally keep your kids on a leash, let them off and let them play with cousins. If you normally schedule out every moment of the day – stop it and let the wind choose your course. Letting go of your normal routine creates flexibility, excitement, change and at the end of the week, appreciation for all the great habits you have developed.
Lesson 8: Say I love you. I didn’t and I regret it. I really do love my family a lot and I don’t think I will see them for another 18 months or so. I wish I had given them a hug when it was over, and told them I loved them.