When child number two enters the world, the real family fun begins. Sure you're a seasoned parent now. You know how to walk the baby-sway walk and talk the parental talk. Just when you think you've got a grip on parenting, suddenly you have to learn how to parent siblings. Your new skill set must include the Wisdom of Solomon and a referee's whistle much of the time. Sibling Rivalry is a fact of life and the bane of existence for most parents. It's something you won't be able to escape, even when taking a family vacation.
Family vacation offers found in brochures, storybooks and sitcoms picture idyllic happiness, bonding and the promise of life long memories. Many parents with siblings naively think a vacation will put an end to the everyday battles and encourage everyone to "just get along." Putting bickering children in the close quarters of a hotel room, cruise cabin or sedan back seat is only putting wood on this eternal fire. Even a week at the "happiest place on earth" can quickly feel like an eternity in hell for some parents. Do you really want your life-long vacation memories to be those of frustration, time outs and the dirty looks of childless couples?
The only way to take a vacation from sibling rivalry is to take separate family vacations.
There is no family vacation rule carved into a stone tablet that says, All Parents and ALL their Children must take ALL their Vacations Together All of the Time. Yet the majority of families believe this unwritten law to be true. Would you be comfortable announcing to the bus stop moms or playground dads that your family plans to vacation apart this year? Would this make your family the subject of gossip and finger pointing in the school car pool line? The rules for family vacations should really be about what is best for your family at this very moment in time. In reality, a vacation away from one another may be the exact vacation your family really needs.
Some may see separate family vacations as a failure of perfect parenting and easily overlook the huge opportunity it offers. While juggling work, school, sports, activities and other family obligations, it's easy for parents to herd kids along every day. It's a side effect of dwelling in everyday survival mode. Often a child's individuality and uniqueness can get buried in the daily grind. Kids battle with one another to get their parent's attention, albeit negative. Separate family vacations give parents a rare moment for one on one time with each of their children. It is an opportunity to discover, celebrate and spotlight what makes that particular child a special member of your family. Sadly this seldom happens amidst the chaos of everyday family life.
Since there are no rules for family vacations, there are no rules for taking separate family vacations either. The idea can be liberating for many families. Separate trips can be arranged according to the number of kids in the family, children's ages, family lifestyle, special interests, family finances and the amount of given days off. If you are busy and overwhelmed like most parents, you probably need professional help. A travel agent who specializes in family vacations can be a helpful advisor and wonderful ally to have on your side.
Itinerary ideas and travel possibilities are only limited by your imagination. Maybe it's a weekend where the boys see a game at Fenway Park while the girls enjoy a shopping weekend in NYC. Later on in the year the entire family will all go beach together per usual. Taking a long weekend at the beach instead of their typical seven nights at the shore will help to keep the family budget and bickering in check. Another mom may enjoy teaching her youngest son to ski while Dad takes their eight-year-old daughter off ride roller coasters. Maybe Mom takes each of the couple's three kids on separate city sightseeing weekends while Dad takes each child on a separate summer camping trip in the mountains.
Separate family vacations give children opportunities that might not be affordable for the family as a whole. Perhaps it's time for that "coming of age" vacation with your teen before they head off to college. You've always dreamed of taking your kids to Europe, Hawaii or on Safari. It might be cost prohibitive for your entire family of five to all travel across an ocean. It may be do-able for two or three of you to go. Perhaps both parents take their teen to Paris while the other kids spend time away with relatives. You could make this privilege a special rite of passage vacation for all your kids when they reach a certain age. Something your family does before your children head off to make their own way in the world.
Vacation separation can work wonders for grown-ups too. Perhaps sibling rivalry has gotten so bad in your house that you simply need a break. Besides therapy, separate vacations may be just what you need too. Separate your kids amongst responsible relatives or care givers and treat yourself to some "no kids" time. This is not the white flag of surrender or a sign of defeat. It is an admission that you're human. Having a grown up escape will give you the necessary space to recharge and rejuvenate. Parents will feel more equipped to take charge of the everyday battles once more. Hopefully a break from togetherness will give everyone a new perspective that may help to ease tensions in the household once everyone returns home.
Absence does make the heart grow fonder and that is why a vacation from sibling rivalry can be a healthy alternative for many families. Having separate experiences gives everyone new stories to share and to talk about around the dinner table. Taking a vacation from sibling rivalry may really be a secret for bringing a family back together.