Sometime in the summer of 2010, my husband made a suggestion that I initially laughed off as completely impossible and absolutely absurd. His suggestion? ”Let’s go to the cabin in the mountains for the week after Christmas!”
To provide some background – we found a cabin in the mountains of PA, about 4 hours from our home, where it doesn’t cost to take our 3 kids or our 2 small dogs. It’s close enough that it’s not a long trip, but far enough away that we feel like we’ve actually gone away. It has 2 bedrooms, a bathroom with a shower, all bedding and dishes and cookware is provided. We just take ourselves, our clothes and our food. It has heat, there’s a lovely gas fireplace to sit and enjoy at night, and a place to make a campfire outside. My favorite thing is to sit on the porch swing and enjoy the fire outdoors. We’ve gone up a few times as a summer getaway, but the idea of a getaway the week after Christmas seemed absurd.
My thinking: The kids would get new clothes and toys for Christmas, I’d have MORE work packing everything up after they just unwrapped and opened everything, they’d miss the toys they didn’t choose to take and would surely fuss about that. Basically, I saw “more work for Mom”.
My husband’s thinking: We need to get away, the kids will enjoy the time in the mountains, we can have some family fun complete with hot cocoa, 1000-piece puzzles, time to unwind from the busy schedule we juggle, you don’t take new clothes camping so you can pack the week before Christmas, they can pick some of their new toys and fill their own backpacks for the week. Basically, he saw “fun family getaway”.
It turns out, he was right. And as the parent who does most of the schedule juggling and thinking about how things will affect the kids, I was surprised how very wrong I was about this post-Christmas getaway.
Our middle son has Asperger’s and sensory issues and speech and language issues and anxiety, and…and…the list seems endless sometimes. It’s really hard to plan a vacation or a getaway, as I’m sure a lot of you know, because of the anxiety that it brings for the child with special needs. The first time we went up to this cabin, everyone had a blast and it was a nice week away. As we pondered a 2nd trip, I decided to plan more outings and things to do so it felt more like a vacation rather than a getaway. Last Christmas when we went, we didn’t plan much as we’d had some very intense weeks just before Christmas and we really wanted more of a hibernation, rather than a getaway or a vacation. But with each subsequent trip to this cabin, I was afraid the kids would get bored & find it more of a mundane trip.
How very wrong I was! It turns out that they liked the limited availability of things to do. The first two days we were there last winter were basically pajama days. None of the kids wanted to get dressed – a sign to me that they were, indeed, exhausted. This cabin has a TV but only to play videos or DVDs so we watched a lot of movies that we didn’t have time for over the year and especially over the Christmas season. The absence of noise, hustle and bustle, and routine was just what our little son needed. He relished the quiet walks around the campground, he seemed to love the quiet drives on our elk-spotting adventures. He loved running up and down the hills and along the gravel paths during the walks with the dogs. He read books, he transformed toys, he played video games, he interacted with us in such appropriate ways.
The very first time we went to the cabin, I told my husband I’d go…IF…. See, camping is not my thing, and as we hadn’t been there before, I didn’t really know what to expect. I agreed to go, IF he agreed to do a lot of the “work” – you know, gathering wood, starting fires, entertaining kids. I didn’t want a vacation where I had to do all the work. Well true to his word, he organized all the outings, he kept track of all 3 kids while walking through the Grand Canyon of Pennsylvania, he made sure they all had turns at the lookout posts to see out over the canyon. He taught them fire safety around the campfires, he read, he snuggled, he walked the dogs with the kids.
And me? I was bored. Yes, really. I hate to admit it. I didn’t take enough books. I didn’t figure I’d have so much free time. Last winter we did puzzles – about 5 of them! Tim & I would get the kids started on a puzzle, let them work on it through the day and we’d finish it at night. I watched movies, listened to music, and struggled through the lack of Internet (no access unless you’re in the camp office and I didn’t intend to spend my vacation in there). I think a lot of the issue, for me, is that this trip truly gives me a chance to STOP and rest. In the stopping, there’s the internal realization of just how busy we are, and just how tired I am, and just how exhausted the kids seem. Last year, I was hesitant to rest. I didn’t want it to seem like I was “checking out” for the week. I’m an involved mom and I love my kids and my husband – I hate missing out on time with them. But I know the trip is refreshing and invigorating for my husband and our kids – especially our little guy. And so it’s okay if I take the time to rest and unwind.
This year, he asked again: “Should we go away this winter?” Flashbacks to campfires, hot cocoa, smiles, snuggly bedtimes, long walks, fresh air, a fun getaway that all our kids will enjoy, especially our son with all his needs. Since we home-school our kids we can be a little more flexible with travel time. So we’ve picked a time this winter and we’ll be heading up to the cabin again for a winter getaway. We’re looking forward to the escape and hibernation after holiday hustle and bustle, some time to just relax after things are undecorated and put away, and some time to enjoy the peace and quiet that this trip affords!
‘Tis the season of peace – we plan to take advantage of that by running away for a break!