Our Summer of Lasts was passing faster than I wanted it to, and I was looking forward to a few days to sit and relax with my children on our family vacation. We weren’t rich. I couldn’t afford the fancy hotels and big monied trips their father and his girlfriend gave my boys, but I was looking forward to camping and a few days to just BE together, connecting with nature, connecting with each other, away from the hectic life of every day.
But already things weren’t going as I’d imagined, as I’d hoped.
Troy and Matt had decided to stay home and work rather than camp with the three younger boys and me. I hadn’t known it then, but last summer had been our summer of lasts as far as the family vacations I had tried so hard to give them was concerned. I thought about all the ways I had thought this summer, our last summer together, would be better than any others, of all the lessons I’d finally learned, and how I had already blown the opportunity for my two oldest.
The summer their father had left suddenly we had planned to camp our way across the country taking the boys to see things like Yellowstone, the Field of Dreams, the Saint Louis Arch, both oceans, so much. Plans had already been made, photos had been looked at and talked excitedly over, and routes, with fascinating stops along the way, had been mapped out.
But I would have been seven months pregnant at that time, and I couldn’t make that trip alone with four young boys.
After my husband left I worked so hard to make up for that and other lost trips. I couldn’t take the boys cross country, but I could take them part way. I could make them see the greatness of this land, the beauty of its many different people, and the blessings the Lord has given to us and why we need to treasure and stand tall.
And each year, I took them on whirlwind vacations trying to cram in as much as possible, trying to make up for what they had lost, living the greatest curse of the custodial parent, the curse of the one who didn’t want to see their children’s dreams crushed, the one who didn’t want their children to have to be resilient, the one who didn’t want the children to trade even one moment of their happiness for an adult’s.
I was cursed with trying to make up for it all, to give them all they would have had if their father hadn’t walked out. I tried to give them the closest thing I could to that amazing, but out of my grasp, cross country trip, but in trying to give them all, I failed them.
What I should have done is made less of an effort to see the country and more of an effort to help them to love camping, relaxing around a fire, and simply being together as a Family.
This summer, I had it figured out. This summer, we wouldn’t do those whirlwind trips. I would admit to myself without guilt or anger or accusation that they had lost out when their father left, but I wouldn’t try to make up for his faults.
I couldn’t. Trying to do so was a losing battle, another falsehood given to us by a selfish generation and a court system not designed to or capable of handling family issues.
The phrase, “maintain the same quality of life,” is often used referring to the lives of women and children left by abandoning men. I knew the phrase was meaningless. Anyone who had rudimentary math skills knew you didn’t take one household, divide it in two, and still maintain the same degree of anything in either.
And yet, even I fell for believing I could help them maintain the same quality of family vacations if nothing else – foolishness! I fell for the curse of the custodial parent, the curse that says we must do everything, be everything, give everything to make up for what the child misses out on.
I couldn’t do that. Truth is, their lives had changed forever, and no matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t give them the life they should have had. Only, I figured it out too late to enjoy our last family vacation together.
Last Summer Had Turned Out to be
Our Last Family Vacation Together
And I Hadn’t Even Known It
Troy and Matt had decided to stay home and lifeguard rather than join the younger guys and me on our family camping trip.
I had finally gotten it right, but it was too late. By the time I’d figured out how to beat the curse, to stop trying to give my kids all they had missed out on and just be there for them, it was too late. Our last family vacation, as a complete family – or as complete as I thought of it now – had passed without my even realizing it.
Please join me for Part II: