Monday, August 18, 2008

Vacation, had to get away

This weekend I was at the coast with my in-laws. It started out well enough, but after a couple of days, I was irritable and prickly. I kept asking myself why - my in-laws are charming, and the extended family is fine too, better even, most of the time. And yet. Enough is enough.

After two full days I was tired of being with these people. Tired of all being together every moment, playing games and talking and and and. At this point most of you are saying "Wah, poor Nora who can't stand to be happy. Get yourself together." Well, except for Karen, who knows exactly what I am saying. But here is the thing - even when you care about people and enjoy their company, sometimes too much time with no break turns fun into torture. For me, two days was the breaking point.

with bunk
Ada and her Grandpa (the fog, though lovely, did cut down on the 
amount of time we would normally have spent on the beach)

Even though I didn't entirely see this at the time, I felt it enough to take steps to disengage. Instead of playing a game with the rest of the group, I started a jigsaw puzzle. But Chris's family does not seem to feel this need for down time, and they kept trying to draw me in, inviting me to play games and participate in the group. Half-way through an excruciating game of Quiddler (trust me, do NOT play this game with more than four people or you will be bored to death) I started leaving the table between my turns. I started to have that crazed feeling that if I had to make idle banter any longer I might find a way to turn my cards into a deadly weapon. (It did not help that one card-player challenged with my assertion that the final sixth of Kavalier and Clay would have benefited from some good editing by saying: "but it won a Pulitzer!" as if that assured perfection. Then he admitted he hadn't actually read it himself. But it won a Pulitzer!)

one missing piece
The first of two puzzles I completed. Notice the missing piece (bastards).

During visits with my family, Chris takes a lot of time apart from us. I have noticed over the years that he needs down time when they are around, and I give him plenty of space. A typical day when my parents are in town involves some Ada-centered activity (which Chris does not attend), followed by nap-time lunch for the adults, and then another outing or neighborhood excursion (often without Chris). It is not uncommon for my parents to see Chris at breakfast and then not really interact with him until dinner. I do not necessarily need this kind of space, but this weekend made me realize that I do need a little more space than I have been giving myself. Next time we spend an extended stretch with the in-laws, I give myself permission to sneak off and read a book, take a walk or otherwise disappear for an hour or three. With Ada as the central focus of our family, they won't care if I wander off. If it improves my mood, I am sure they will even appreciate it.


  1. I feel the same way. I love going on vacation with my in-laws, but I also crave time alone. No one else shares this tendency, and it's viewed with suspicion ("antisocial" is how my husband characterizes it).

  2. This is exactly the problem I have when visiting my in-laws and it's so hard to articulate. (Not that I don't try.)

  3. Now I don't feel so guilty for needing some space from my in-laws, too. They just vibrate at a different frequency than I.

    And, you're right; as much as I loved reading K & C, it did unravel a bit towards the end.

  4. Well, I don't love vacation with my in-laws. And I'm sure that has nothing to do with the fact that they're alcoholics with hair-trigger tempers. Nope.

    I like the puzzle idea, though! Next time I will pack my own.

    Welcome home!

  5. I have a 48-hour limit as well. My in laws definitely do not feel the same way.

  6. John's mom arrives next Thursday for a ten-day stay. Maybe you and I should make some plans?
    The most recent visit from my folks went much better for John, since he's at work 14 hours a day.

    Also, I thought K & C could have been about 100 pages shorter than it was.

  7. I absolutely cannot function unless I get a few minutes (at the very least) to myself every single day. I have always been like this. The vacation you just described sounds to me like a special kind of hell. ;-)

  8. i know exactly what you mean. my problem is that jason takes time to him self with my family and with his so i always feel like i am the entertainer/organizer. i do comfort myself with the idea that they are really here to see the kids anyway so we try to sneak away together as well now.

  9. I appreciate this frank review of the mechanics of the vacation trap #473. So many to remember really.

    And I love the title.

  10. Heh . . . I can relate. I love my wife's family, but I only know so much about fishing. And that ain't much.

    At least you have relatives who have even *heard* of Michael Chabon. I start talking about books or philosophy or theology or any of the things that interest me, and the room gets quiet.

    [insert crickets]

    But when we visit the nort'land, there are others there who I love to rub shoulders with. My muse lives closeby and our time together is always special . . .

    I have always been the one to pull away, so I can so relate.

  11. I know what you mean. I've always love this old but excellent article from the atlantic on introverts, because it made me understand that I just need to be alone to recharge no matter how much I like my company, always have, and that extroverts just don't understand it, because they have so much fun talking at people. Thankfully my family will get together and do things like read magazines, which is more my style of being together.

  12. Here's a bright spot. At least you don't fantasize of ways to kill your in-laws like I do when I'm with mine for more than 10 minutes. Oh, did I just type that?