December 27, 2016
I am happy to report that even after months of travel, some harmony remains in the Baskin Family. Everyone is not annoyed with everyone else.
I, however, cannot report that no one is annoyed with anyone.
After our previous family trip, several people asked how we survived the constant familial interaction. As my mom likes to say, travel creates a lot of “togetherness”. When you spend a lot of time with anyone, you can find little things that are frustrating or aggravating. Of course, you will also find wonderful attributes. But when you are sleep-deprived from a long flight or feeling a bit ill from food poisoning, you quickly become less forgiving.
Comments shared during moments of frustration tend to mature and age, not unlike a fine wine. Siblings remember slights.
The fact that we travel with a large group only makes everything trickier.
With 6 people traveling together, we have 15 different potential pairings:
Steve – Susie
Steve – Wiley
Steve – Liam
Steve – Terrill
Steve – Virginia
Susie – Wiley
Susie – Liam
Susie – Terrill
Susie – Virginia
Wiley – Liam
Wiley – Terrill
Wiley – Virginia
Liam – Terrill
Liam – Virginia
Terrill - Virginia
Of course, we are often bunched into groups, which vastly increases the potential combinations of interactions.
With all this in mind – the multitudinous iterations of interactions and long memories – we are much more harmonious than anyone should reasonably expect. It would not be silly to expect that we would be at each other’s throats, but we continue to have fun.
Having said that, there are moments when peace seems naught but a dream. Oddly enough, we rarely struggle when facing true adversity. When planes are late, people are ill or weather turns bad, this troop rallies. Our struggles happen in the minutia of daily life.
A particularly volatile topic is seating assignments in our rental car (we are driving a lot in Australia – happily, I seem to remember to stay on the left side of the road). I am driving, so my seat is a given. If Susie wants to ride shotgun, that is her right (though she prefers to have Terrill navigate Google maps and will occasionally cede her seat.) But every other seat is up for grabs, so the allocation process becomes a legislative process that rivals the US Congress. The kids have created a series of arcane rules that govern how and when a person can “call” a seat. I will not even attempt to detail these rules, but know that they include timing, proximity and previous assignments.
You can thank me later for not sharing the entire array of rules.
But car seating pales in comparison with sleeping assignments. Let me stress that we are not staying in fancy places. When we stay in AirBNB’s, someone is inevitably on a lumpy sofa or a mattress on the floor. In hotels, occasionally two teens enter their room to see a single double bed rather than singles.
Susie and I do not mind that. The kids do.
In addition to the random personality conflicts, we also have incredibly varied sleep habits. Some people like to go to bed early and sleep in silence. Others - not so much. The early sleepers do not appreciate the late-night readers.
Once again, it is not the major challenges that engender conflict, but the mild inconveniences. The kids crater not when hit by a rhino, but when nibbled by ducks.
Yet as I think about it, I marvel about how well everyone is adapting. The vast majority of interactions are wonderfully positive and civil. Everyone is having fun and glad to be part of this adventure.
For me, the challenge is to remember what is going so well and not focus on the intermittent struggles. But that is not easy.
Imagine you have a mosquito bite. As it itches, do you think about the 99.5% of your body that is perfectly comfortable, or the 0.5% that is swollen and requires scratching? Similarly, as a parent I want to address the familial friction that emerges between 2 teens when I could also revel everyone else’s positive interactions.
Happily, a good meal and some shared humor generally soothe the tensions of the day.
I know I tend to ramble on about the benefits of camp, but please indulge me once again. As I think about our potential for family strife, I marvel at how well everyone gets along with each other. I would like to attribute this to good parenting, but I truly believe that it is the result of living in cabins with 8-11 other people every summer. Camp has helped our children learn two deeply valuable lessons: 1) they are not the center of he world and 2) living in a group requires forgiveness and compromise.
So we continue to travel to places both urban and remote and enjoy each other. Certainly we will argue about the music on the radio or the seating at the table. We will lobby for particular activities over other options. We are not always gracious when we do not win.
But we seem to understand that the compromises are worth it for the moments that we share.
If nothing else comes from this trip, this knowledge seems like a great lesson to learn.