In my family, I’m known as the Trip Daddy.
When arrangements need to be made, passports checked, flights booked, everyone rounded up to get to planes/trains/ferries on time, I’m the one in the family who does it. I go around the house banging on doors, telling people it’s time to get up so we can get on the road. I herd people along, get them to gulp down breakfast, and ask if everyone’s got their toothbrushes packed. In short, I’m the horrible family nag.
I became aware of how irritating that can be during a recent trip to the US Virgin Islands. I was trying to hurry everyone along to catch a ferry, and my son blurted out, “God, will you just chill out, Mom?!!!”
That hurt. I was just trying to get everyone where they needed to be, and no one appreciated it. Yes, they wanted to catch the ferry. They wanted to get moving. But no one was doing anything about it. And the one person trying to do something about it — me — was getting criticized for trying to make things happen.
I decided, then and there, to adopt a completely new attitude: Whatever. So what if we didn’t make the ferry on time? So what if no one got to do what they’d planned to do? It wasn’t my problem. I was just going to lie back, read my book, and wait for someone else to take charge and be the Trip Daddy.
And that’s what I did. The next morning, the family had plans to go into Charlotte Amalie to go shopping. But noon came and went and no one got out of bed. Whatever. I just enjoyed myself sitting on the porch, reading. Eventually family members started stumbling downstairs to eat breakfast. They surfed the internet. They hung out. I didn’t make a peep. It got to be late afternoon. The ferry was long gone.
The family started whispering to each other. I’m sure they were wondering: “What’s wrong with mom? Why isn’t she nagging us to move our butts?”
Evening rolled around. We had reservations for a steak dinner on the beach. I didn’t say a thing; I just kept reading my book.
The earth was beginning to shift. My husband said, “Um, maybe we should get going…”
Hunh. Whatever. I was no longer the Trip Daddy, so let someone else round up the troops.
Hubby got more insistent. Maybe he was hungry; maybe he’d sensed that in this new vacuum, someone had to take charge. So he got everyone moving. I cooperated, obedient as a cow, but I was through being the leader of the pack. I was tired of it, and tired of having to be the nag. Because, let’s face it — no one likes Trip Daddies.
Even though they know they need one.
I resolved to adopt Whatever as my new motto. No longer would I be responsible for the family’s daily vacation schedule! No longer would I feel the pressure of making sure that everyone was happy and well-fed! It was every man for himself. I was just going to look out for myself.
I luxuriated in irresponsibility. The next two days, I ate breakfast alone when i wanted to, got up when I wanted to. I didn’t tell anyone what to do or where to go. We missed ferries. We got to dinners late, and ended up at the lousy tables that no one wanted. Not my fault, not my problem. I was learning to be a slacker, and it felt pretty darn relaxing.
But two days later, I realized our vacation cottage had run out of bottled water, as well as milk and bread and fruit and eggs. Someone had to catch the ferry into town and go shopping. I looked around at my dear family, who hadn’t even noticed that the refrigerator was empty, and realized that if I waited for one of them to notice the problem, the last ferry would be long gone for the day. And we’d have no breakfast in the morning.
I caught the ferry and went shopping.
My brief experiment in slackerhood was over. I was back to being the Trip Daddy and the obsessive-compulsive mom, back to automatically taking inventory of toothpaste and oatmeal.
What I discovered from this vacation experiment is that it’s not easy to change one’s basic nature. From the time I was a little girl, I was irritatingly responsible. Occasionally, I’ve tried to cut loose and be spontaneous, but I just can’t keep up the charade. I look at the calendar and can’t help but think of deadlines. I obsess over everything that can possibly go wrong, and I plan accordingly. And because I do, no one else feels the need to.
No matter how much I may want to change, I’ve accepted that this is who I am. I’ll never be the wild woman who throws on a backpack, abandons the family, and disappears without warning into the jungles of Borneo.
But if you want your refrigerator stocked and dinner on the table every night, I’m your gal.