Phil and I have a little tradition of going on a date immediately after a vacation. After the 4th of July, we scheduled a Repatriation Date Night – we planned a long afternoon to catch a matinee, have a relaxing supper, connect with each other, and plan the family calendar for the back half of the summer. Here we are on the brand new patio of Granite City Brewery in Maple Grove:
What I wanted to write about in this post is how vacations create a break in daily connection. To prove it, I can honestly say that we never spend time chatting about the demands of life back home on vacation. Why? Because we’re on vacation.
While on vacation, it is easy NOT to communicate, or plan, or communicate your plans to your spouse. Additionally, I have the horrible condition of thinking I’ve had a conversation with Phil about something, only to discover that I didn’t actually have that conversation with him – but probably with someone else (my Mom, a girlfriend, etc). Nice, huh? Chalk it up to being blonde or over 40 – whatever – but I’ve learned it means that our regular date nights are really important.
Vacation time is break time and there’s nothing wrong with that. Phil and I love to unplug and we like doing our little solitary past-times side-by-side while we’re on vacation. He might enjoy a day of sports with the boys while I’m playing Sudoku. Our only family rule is that everybody gets to check off their bucket list for that particular vacation. It’s a fun break from regular life, but the trip ends eventually – and that’s when the real fun (NOT!) usually begins.
Repatriation Date Night
Wikipedia says that repatriation is the process of returning a person back to one’s place of origin or citizenship. After a vacation, re-entry back into the real world can be abrupt and overwhelming. Our schedules, work, the kids activities, the house, the dog, the list of daily demands and commitments goes on and on. Prior to our habit of scheduling a Repatriation Date Night the night after vacation, that first week back to the grind was… well… a grind.
By having a chance to connect after a vacation, we get ourselves and our family repatriated much more quickly. I know that sounds weird – but there’s “vacation connection” and then “after-vacation connection”; and, we need both!
Here’s what we generally discuss during the date:
1. Vacation Recap
Here we review the vacation: what worked, what didn’t. We discuss the vacation budget and the vacation spending recovery plan if necessary. I like to make an entry in my calendar for next year – a note to my future self about the plans I would suggest for next summer based on this last vacation experience. A sprinkling of advice and alignment about how we would do things different in the future has really helped us feel more satisfied with our family vacation plans.
2. Re-entry Week
How do we build in extra self-care for the first week back? What do we need evenings to look like with the kids to get them back on sleep schedules (this is a big one for us). How can we meet the commitments of the week – break them into smaller chunks, divide and conquer, reschedule, get help, etc. It always helps me feel like our to-do list is a little more manageable after talking about it with Phil.
3. Finding Everybody’s Groove
Living through transitions in a healthy way is something we want our kids to learn. Sometimes, it is extra tough for one or two of them to get back on track. Now that they are getting older, we see this a little more (think fall – and back to school time). In this case, we slow things way down for the kid having trouble. Maybe they miss some activities or arrive late to events. They for sure get extra time with Mom and Dad. The key is to keep working toward the regular schedule in baby steps until their ready to get back in their groove.
As we continue along summer, I often find that our best moments aren’t the vacations we planned so hard for and recovered so hard from, but the spontaneous moments that unfold out of the clear blue – the last-minute adventure, the friends who pop over for a bonfire, time with one of the kids in the hammock – with no recovery required.