There’s a Native American proverb that goes: Don’t walk behind me—I
may not lead; Don’t walk in front of me—I may not follow; Walk beside
me that we may be as one. The proverb hangs artistically upon my kitchen
wall, a gift from my oldest daughter. As much as I love the wisdom of
these lines, I know they are not always practical—like when taking a
family vacation, for instance.
My family and I just returned from a week-long Disney adventure. Vacations are exhausting and can often result in the exact opposite of a “vacation.” Once again, I think of the way in which humans behave and the way we most find compassion in our fellow humans. I spent the majority of the trip walking behind, just barely making out the outline of my husband’s stride as he led the way through crowd after crowd.
My husband is a sprinter. He does everything with a great sense of haste, needing to get to every location ahead of schedule. In his pocket he carries the day-to-day details of our destinations.
I am a meanderer. Going at a steady jaunt, I browse the scenery and people watch/listen. In my pocket is the empty space where I should be carrying my cell phone in case we get separated, but even had I remembered it, it probably wouldn’t be charged.
Our youngest daughter is a halt-and-observer. She scans the ground as she walks and stops abruptly at the slightest hint of interesting creepy-crawly or unidentifiable foliage.
And our oldest daughter spans the distance between us—sometimes gathering pace and walking alongside her father—other times slackening her pace to join me and point out this or that along the way.
As pretty as I’ve painted it, you can see how a vacation that includes itinerary could be a nightmare for a family such as this. The important thing we’ve learned is that we have to allow one another to be who he or she is—and yet, that is still not enough. I have to meander quicker than I’d like, and my husband must stop more often to look back and let us catch up. If we don’t consciously compromise our internal pulses, we’ll never be in the same place at the same time, thus defeating the family portion of the family vacation.
The only part of the trip where we lost sight of this was under the extreme conditions of The Harry Potter Wizarding World Park at Universal. 105° . . . choking humidity . . . and crowds comparable to those I experienced while touring the Taj Mahal. It was a two hour wait for anything—including shopping. Most Harry Potter fans go with the distinct desire to purchase their wands at Olivander’s, and you can do just that—if you are willing to wait in line under a hot sun for two hours and then allow yourself to be packed into a shop the size of my living-dining room with at least forty other people.
That being a single day out of the week, I think we fared pretty well. Why do families choose to go on family vacations? For the memories—especially for the memories of our children. It’s like filling up their warehouses so they can one day think back upon that time. A memory void of pleasantries is a troubled one. And troubled memories can wreak all kinds of mayhem on a person’s internal life later in adulthood. We may not always succeed at being one, but as long as we give one another the freedom to be and yet work to meet one another’s separate needs, all the fuzzy edges will fall away from the memory, and our children will have the freedom to remember them only as moments of oneness.