I’ve been noticing in the Facebook statuses my friends and I post, in many of the blogs I read, that we all tend to show the sunny side of things. We post the happy vacation pictures and the happy status changes: “Engaged!” “Eating at …” (insert favorite restaurant). “Fun day with …” (insert happy friends). “Ran a marathon!” “My kid just (insert accolades). Etc. I get it; I’m guilty of doing it too. Who wants to hear that you woke up cranky? That you drank to much last night? (I might have) That your marriage isn’t going quite the way you think it should be going… despite the happy anniversary status update? That it’s the first day of school, but your kid was snarky on his way out, or that you argued with your husband over breakfast (none of this happened… today)? Really. We all put the sunny side up; not just in eggs. We want our lives to look as good as we hope they can be, sometimes as happy as we wish they were.
Yet that leads to all kinds of misinterpretations and misguided beliefs: Man, she has a lot more friends than me… They go on much nicer vacations than us… Her blessings are much better than mine… Their kids are smarter/more adventurous/more successful… (insert other platitude that leads you to compare). Here kids let her snap first day of school photos, and she’s so organized that she did it. She’s always with other people. There’s always a better vacation, a thinner friend, a better marriage, a happier life, that is being posted somewhere. And still we generally post our status updates and in my case, my blog posts, in the best possible light. I write what I’m feeling or what’s happening and I try not to filter it too much, as I’ve said in previous posts. However, there are plenty of things I leave out, and I have come to believe that there is plenty of sugar coating going on on Facebook and in general.
If you read the Peru series, then you know we had one of THE best vacations ever! No sugar coating. You know that I overcame enormous anxiety and did a three day trek that kicked me around, but did not kick me down. The first day alone was huge (No Pain…)! I managed to get through that and enjoy an amazing trek (Santa Teresa…), adopted a dog for a couple of days (Machu, The Inca Dog), and eventually got to Machu Picchu. We saw lots of spectacular history and landscape in the Sacred Valley (It’s All Old in Peru…) and attended a very special wedding (Weddings and Animal Parts). Just when we thought we couldn’t be more impressed, or more blow away by Peru, we headed to The Amazon (A is for Amazing…) and got a heaping dose of Wow! We saw snakes (Is That A Snake In Your Pocket…) and I fell hopelessly in love and decided I want to adopt… a sloth (Call Me Kristen Bell). Aside from blatantly pushing my posts (in case you were busy doing summer stuff, and missed any?), I bring this all up to remind you of the distinctly sunny and upbeat tone to those posts.
It was an amazing trip, however, there is plenty that I left out. While it was the best vacation our family has ever had together, there were good and bad moments. There were times when I wanted to get on a plane and fly home, and times when I wanted to stay longer. In writing the initial blog posts, I was focused on the high points, the good stuff. These are the outtakes: a post where the details are less shiny.
The players: Principessa (P)-22 yr old daughter, just out of college (this trip was to celebrate her graduation); Middle Man (MM)-20 yr old Jr in college; Little Man (LM)- just 16, a Jr in high school; Smart Guy (SG)- the super organized, Type-A dad; and Me (in italics)… the writer of this blog and distorter of reality. So, the Peru trip… What I didn’t post:
We worked very hard to make arrangements with a group that promised to arrange kosher food for our daughter, and make sure that her Conservative (Jewish) religious needs would be met. This was all left in the hands of Smart Guy, who (to his credit) arranged pretty much all of the trip. Principessa was anxious about this, as she was worried about maintaining her religious needs, while trekking in the wilds of Peru. Well founded concerns I should note, but again, in the name of not sugar coating, she did push our buttons in the planning stages. “I’m not sure I should go… I don’t think you can really make sure things are kosher there… You don’t really understand how important x, y, or z is…” Frankly, the lists of details was mind numbing, and while we tried to be supportive parents, concerned for her needs, it drove me (I won’t speak for SG)
a little crazy.
On our very first night in Peru, Smart Guy called the tour director and as we all listened (and threw out groans and comments) from the back seat, it became very clear that
very little NONE of the things we thought we’d paid for were actually done! No kosher meals arranged, no guides who were aware of Shabbat and special travel needs, no pots/dishes/etc that were safe for cooking kosher meals… Nada. I’d love to write that we managed this with compassion and understanding, but we didn’t. We immediately jumped all over Smart Guy! “Are you kidding! What am I supposed to eat?” Principessa jumped in immediately. “I thought it was all set up…” Smart Guy responded, clearly upset. What! Thought? I thought you arranged all of this? Great! I commented snarkily and sanctimoniously (not a hint of compassion). “Really Dad, you did say this was covered…” Middle Man threw in, in case Dad wasn’t already feeling badly enough. And then we deteriorated into back and forth bickering about how Smart Guy could let this happen (How did you pick this tour company? “What did they tell you?” “Did you ask specifically about kosher?” “Now what are we going to do?” etc)… all of us completely ignoring the fact that he was feeling just as let down as anyone else in that van, probably worse. We hissed at each other, we lowered our voices… as if the Guide, sitting beside Smart Guy couldn’t hear us. This was our first night. Sunny.
I did admit in the post No Pain, No gain that I was resentful of having been duped into a trek that was much harder than I would ever agree to, and a trek that I had very clearly said I did not want to do. I left out the weeks of BS that led up to that. The cajoling on SG’s part, the bending of truths and then the out and out ignoring what I said and booking the trek when I’d said no. I left out how I behaved from the time I found out he’d booked it until we left. I was pretty bitchy about the whole thing. Initially, I took no responsibility for the fact that I could have put my foot down and just not gone. Instead, I passively-aggressively went along, knowing it would be all his fault if I was miserable. I was far too focused on how it would not work, than what I could do to make it work. Whiny and bitchy: I wore it
out well for a few weeks. I managed to pull it together and get it, about a mile and a half into the trek, but I was certainly not a good bunk mate the night before.
Smart Guy is not good at going with the flow. He needs a decisive plan of action. Flow is not really in his bag of tricks. He is absolutely an Order Muppet: Bert to the enth. Nearly every meal or outing went something like this: Smart Guy: “So, where do you want to eat tonight?” I don’t know. I’ve been reading the guide and this one sounds pretty good (read Lonely Planet entry). “I don’t think I want to go all the way over there.” Ok, how about this one ____? This could be decent. “I’m not really in the mood for a nice restaurant.” MM: “Dad, why do you ask? You don’t like any of the suggestions.” LM: “I really want to try cuy (guinea pig) tonight.” MM: “Yeah, you say you want cuy, but I don’t see you ordering it when we’re out.” LM: “I haven’t seen it on the menu! I do want to try it!” MM: “Doesn’t seem like you’re that determined…” It’s really none of your business– LM: “Shut up Middle Man! You don’t know what I’m trying to do…” SG: “Stop it! Let’s go to dinner. Just stop arguing!” MM: “So where are we going?” SG: “I saw a place by the square. Where do you want to go (speaking to me)?” Let’s try this one in the book. The menu looks good and they have music. SG: The music will probably be loud, let’s just go to the one by the square that I saw.” So why even ask me? SG: “Don’t be like that…” And so it went, pretty much every night… except when it was a buffet in The Amazon.
Pretty much every day there was some version of “Shut up!” “Mind your own business!” “Whatever.” “Please don’t speak to ____ that way.” And a few expletives. There were siblings taunting one another and ribbing each other, parents barking at each other,
adult mostly grown-kids and parents arguing over control of anything and everything. “I’m 22, 20, 16! I can handle it myself.”
In the Sacred Valley, things got pretty un-sacred. Fighting between Middle Man and Little Man was endless. While Principessa and MM managed to forge new bonds this trip, brothers found new ways to insult and harass each other, culminating in the blow up of blow ups and a minor chipped tooth. Lots of hurt feelings on all sides, mean things said and apologies rejected. It was a true low for the vacation, a true low in brotherly love.
Not every adventure went smoothly. There were a few bumps and bruises, and Smart Guy had his requisite bike crash, during his day of Mountain biking with Middle Man. To his credit, Smart Guy doesn’t whine much about scrapes and cuts, but the rest of us gave him plenty of lip about why he should give up cycling.
When we finally got Principessa’s food all sorted out and found a Kosher caterer to prepare her meals for The Amazon, we were thrilled. During the trek, it had been a hit or miss debacle, as meals were prepared in the wrong pots, non-kosher food was added to kosher and our wonderful guides floundered under the requirements of preparing a kosher meal. I’ve left out the numerous disappointed grimaces or snarky comments that came about over meals. The wonderful guides who felt guilty and disappointed every time the prepared a meal for Principessa, putting in a good effort, only to hear that it wasn’t kosher. Principessa had gone hungry a lot, eating too many power bars, and was not always in the best of spirits because of it. So we were thrilled to find this woman who promised to prepare 4 days worth of food, “pack it in dry ice for our flight and boats up The Amazon,” so that it would all be good when we arrived. We paid a
small fortune for those meals. However when we arrived to Explorama Lodge and opened the large styrofoam cooler: No dry ice, no wet ice, nothing but poorly closed containers that had been without refrigeration for about 12 hours. A soup container had opened all over the cooler and the contents were everywhere. I’d love to say that Principessa dealt with all of this with grace, but she did not. “Sh^t! I can’t believe this!” The look of confusion and horror on the Peruvian guides was priceless. Some of the food was salvageable, but much of it was thrown away… flush. Oh, right, no flush toilets.
You can’t smell us in these wonderful vacation photos. We smell really bad. We were so dirty that some of our clothes may never be clean! I wrung my socks out in the sink… socks that smelled so bad I offended myself… but they were dirty the entire trip. That doesn’t show in the picture. We all look much cleaner than we are. We smile when someone holds up a camera and no matter what else is going on in the scene, we look happy but be glad there’s not a scratch and sniff option.
On the Canopy Tour, I hinted that Little Man’s siblings may have behaved less than stellar, but the sugar free version: Mean, mean, mean! Little Man was terrified. It was a distinctly ugly scared. Lots of horrified faces, some tears and plenty of complaining. A really good family would have lent lots of support in helping him through his fears. Not us. I tried not to laugh at his terror, but I’ve owned it before: I laugh at others’ discomfort. Running from a bee? I’m wetting my pants. So I tried not to laugh. I truly didn’t think it was funny. But I did laugh. And when Middle Man caught it on film and called me on it (while defending his extremely bad behavior…), I lied and said I was laughing at my own anxiety. Nope, I was laughing at my poor Little Man who was nearly paralyzed 100 feet up. Add to his horror: Middle Man taunted him mercilessly. Shook the bridges, jumped on them behind Middle Man (making them rock and shake). He made frequent comments like: “Wow, that support looks really loose…” It was ugly. Principessa laughed along. She threw out occasional comments like: “Oh come on Little Man, this is ridiculous.” She took photos. Really incriminating photos, of Little Man’s fear. I deleted those photos when we got home… just in case you thought I might actually post them here. And where was Smart Guy in all of this? He was busy being embarrassed. “Stop that Little Man! Quiet down, people can hear you!” For this brutal record: I was right there saying the same things. Family unity and support… ‘aint it sweet?
What you don’t hear when you see all those wonderful photos are the comments. “It’s so hot!” “It’s so cold!” “Let’s go!” “These mosquitoes are miserable!” “I’m starving.” “I can’t stand you.” “You’re a jerk.” “Shut up!” “Let’s go!” “My legs, feet, back, shoulders, hurt.” “Baby.” “Let’s get going here!” “Great! Now look where we are… great map reading.” “Stop whining!” “Hurry up and take the picture.” “Let’s Go! Seriously!” “I’m starving!” “How much further is it?” “Is it much further?” “When will we be there?”
There was me asking for a sip of Middle Man’s water, and him refusing… to teach me a lesson and make a point. I was very thirsty and really needed that water. It was about Mile 10 of the 13 hour trek day. I couldn’t believe he wouldn’t share his water, and this elephant will not soon forget. Some day, he will need some water…
There were arguments and cutting remarks most days. There were times when each of us felt hurt or disappointed, times when each of us was really angry. There were also the sunny faces you see in the previous posts. We are a family that laughs a lot and we all have fairly quick, sharp senses of humor. That saved many a bad day, or tough moment. Not all of them. There were a few moments, when I really did think a flight home would be better. But in the end: it was the best vacation we ever took. No sugar coating.
Stop! Take a second and read this too—-> If you enjoyed this post, please take a moment and hit the Like icon at the end of the post (click on the title of the post, and it’s at the bottom). I’m actively seeking your approval, throw me a bone. If you really liked it, consider Sharing the post and if you’re thinking: “Wow, I jut can’t get enough of this,” make both of our days and subscribe to future posts. No spam, no extra emails, just Tales From the Motherland, each time I post. Thanks for reading along!
… and the truth shall set you free. I think we do try to put forth our best selves in print, on FB, in public. I notice a lot of honesty in blogs, digging below the surface by authors (you included!). Some of the sugar coating is to insulate ourselves against the judgement of others, because we know the judgement is there. But every time I read a nitty gritty post, I see the responses of, “Whew, I thought I was the only one” and the expressions of appreciation for getting below the surface. Thank you for your honest revelations!
Thank YOU for following along and always offering kind support. I appreciate the feedback! I think it’s probably best that we put the good stuff out there, but it’s always a little refreshing to read the other side as well. 😉
True story! I had an awesome vacation with the hubby last month, but after 24/7 together for 8 days with over a full day in the car, I at times thought pushing him over a steep hill in the Black Hills might be a good idea! 😉 Such is love and family! We ALL get it! But, getting back home intact and still deciding we like each other affirms the bonds we have. Thank goodness for the pictures, to help remind us that we did have fun!!! Happy Travels!
No doubt! I’m sure I love this rag tag group, but no doubt there are moments! I love the observation though. Thanks for taking the time to read the post and share your thoughts Stephanie. Much appreciated!
Love it!! Every family has their own dynamic and they are surprisingly more similar than we realize:)
I figure we’re not at the top of the best family list, but we’re not at the bottom either. That’s somewhat encouraging, as there is plenty of support out there. 🙂 Thanks for your support, and for following along!
And you are human! Sounds like me and my brothers when we were younger. Oh, and just so you know that I, too, am human, the other day I posted this on Facebook: “Well, the other shoe dropped. He’s begging me to home school him; he says he’d rather die than go to school. I knew it was too good to be true. Crap. This sucks.”
It was the night after the second day of school (4th grade), Little Man’s ADHD meds are not an effective dose yet, and his anxiety was sky high. He’s been better since that night, but it was a rough one.
We are indeed all human… sobering at times. 😉 Hopefully your little man will find his groove and you will all feel a lot better! Thanks for sharing your thoughts.
Well, now I feel as though I’ve been on a family vacation to Peru! 🙂 So sorry, but I had to laugh at the fussing and fighting and complaining.. It’s not vacation if someone isn’t completely miserable and making everyone else miserable as well. I am ashamed to say I even laughed at the way yall were laughing/teasing your son on the bridge. It sounds like you had the family vacation of a lifetime!
Yep, I think everyone was laughing at Little Man that day, and he so doesn’t deserve it! He is so much kinder to us all. However, it does indeed appear to be within the bounds of normal. Appreciate the feedback and support Jonesing.
Great post. Wanted to know how you handled the kosher food.. or didn’t.
In the long run, it was still a fantastic trip, the arguments and few mishaps just make it a better story.
We bought our own pot, and some kosher food (lentils, kosher cheese, etc from a Chabbad center in Cusco) and then tried to teach the guides how to keep it kosher… in addition to the Kosher deli/bakery in Lima, that I mention in the post. It can be done, but not with Peru for Jews! What an experience. :-p
Wow, such brutal honesty. I never thought other families were as dysfunctional as my own. Actually, I still don’t think so. I would have been tempted to hurl my sister off that rope bridge given the opportunity.
Thanks for inviting us to take a voyeur’s view of your family vacation without making those of us looking in feel creepy about it. I have followed along, and it was a fantastic vacation!
Thanks Mike! I think there’s a lot more dysfunction than normal out there. Or, I want to believe that… Thanks for following along! 🙂
Ah, yes – guilty as charged, I am one of the sugar-coaters. I think it’s easier for strong writers to share the negative, as they can get it “right”. More or less. For me, it would no doubt come off as whiney, depressing, complainey. It’s much HARDER to write about the negatives in a way that people actually enjoy reading – that’s why we don’t do it! When you wrote about your experience with your mom, for instance, it was beautiful. Most of us don’t have the literary skill to acheive that. Glad you do 🙂
Wow! What a sweet comment Valery. I should hire you as my publicist! 😉 Much appreciated, though I’m skeptical. I happen to know that you are QUITE a good writer, and I believe you could write good, bad or ugly and make it sound very good. Thanks for the generous feedback; it’s much appreciated… especially as I question all of the above! :-p
Hmmm, stats… it might be a good time to post something edgy & political, it’s a hot topic lately. And you can rock it, I know!
I’ll keep it in mind Val. Some thoughts come to mind, but I’m definitely in a slump… Thanks for the nudge. 😉
Oh my word, Dawn, this is priceless! My favorite line that made me FOTFL: “I couldn’t believe he wouldn’t share his water, and this elephant will not soon forget. Some day, he will need some water…” LOL! I loved this post! You expose the reason I hate all Christmas letters with the perfect pictures that deliniate the “perfect life” when you know that they are lying through their teeth! Fantastic post. I was with you all the way. I particularly loved the daughter trying to get kosher food in Peru. Having lived in Israel for years, I was the antithesis: I would give my kingdom to find a hotel where I could eat meat and have coffee with cream. Many a trip got stalled on whether I would go to the dining room on the left (meats and veggies) or go to the dining room on the right (dairy, eggs, and olives), which was the crossroads between getting my coffee “with cream” and everybody else’s desire to have meat! Too funny. Excellent job and such a microscopic view of “real life.” Touche.
P.S. Don’t know if you’ve written a book about this yet, but at some point you must (MUST) write a humorous book about the two different perspectives of your daughter’s new world view as it collides with yours. The vacation is an excellent first chapter!
Thanks Eleanor… great feedback and gives me a boost, when I’m feeling a bit down about blogging right now. Those summer stats get to me… ugh. Yes, I’ve thought of writing a book, but “Principessa” doesn’t want me doing that, no doubt. I’ve told her that my blog is my domain, but she is not as open to sharing details as I am. Thus far I’ve been respectful, but surely a book would set things back. 😉 As for “Middle Man” and the water, he would have you know that he thought I should carry my own water… while Smart Guy willingly carried mine. Since I was hiking way ahead of Smart Guy (gloat, gloat) MM just had to rub my face in the fact that I didn’t have water. That boy will pay one day… or be consumed by guilt, when he finally sees the light. Thanks so much for stopping by and for the king comments. Much appreciated, as always.
OK.. I might get stuck reading your blogs all day and not getting ready for our fiesta here.. but have to stop and comment.. AHEWSUMMMMMMM… it’s so true that we focus on the good.. thank goodness.. but the bad makes for some great reading as well and thus should not be forgotten.. I have 2 daughters and yes.. we have had amazing trips and for the most part they are very go with the flow.. I’m probably more like smart guy.. jeje.. though once I’m on the trek i’m usually pretty free flow as well.. My trip to Peru was also laden with “misunderstandings” like getting to and from the airports to the hotels.. for some reason when I sent my entire itinerary they misunderstood that I would need to get both to AND from each hotel and airport.. so they only organized to the first hotel and not back to the airport and from the last hotel back to the airport.. What? How? Why? Did they expect me to walk with my luggage to the 3 in between hotel airport runs? Thanks for this post.. real truisms and so authentic with family travels.
Thanks. Yes, I think we all sugar coat a lot of what we put out there… I do it all the time on Facebook, etc. However, I try very hard not to in my blog. I want to be as real as possible: the good, the bad and the ugly… as well as the outrageous, the funny, the embarrassing, the oh my God she said that, etc. It’s not always easy, or popular, but that’s what I want to work at. Glad you related to this, that’s what I’m looking for: the place where we all connect.
As for the travel and communication: Oy! There were so many missed things it was ridiculous! That said, they also got so many things right it was amazing! THE best family trip ever… and there have been some very good ones! Enjoy your fiesta! 🙂
Well I love it..