Family Vacation Tragedy, Anxiety and Learning to Relax

BlogHer Original Post

I was walking up and down and up and down the aisles of Food Lion on the island yesterday. We had already done our big vacation food shopping trip, but I had stopped back in to find a few things we had forgotten: aluminum foil, hummus, crackers and Popsicles. You would think that year after year of shopping in the same grocery store on vacation would teach me where things are, but it hasn't and I found myself wandering kind of aimlessly.

Suddenly, a voice came over the intercom.

"DJ, if you're in the store, your mom is looking for you."

I paused and looked. No child was wandering as aimlessly as I was in my aisle, so I continued on. And then the voice of a mother came across the store. "DJ! WHERE ARE YOU? COME UP HERE NOW!" Her voice wasn't heavy with anger, but it was dripping with the fear any mother has felt when she loses sight of her child for a moment. My heart caught in my throat.

Eventually DJ was located and reunited with his very panicked mother who apparently abandoned her cart and returned to her vehicle; a vehicle with plates that were outside of state. They were also on vacation, and living through a horrific moment.

The truth is that tragedies happen on vacations. Sometimes they're minor. A close friend of mine lost her son briefly in Disney World in 2010. (Of note, if you saw a brunette stand on a garbage can and scream, "EVERYBODY STOP!," that was my lovely friend.) They found him almost immediately. Sometimes they're expensive. On our way home from vacation last year, the fuel pump on our truck decided it was done functioning... after business hours... on a weekend. We had to drop $800(+) for a new pump, money for a hotel room and were behind a full day getting home. Sometimes... they're beyond tragic. Last year, just a few miles up the beach from us, a man from our home state got caught in a rip tide. In 2006, Jen Satterwhite shared about Sammy's Spirit -- created when little Sammy fell through the rails at his hotel. Near me, some teens recently died on the last day of their mission trip in Costa Rica. Stories like this go on and on.

It's enough to make me want to hole up with my kids all summer and never leave the house. Except that we're super busy this summer and that's not really an option. And, you know, that's not really how I want to live my life and that's not how I want to teach my sons to live their lives.

So what's a mom to do?

BoardwalkI hate giving into fear, so being prepared is how I deal with things. I can't control other drivers, but I can make sure my tires are aired up and that we're alert while driving. (However, I can't press a magic button and know if something is going to break down on the way to or from. Bummer.) When I get to my location, I can check to make sure smoke detectors are installed as they should be, locate the fire extinguishers and figure out the best route for escape in case of fire. I can teach my children about strangers, tides, currents, heights, staying near mommy and daddy, and sunburn without scaring their pants off.

And I can relax. It is vacation after all. That's hard for me to do. Really, really hard. But I'm working on it. I really am. I may have hugged my boys really hard when I got back from the grocery, but then I went out on the deck, read a book in the sunshine and only told them to get back from the edge of the deck approximately 27 times.

How do you deal with vacation anxiety? Have you ever had something semi-awful happen on a trip? What are your tips for other parents on handling and/or preparing for/against vacation tragedies?

Family Section Editor Jenna Hatfield (@FireMom) blogs at Stop, Drop and Blog and The Chronicles of Munchkin Land.


In order to comment on, you'll need to be logged in. You'll be given the option to log in or create an account when you publish your comment. If you do not log in or create an account, your comment will not be displayed.