Is there a moment when family vacations are supposed to cease? Deborah Solomon poses this question in a recent article in The New York Times, reflecting on a family trip to Montreal with her two sons, who are full-fledged adults, ages 23 and 20.
When friends expressed surprise, it got her thinking about the wisdom or foolishness of such ventures, and whether she and her husband were pushing their sons back into roles they long ago relinquished.
“The truth is, I still savor our family vacations,” Solomon writes, “however much they have changed since the long-ago days when they were little and every experience had an aura of newness and adventure. These days, the things that excite my sons involve either the New York Mets or the kind of personal or professional improvisation that occurs with no parents present.”
A case can be made, Solomon states, for physical proximity to the people you love, and for simple togetherness, even after your family is no longer a cohesive mammalian unit but rather a group of adults. Long car trips that were once enlivened by guessing games like 20 Questions are now devoted to untangling cords, comparing notes on dwindling phone batteries and negotiating for access to the USB-powered port on the dashboard.
There are, of course, many advantages to traveling with older children, according to Solomon, one of which is that they tend to enjoy walking. The finest moments of the family’s trip were spent exploring Montreal on foot. They walked for miles through the center of the city, along the Boulevard St.-Laurent, “which has nothing to do with Yves and abounds with hippie-style thrift shops,” she explains.
Then, while visiting Montreal’s Museum of Fine Arts, the family got separated in the decorative arts wing. Solomon saw a piece that reminded her of a bookcase at home; when she turned around to call her husband and boys over, they were nowhere to be seen. After retracing her steps through the galleries, she spotted the three of them through a window.
“They were sitting on a small, leafy terrace outside the second-floor galleries,” she recalls. “Leaning back in low-slung, pink plastic chairs, in their dark sunglasses and shorts, they could not have seemed more relaxed had they been sitting around a pool. In an earlier era, I would have insisted that they return to the galleries. But not anymore.”
It was then that Solomon had an “a-ha” moment. “Perhaps my high standards for family vacations have collapsed. On the other hand, perhaps I am finally learning how to do it right.” Stepping onto the terrace, she says, she pulled up a chair and asked the boys if they had any Mets news, which actually got a laugh.
Who says family trips are only for the Cheerios-and-sippy-cup crowd? As Deborah Solomon’s family proves, all ages and all stages can enjoy the happiness and togetherness that traveling as a family can bring. Hooray!