Raising Richmond: Home blech home

Reentry is a bitch. Check out a few tips to help your family fight the post-vacation blues.

“I just cannot handle going home tomorrow.”

Our four-year-old son made this declaration quite matter-of-factly Saturday morning over our eleventy-millionth game of pool volleyball.1 Come Saturday night, he went for a more tearful, flouncy means of expressing his genuine displeasure that our vacation in the Outer Banks was coming to an end.

Who could blame him, really? We’d spent a solid week together, swimming, eating, reading, playing cornhole,2 watching Netflix,3 napping,4 and just lumping about in all the best ways. And we all knew what waited for us back in Richmond: work, school, crazy (and often conflicting) schedules, chores–just dumb ol’ life.

As much as I wanted to join in on JR’s justified belly-aching,5 the adult in me knew that a family bitchfest wasn’t going to do anything to help our transition back into reality. Been there, done that, don’t care to do it again.6 So before we even left for our week of beachy bliss, I made some mental notes on what we could do to soften the blow of reentry–just a few ideas to cut those post-vacation blues off at the pass, if you will. You can check them out below. I mean, even though we’ve only been back a couple days, no one is fighting and everyone still has all of their parts. I consider that a success.

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1. Have a prep talk (or 20)

Our son does best when he knows what’s coming, so once Wednesday hit (the halfway point of our vacation), I started to casually but consistently remind JR that we’d be leaving on Sunday morning. Sure, he was still bummed once Sunday came, but it was more of a shruggy, “I guess them’s the breaks” variety. I like to think our attempt to frame our return home as neither A Big Deal nor A Surprise Worthy Of All The Tantrums helped with that.

2. Stick to the plan

For a very brief moment on Saturday afternoon, my husband and I considered packing up the car and heading out after that evening’s dinner. Zero traffic and a full day at home before jumping back into our regularly scheduled program come Monday morning sounded pretty good. But although it might’ve been more convenient for us (compared to our scheduled SIX THIRTY IN THE EFFING AY EM departure time on Sunday), we just couldn’t do it to the kid. We’d promised him seven nights of family hangouts, so that’s what he was going to get. Plus, who wants to add pitiful whimpers of “but you saaaaaaid…” from the backseat to what will probably be a downer of a drive anyway?

3. Unpack right away

Full disclosure: I am usually horrible at this. When I get home I want to throw my bags on the floor and lie face down on my bed for a good, long while. But over the years I’ve realized that dragging out the unpacking process makes the sting of vacation’s end linger much longer than necessary. Within an hour of getting back to our house on Sunday we had the food unpacked, the dirty clothes in the washing machine, and clean sheets on the beds. Did I want to do it? Hell no. But it was much easier to settle back into our routine without having to dig into suitcases every three seconds.

4. Expect some grumpiness

Vaykay rules! Work bites! Everyone is likely to be a little mopey or snippy at some point. Cut each other a little slack as you all claw your way out of the post-vacation fog. Which brings me to my next point…

5. Identify and respect everyone’s “reentry needs”

The more quality time JR gets with us, the more he wants; any change needs to be gradual lest he get extremely weepy. Before I return to work after time off, all I want is to be lazy for a few more hours and not have to take care of anything (or anyone). Meanwhile, after a week of constant togetherness/slothfulness, my husband needs space decompress and prepare himself for the impending work insanity. When looking at our family’s very different re-entry needs, you can see that there’s a lot of potential for us to really piss each other off. But by figuring out ahead of time who needed what, we managed to keep everyone happy (and avoid any hurt feelings) this time around. So on Sunday, after we unpacked, we ate lunch as a family before settling in for a nice, long nap. My husband then spent the rest of the afternoon going through email and sorting through his schedule. I spent a good four hours holed up in bed, avoiding all things work-related, watching movies, and smelling our son’s head. It was a win-win-win that gave us all exactly what we needed to face the coming week.

6. Stay off Instagram

At least for a couple days. Or if you can’t do that, please skim through your feed with caution. You see, when you’re in Vacation Mourning,7 nothing sets you back like seeing your currently-vacationing friends post artfully filtered photos of their toes nestled in the sand.8 Looking at those pictures will make you hate them. We don’t want to hate our friends!! We want to be happy for our friends! We just don’t have to look at their photos to do it.

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Is vacation reentry hard for you and your family? What do you do to make the transition back into real life easier?

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  1. You know what’s super hilarious for everyone? Repeatedly spiking a beach ball into your kid’s face. 
  2. The kid is currently 5-0. 
  3. The Ultimate Spider-Man during family time (so, so funny) and Orange is the New Black after the kid went to bed (Kate Mulgrew is my everything). 
  4. Every day. For multiple hours. 
  5. Don’t think I didn’t do my fair share of flailing on my own. 
  6. Trust me. This will inevitably lead to some sort of argument and probably tears and then you’ll close out your week of blissful family time with hours spent in steely silence during the car ride home. No thank you. 
  7. A dramatic name, yes, but then again, I wrote an entire article about how hard it is to come home from the beach
  8. My toes used to be nestled in the sand,” you sob, savoring the feeling of phantom grains between your own digits. 
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Valerie Catrow

Valerie Catrow is editor of RVAFamily, mother to a mop-topped first grader, and always really excited to go to bed.

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