I have a love/hate relationship with the holidays. I’m all about expressing my gratitude for another year of health and happiness and sharing the joy of gift-giving and receiving. I might be able to deal with things like waking up at zero-dark0thirty to hit the Black Friday sales or waiting in long lines at the mall to force my kids to smile on Santa’s lap, but only if you catch me on a good day.
But there’s one holiday hassle that always brings out the bah-humbug in me.
I hate holiday travel.
The packing, the traffic, the crowded airports, the whiny kids. It almost seems like the process of getting to the holiday ruins the holiday itself. By the time you reach your destination, you’re tired, cranky, hungry, and longing for the steaming hot bubble bath you won’t be getting because you’re too busy hugging long-lost relatives and answering 512 questions about your new job and the kids’ extracurricular activities.
Then, by the time you’ve recovered from your travels, it’s time to head home and do it all over again. But unlike the first leg of the trip, the homebound journey doesn’t end in hugs and meals prepared by someone else. Nope. The holiday travel ends with a Monday morning filled with kids who refuse to get out of bed, an empty fridge with nothing to offer for school lunchboxes and a frantic load of laundry so your husband has a clean uniform to wear to work.
To add insult to injury, a lot of times we MilSpouses have to deal with all this holiday hustle and bustle on our own. I still have flashbacks of that Thanksgiving eight years ago when I finally arrived at my in-laws’ house after a middle-of-the-night trip to the ER, a canceled flight and way too many hours entertaining a 9-month-old in an airport. By the time the turkey was carved, I was so far beyond stressed from traveling without my deployed husband that the only thing I was thankful for was that the day was almost over.
Even though Thanksgiving is still a few weeks away, just the turning of the calendar page into November induces my travel anxiety. Should we pull the kids out of school on Wednesday to hit the road early? Should we leave in the middle of the night to avoid traffic? What should I do before we leave to avoid the craziness after the trip? Will my husband be home in time to help me prepare for the trip? Will he even be home to travel with me or will I be spending another holiday without him?
All of this anxiety leaves me with the biggest question of all: Why can’t everyone just come to us?!
We’re the ones with the young kids. We’re the ones with the dog. We’re the ones with the unpredictable schedules. We’re the ones most likely to have to cancel plane tickets because we’re missing a family member. I don’t care if I have to cook three turkeys and find sleeping bags for a dozen house guests who all refuse to wash dishes. If it means I don’t have to spend the better part of two days in bumper-to-bumper traffic or stand in an airport security line at the crack of dawn, I’ll gladly host both sides of our extended families every year. Bring it on.
Holidays are joyous occasions filled with love and appreciation for all the wonderful people in our lives. I love spending time with family during the holidays. I love watching my kids get spoiled rotten by the grandparents they don’t get to see enough. I love sitting around a table of people who are probably secretly unbuttoning their trousers to make room for their expanding bellies. I even love the post-feast cleanup because of its subtle reminder that family can turn even the most unpleasant tasks into an opportunity for bonding. I really do love most things about the holidays.
But holiday traveling? That definitely won’t be on my list of things I’m thankful for.
Are you planning to travel for the holidays this year? Do you ever wish family would just come to you?