Time Out for Teens

Someone once told me that some teens get to a point where, in order for them to enjoy a family vacation, they need to take a friend along.  While I think my teen would definitely complain less and might even pack her suitcase on time if she had a friend beside her, I’m not ready to “go there” yet, since I think our younger daughter would feel left out (not to mention she’d pester the teens a bunch), and I know my husband wouldn’t want to walk around in his pajamas in front of the friend if we all shared a hotel room! So this past Labor Day weekend, we solved the teen travel problem in a different way– by taking separate vacations. 

First, some back story: I’d been searching for something inexpensive we could all do on this three-day weekend, which basically narrowed down to: must be less than a day’s drive, and include staying with friends/relatives. While combing the Internet, I remembered a gift certificate I’d stowed away long ago, a gift from a friend that entitled us to a stay at a retreat center not far from home. I dug it out of my files and not only was it good for two nights’ lodging, it included several meals, for a family of four.  ‘Perfect!’ I thought. I checked out the center’s website and called them up. Their motel-style rooms were booked but they had room in one of their cabins.  I surfed for things to do in the area: a planetarium show at a college, great bike riding trails, visiting old friends who lived in the area, hiking and swimming at the retreat center…sounded great to me! And to my husband, and to my 10-year-old.  But I had a sinking feeling it would not be, in any way, seen as fun by my teen.  I was right.

“We might as well just stay home!!” she ranted.  “Who wants to go to the ghetto on vacation?”
“It’s out in the country,” I said, “surrounded by woods.”
“It might as well be the ghetto!” she continued.  “Near some stupid small town…and I HATE nature sounds, you know that!!” 

And I hate being on vacation and having to hear a complainer.  What was I thinking, planning a trip for us? The “roller coaster” had definitely been “down” at our house for several days…

So, we gave her a choice: she could go with us, with no complaining allowed, or stay with a friend for the weekend.  At first she chose going with us, but when she found out she could help her friend shop for a Homecoming dress, she changed her mind.  (Ah, I knew the mall would win out over Mother Nature!)

It turned out to be a really good decision.  The only complaints I heard were from some of my friends (“I can’t believe you gave her a choice! That’s terrible!” “You’re not forcing her to go?”).   She got a lot of homework done and had fun with her friend, while we enjoyed eating food we didn’t have to fix ourselves (Allison would have hated the selections); building a fire, roasting marshmallows, and even singing a few songs (Allison would have died of embarrassment at the dorkiness of it all and would have worried that someone might hear us); and riding bikes (23 miles, sometimes through 5-ft. tall grass– Allison has severe allergies to grass!). Since Emmie is the child we don’t get to see as much anymore due to her gymnastics schedule, it was good for us to spend time with her.  No TV in the cabin or lodge meant playing Uno instead, which Emmie thoroughly enjoyed.  And spending time with friends we hadn’t seen in 10 years was a treat– and Allison probably would have been “out of sorts” at their house as well, because they had a guitar– which Emmie picked up and spent lots of time playing.  (Lately, Emmie and her guitar prowess has been a major thorn in Allison’s side.)

Some things were just meant to be.  Allison was happy to see us when we returned and we were happy to see her.  We all went out to dinner together on Monday night and shared stories from the weekend.  She got ready for school this morning without any fussing or arguing. 
I think Allison summed it all up pretty well when she said,  “I needed a break from you all.”

Which is not to say that this is how we’re going to do all family vacations from now on.  She wouldn’t want that and the rest of us wouldn’t, either.  But I think a “time out” like this once in awhile might just be a good habit to start. ###

11 thoughts on “Time Out for Teens”

  1. Pat:

    Whatever works! I enjoyed reading your post. This is the second time I have been able to reply to your postings. You do a great job. You sound very professional and easy to read. Get started on that book!

    Gabe

  2. Good decision! We are called upon to start letting go too soon (in our opinions) but it can really help the family dynamic! And as you said, it is good to spend one on one time with each child as well.

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