Here & there: How space can be heavenly in the midst of family togetherness

Kat Dayton and family mid-way up the hike to Arthur's Seat. Edinburgh, Scotland, June 20, 2006.| Photo courtesy of Kat Dayton, St. George News

OPINION — Whether we’re talking marriage, kids or vacation when we’re all together all the time, we each need personal space so our relationships can breathe.

Let’s start with vacations; some people call every trip a vacation. To them I say: you’ve never traveled with kids.

Don’t get me wrong, I love traveling with my kids. In fact, I think travel with kids is critical and everyone should do it. But traveling with kids isn’t ever a vacation, it’s a trip. There are the same stresses of family life – food needs, sibling negotiations, bedtime settling routines – just in a different, often more interesting, location.

Case in point: my family’s trip last summer to Edinburgh, Scotland.

We’d been traveling across the U.K. as a family for a week in June 2016. But before that, I’d been traveling on my own with the kids for a week in Rhode Island where I also happened to get the worst stomach flu of my life. And I’m a barfer by nature, so that’s saying a lot.

While in Edinburgh we’d hiked to Arthur’s Seat and were treated to a full panorama of the city, walked the Royal Mile, devoured handmade gelato at the base of Edinburgh Castle, laid eyes on the Scottish Crown Jewels and even witnessed William Wallace’s sword in nearby Sterling.

Before that, we’d explored London on foot, by double-decker bus and by Overground and Underground transit from Islington to Paddington and everywhere in between.

Now I was tired. Still depleted from Rhode Island, the miles of daily walking and the late nights of writing had caught up with me. Crabbiness doesn’t follow too far behind tiredness, especially when you’re up late doing laundry and repacking the family’s belongings in preparation for the next leg of your trip while everyone else in the rental flat is asleep.

Thus, the next day there was a little tension between me and my husband. Because of marriage. And traveling. And kids. And packing.

We weren’t fighting exactly, but we weren’t holding hands and being as affectionate as usual either.

Our youngest noticed. Somewhere outside of the Royal Museum, he slipped between the two of us and bridged the gap, my hand in his left and my husband’s in his right. We walked several feet like that until he slowly started lagging, drawing my husband and me closer with every step. The next thing I knew, our boy was banging the backs of our hands together.

“Ouch!  What are you doing?” I asked.

“You know, trying to make a spark,” he replied.

Later that day we were on a plane destined for London and the spark reignited. My husband and I, sitting together with our children behind us, stole a small kiss. Our youngest noticed that too and popped his head between the seat to object.

“Don’t do that!” he said.

We were confused. Wasn’t he the boy who was trying to rekindle the spark only hours ago, we asked him.

“Yes,” he said. “But I don’t want to see it. I just like to know it’s happening.”

A dear friend gave me “The Prophet” by Kahlil Gibran for Valentine’s Day. She marked three pages with pink Post-its noting love, children, and marriage.

The page marked “marriage” talks about letting there be spaces in your togetherness. Let the “winds of the heavens dance between you,” it said. It’s quite a beautiful notion. It’s probably even true.

But that’s one of the big things about travel with children: It’s hard to have spaces in your togetherness.

So sometimes it gets a little claustrophobic. Sometimes you find yourself mad at your spouse in the middle of an incredible Scottish city because of laundry.

But without your spaces, in a foreign city as a family, sometimes beautiful things happen too. Sometimes you find your togetherness.

Even if it’s not a “vacation.”

Kat Dayton is a columnist for St. George News, any opinions given are her own and not representative of St. George News.

Email: [email protected] | [email protected]

Twitter: @STGnews

Copyright St. George News, LLC, 2017, all rights reserved.

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