Life is Messy, and Other Things I've Learned on Vacation

I'm halfway through my first family vacation as a father of two little boys.  In fact it's the first proper family vacation we've taken in a while.  It's funny how a few days away can put a lot of things in perspective.  A few random things that have dawned on me.

Vacations are messy - just like life

My wife and I both work.  To a large extent, I'm kind of naive to what happens between the hours of 7am and 6pm.  I get home and the kids are fed and ready for bed, house tidied up.  Not so on vacation.  Vacations are a wreck.  Spills.  Scraped knees.  Ripped clothes.  And more.  And the more you obsess about controlling the situation, the more frustrated you get.  It's only when you sit back and accept that vacations - like life - are messy, that you can really let go of all that need for control.  It's a simple yet wonderful realization.

Kids are mini versions of their parents

It's fascinating to sit at the pool and watch families.  The physical resemblance is striking in nearly all cases.  I've spent the last few days wondering if others are looking at us thinking the same thing.  But even more interesting is that behavior is clearly learned, passed from parents to kids.  The parents who seem intent on not smiling, keeping their arms crossed and ignoring the beauty around them have spawned children who - you guessed it- don't smile, keep their arms crossed and ignore the beauty around them.  It's a good lesson for me as a parent.

A little indulgence is good for the soul

Frosted Flakes for breakfast, followed by cookies.  A beer at 10am.  90 minute massage.  A 3 hour nap.  All things that don't make sense in the real world, but are good for the soul in the vacation bubble.  A vacation is one big indulgence - it feels good to go all the way with it.

Nothing replaces family time

I'm reading a horrifically cliched book - or at least I thought it was until I settled into vacation mode - called If I Knew Then What I Know Now.  It's a book of quotes from prominent business people about what they wish someone had told them 25 years ago.  I'd say half the quotes have to do with the importance of prioritizing family over work (or at least striking a balance), and how the memories you make via those small family moments far outweigh any conference call, meeting or memo. 

I know it sounds cheesy, but I can't think of anything in the world that could make me happier or more fulfilled than the joy on my 4 year old's face when we swam in a waterfall in the El Yunque rainforest yesterday.  At that moment it dawned on me that this is what life is all about.  Oh sure, I'll slip back into normal mode after a few days home, but I'll keep this picture handy to remind me of what's truly important.