One Final Family Vacation
Dear Amy, we want one last family vacation, but the 17-year-old refuses
Every year, says advice columnist Amy Dickinson, “I step away from my column for two weeks to work on other creative projects. (Anyone interested in my non-advicey personal essays and photographs can subscribe to my free newsletter: amydickinson.substack.com).” Instead of original Q&A, she presents “Best Of” columns, like this one, compiling a discussion from 10 years ago about a 17-year-old who simply will not go on the one last family vacation his parents have proposed.
We want to have one last family vacation before our oldest son, a high school senior, goes off to college and work.
Our younger kids, ages 15 and 11, want to go, but the 17-year-old says that no matter what, he will not go.
We’ve suggested a variety of vacations, but he says no to everything.
He wants us to go without him, but we do not trust him to stay home alone for a week. We don’t have family or friends nearby to “baby-sit” him while we are gone. Also, going without him would defeat the purpose of a family vacation.
We don’t want him to have the power to quash vacation plans, yet spending good money on a kid who is likely to sulk and be grumpy the whole time isn’t appealing either. What do you think we should do?
– No Vacation?
I agree with you that leaving your son home alone is out of the question. Because of his attitude, you should assume that your last fun family vacation happened last summer. Enjoy those memories.
Tell him, “OK, son. We are boxed in by your brattiness. And so we’re going to stay home and enjoy a week of family togetherness on our staycation.”
Maybe your porch needs painting. If so, he’s the guy for the job. Cheerfully plan to take the younger kids on day trips to amusement parks or ballgames. Invite your oldest son to come along, and if he does, enjoy his presence. – July 2012
Having had the same situation in the teenage years with my now adult sons, I have a suggestion: Allow him to bring a friend.
Teenagers have a strong need to be with their peers. By having a friend along, he can get his peer “fix “and still spend time with family.
Our vacations were always enhanced by the friends our sons brought along (we paid). It gave us a chance not only to enjoy ourselves and our kids on vacations, but we had the added bonus of getting to know their friends better.
– Been There
I’ve received a high volume of responses to this question. I love your suggestion. – August 2012
We waited for our oldest child to graduate from a two-year college program before we went on our “final’’ family vacation. What a difference those two years made in terms of maturation and pleasant companionship, not to mention appreciation!
Teens do grow up, and if we give them the space they need to come around, they become very pleasant people.
– Been There
Dear Been There:
Teens balk and sulk because they don’t know how else to handle the prospect of their eventual separation from their family – at least, that’s the way I interpret this behavior. Parents should look back on their own teenage behavior for perspective. – August, 2012
“No Vacation” sure was putting a lot of pressure on her 17-year-old son to join them for “one last family vacation.”
Your suggestion about cheerful planning of other family activities was spot on but leave out the “we are boxed into your brattiness” lecture.
The mom who wrote to you is the one that is creating this all-or-nothing scenario while placing the blame on her son.
– Mom of Four
I see your point, but I also wanted this teen to see that his attitude had consequences for the whole family. – August 2012
I would never allow a bratty teenager to determine if the entire family gets to take a vacation.
My response would have been, “We are going and that includes you. Period. If this is too difficult for you to understand, then you can kiss your car keys, electronic devices and social life goodbye for some time.”
My husband and our four kids just returned from a weeklong vacation that our 14-year-old daughter did not approve of. Guess what? We all had a great time.
Also, when we are on vacation, texting and video games are limited and Facebook is banned.
– Not-a-Pushover Mom
Many people responded to this letter with stories about dragging sulky teens on family vacations. You’re right that the memories tend to be good ones.
In the tradition of the great personal advice columnists, Chicago Tribune’s Amy Dickinson is a plainspoken straight shooter who relates to readers of all ages. She answers personal questions by addressing issues from both her head and her heart – ranging from a mother mourning non-existent grandchildren to DNA surprises. A solid reporter, Dickinson researches her topics to provide readers with informed opinions and answers. Ask Amy, P.O. Box 194, Freeville, NY 13068
© 2021 by Amy Dickinson