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Parenting Milestones That No One Mentioned: Vacation Planning with College Kids

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I hit another parenting milestone that no one warned me about this month. And it shook my emotions more than just a little bit.

My husband and I have four children, but this week I booked our first summer vacation for a family of 5.

Not 6.

Just 5.

And it felt so weird and a lot sad, because I have booked vacations for 6 people for over a decade. Six is the number that is often “too large for one hotel room” but I have made it work over and over again. Yet this summer, for one of our trips, I won’t need to find accommodations for 6.

Just 5.

Honestly, even though it is hard, I know our family is moving into a new season of life and I have been shoved into a family transition period as the oldest child makes her own summer plans.

This new season is hard both emotionally and practically. There are no rules to follow as our family finds its way forward. This “new normal” is too new to feel comfortable, but the old way doesn’t work. So we push on.

Of course, this isn’t the first time we have hit a family transition period. I experienced a big one when my oldest reached seventh grade and then another when the youngest hit that same age.

Because this is part of raising a family – embracing the changes that happen over time.


My oldest daughter is now a college freshman. She has her own plans, goals, and dreams and I love watching her pursue them. This summer she will manage the gymnastics summer camp where she began coaching children five years ago. Watching her gain increased responsibility makes me so proud.

It feels like yesterday that I was celebrating her first coaching job. I remember going to the gym early to pick her up so I could take pictures of her.

“Which one is your child?”

“That one. The one in the pink staff shirt.”

College daughter coaching gymnastics at 14

As awesome as it is to watch her soar, watching as her path break away from our family is also hard. And sometimes it just hits me.

Like when I hit that “Book Now” button for a vacation for five.

Honesty and Communication

I have found that the best way through these transitions is honesty and communication. I share how I am feeling with my kids, but without any guilt or manipulation. I want to identify what is going on and share ideas for moving forward.

In this case, before I officially booked our vacation, I had a conversation with my daughter about plans for the summer.

She already committed to our vacation in May. I planned it in advance with a date that worked with everyone’s schedule so we could have a family vacation. It’s only a few days, but enough for us to connect and relax together.

I explained to her that I want to continue our National Park adventures with Acadia National Park this summer, and I asked how she felt about that. She explained that she couldn’t get more time off, but was content to stay home with the dog.

Honestly, I think she is looking forward to the quiet week. And that’s okay.

I shared my heart and expressed my sadness about booking a vacation for five – not to manipulate or guilt her – but in a way to let her know how weird it was for me. I also assured her that I was happy for her and proud of her and thought it was the right decision for her to stay home.

She knows that the first time I missed a family vacation was when I was in college too, so I get it. This is the transition.

And I am here to keep supporting her as our family transitions to this new normal.

Kids Still Home

On the other side of the transition, there are still three kids at home with me.

And they still have time to take all of my crazy family trips. (yes, I plan a lot of them)

Our Family trip to Yellowstone

When my oldest was 12, we took our first trek across the US and toured all of the National Parks in the Southwest. Now that my youngest is 12, I want him to have some National Park memories that didn’t happen when he was five years old.

So this is the balance. This is the awkwardness.

I must continue raising the babies still in the nest while watching some of my little birds take off and fly.

Leaping on Vacation at Teton

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One Comment

  1. Mary, I found you just after the beginning of this school year and your quiz, blogs, links, and resources have saved me. I could write so much more, but I just wanted you to know that I am so very grateful for all you put into the world. Thank you. Hugs from CA.

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