Thursday, July 20, 2017

FOMO vs. KIMO - I Know I Missed Out

So, you know about FOMO, right? FOMO is Fear of Missing Out. It's like when you go to Facebook and you see all the seemingly amazing things everyone else is doing and you wish you were doing them too and you basically start to feel like a worthless slug that you're not doing more with your life.

OK that last part is kind of my own personal neurosis. Whatever.

I suffer from a chronic case of FOMO - but mine is sort of retroactive. I have KIMO - Knowing I Missed Out. And it really sucks.

This summer alone, I have scrolled through countless photos of my friends' and acquaintances' cross-country vacations, family get-togethers, spur-of-the-moment daytrips and local adventures. I've seen action shots of siblings of all ages, arms around each other, playing in the surf or posing at the top of a mountain. I've seen captured moments of a brother and sister leaned up against each other sleeping in the car after a long day of swimming, husbands and wives arm and arm spouting their endless love for each other despite "the years of ups and downs", and tearful reunions of family members from across the globe.

And it's all wonderful. Really. It is. Like pages out of a travel magazine, I've been transported to the beaches of Florida, the hills of the Badlands, the Rocky Mountains, the coasts of Maine and more than one of our nation's natural wonders. And though I've visited a few of those places, it wasn't enough. It was never and will never be enough.

I often have asked my son over the past few years if he'd like to go on a vacation. Since he's a teenager, his response is usually the same. "Could I bring a friend?" And then, because he's such a compassionate kid, he'll say, "But then who would you have?"

As fun as it would be to have a traveling companion, I don't NEED one. But bringing a friend is literally a logistical nightmare. His friends seem to have jam-packed summers with their own family vacations, traveling baseball teams, friends and relatives visiting from out of town, even summer school.

Last week, after wistfully perusing another Facebook family vacation album, I said, "We should do a family vacation." His response was, "Well, we don't have much of a family."

He's right. We don't. And I'm sorry for that.

When I "had" a family, we didn't take big trips - the kids were young and my ex and I divorced when my oldest was seven, but we did manage a trip to Disney together AFTER we were divorced. Neither of us wanted to miss out on the kids' experience there and there were no significant others to explain it to, so why not? And it was wonderful and amazing and not that awkward, surprisingly.

When I was in a long-term relationship a few years later with a man who had children as well, we trekked to the Dells - and I finally felt like I was doing the family stuff I always wanted to do. The next year we road tripped with some of his family to the Badlands - complete with a packed SUV and cooler of sandwiches just like my mom used to make on our cross-country trips in the old station wagon.

It was the best vacation I've ever taken - in part, because I felt like part of a family, doing things that I had wanted my family to do.

When that relationship ended, so did the travel. Granted, my kids were getting older and they are four years apart. My oldest went down a bad path and money that could have been spent on airline tickets and amusement park admissions went to his issues, and traveling as a "family" meant tear-filled visits to Colorado and Montana with my ex-husband. Not really my idea of a great time, though I will say the least difficult part was traveling with my ex. I'm lucky in that respect.

My kids aren't kids anymore - they're 16 and 20. No longer are they wrestling on the basement floor or building Legos together or even playing video games side-by-side; in fact, they aren't very close at all. Life choices and different personalities have opened a chasm between them that I hope one day can be closed up - but not right now. The idea of taking a family vacation isn't palatable to either of them - let alone with just their mother.

I always wanted one of those cabins up in Wisconsin or in the Ozarks. I have it pictured in my head - it's on the lake, with a dock and big Adirondack chairs where we sit and have campfires and watch the sunset. Every year around the same time we pack up the car and head out for our two-week stay, and the kids look forward to it just as much as Christmas. Sometimes they bring friends; sometimes other family members join in the fun. A tradition. A family vacation - guaranteed at least once a year.

I never had it. Now it's too late - financially, logistically and emotionally. I rarely talk to any of my family members. My dad is 86, my siblings and I aren't exactly close, my oldest has his sights set on getting out of Peoria, and my youngest can't seem to find a friend who has any time to come over for the day, let alone take off for a couple of weeks. I don't know how these families do it, but I feel like a failure.

This isn't the kid of family dynamic I ever wanted. I did my best when the kids were young but I wish I would have done more. I wish things would have turned out differently. I will always wonder how much of what I did and didn't do during their lives led to how my kids developed, the choices they made and how they feel about each other now. I regret that I didn't give them the memories that I wanted them to have so badly.

I know I tried - when both of them were young we were very involved in every local kid-related thing I could get my hands on - play groups, tumbling, art, soccer, baseball, basketball, football, speed skating, martial arts, swimming, rock climbing, apple orchards, College for Kids, children's museum memberships, hiking at Starved Rock, biking to Jane's Ice Box, crafts at home, pumpkin decorating and trick-or-treating with neighborhood kids, volunteering ... but they weren't family vacations. I didn't show them the world. Hell, I barely showed them any of our country. Sometimes I feel like I just killed time, hoping someone else would invite us on their family vacation so we could piggyback on their memories.

I want to tell my kids I'm sorry. I want to tell them that I wish I had given them what every kid deserves to have - those two weeks in the summer to go away to another place, so that when they go back to school and write "What I did on summer vacation," they have a story to tell. I wanted them to help me pack the car with suitcases and a cooler and a bunch of beach stuff or fishing poles and play the license plate game to pass the time. I wanted all those photos to thumb through and put in albums or post on Facebook to say, "Hey! Look at our awesome family vacation and how much fun we had!" But it didn't happen - and it will always be one of my many, many regrets.

For all of you who are taking family vacations, I know they're a lot of work. I know it's not all smiles and kids running into the surf hand in hand, and Kumbaya around the campfire. But cherish every single moment anyway.

I'd give anything to be in your shoes, because I certainly, regrettably KIMO.