In honor of National Foster Care Month and a year when vacations can actually happen, I thought revisiting “Vacations with Your Foster Child” was appropriate.
One thing I want to clarify before I launch in: when you have a kiddo from foster care, they will have “special-needs“. They might have a medical condition or emotional issues…or struggle with the effects of the trauma they have experienced. Or a combination of multiple things. They may not always be seen as “special needs” but they are, at least for a time. So, I mention that just to make sure we are all on the same page as it relates to this post.
That said, there is often no real “vacation” when traveling with a child who has special needs. There is only a trip to a place with little to no familiarity, routine or structure; it includes too much junk food coupled with many new experiences that often lead to overstimulation and, worst of all, too little sleep.
And everyone is left with the realization that home and routine is the best thing ever!
So why do we do vacations? After all, it would be easy to stop doing it and it would save us a lot of money too. We keep going because my special needs kiddo loves vacation. He loves the beach. He loves the mountains. He loves new playgrounds and riding bikes and doing all those “vacation things”. And even my neurotypical kids, who might be visibly “over” the special needs at times, honestly love it too…in spite of sometimes feeling like a traveling circus. And believe me, there are times we just need to pitch a big-top tent and charge admission.
We do this crazy and hard thing called “family vacation” because it’s about living and loving and making family memories… and not always about fixating on the needs.
That said: Do we address the needs on vacation as best we can? Absolutely. Does our effort sometimes fall short? Absolutely. Do we pick ourselves up and try again the next day and the next year? Absolutely.
When we think back to all our trips, we don’t reminisce about how hard it was. Instead, we talk about things like the flock of seagulls who came out of nowhere and attacked one of our sons when he pulled a slice of pizza out of the cooler. Or, we remember an evening walk on the beach when I found a pair of Ray Ban sunglasses washed up on the sand. I still wear the sunglasses and my family refers to them as my “gift from the sea”. Those specific unique-to-our-family memories are what we remember every time we mention vacation.
And that is why we do it. Because our “special needs” son is worth it. All of our sons are worth it. And because our family is worth it too.