Enough With the Long Weekend Pressure, Already

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“Have you got big plans for the long weekend?”

People love to ask this. I wish they’d stop.

A long weekend is simultaneously a gift and a burden. You have the excitement and freedom of a regular weekend, with a bonus day tacked on to it. The possibilities are seemingly endless. You could take a vacation, visit a cottage, go camping, do something sporty or any number of other adventures.

The long-weekend burden, though, is two-fold. First, there is the pressure to do something grandiose with those precious three days off. Doing regular things could be viewed as a waste of this glorious opportunity. Unless you go parasailing, lead a spelunking expedition or oversee a moon landing, you’re apt to feel that your activity choices are underwhelming and unworthy of sharing. Second, because you’re putting so much effort into maximizing the fun, you may become fixated on making everything perfect, which is simply not realistic.

To counteract the long weekend pressure, try to remember two key things:

1. “Small plans” are okay, too.

Sometimes the problem is our self-imposed need to have something to tell others when they ask if we have “big plans” or inquire how our weekend was. The thing is, these are superficial questions usually asked by casual acquaintances or co-workers. They probably don’t really care all that much – they’re just making small talk or trying to avoid dead air in the conversation. Wowing them with a scintillating post-weekend story should hardly be your first priority.

I had a long weekend “a-ha” moment prior to Canada Day. I’d heard the phrase “Happy 150th Birthday, Canada” so many times that I was starting to feel eager for July 2nd just so we could move on from the hype. Our family had made tentative plans to attend a local Canada Day celebration with all the usual festivities. I was dreading it. As I grumbled my way through a search for red t-shirts, it occurred to me: why are we doing this? My family doesn’t covet crowds, live music, face paint or fireworks. I realized I was making plans based on what I felt we “should” do rather than choosing something we would truly enjoy. We cancelled the original plan and instead went to see Cars 3 in the theatre (it was terrific). A trip to the movies is a rarity for us, so it felt like a significant way to mark the occasion. As I was inwardly congratulating myself on my newfound perspective, my son spilled his bag of expensive movie popcorn all over the floor. This brings us to another revelation about long weekends:

2. Things are going to go wrong.

Popcorn will spill. Black flies will bite. Bad weather will rain on your parade. Because of the long weekend pressure to (a) do something big and (b) make it a smashing success, you can end up feeling angry, disappointed, or heartbroken if things don’t go perfectly. Whatever your plans may be, try to keep your expectations reasonable and remember that there are bound to be snags.

I’ll never forget my neighbour’s downtrodden face when he returned from the annual father/daughter fishing trip he’d been planning and anticipating for months. It rained the entire time, he reported bleakly as he unpacked a trunkful of sopping wet camping gear. He suspected he’d never be able to convince his daughter to go again.

I spent every summer of my youth at our family cottage, and I now cherish the single week I spend there every year. Inevitably, something threatens to ruin my picture-perfect cottage experience – usually it’s mosquitoes, storm-related power outages or green algae in the lake. We’ve also had family vacations marred by food poisoning and a broken arm.

It’s hard when setbacks happen, but try to roll with it. Laugh about it if you can and take the attitude that this one detail is not going to define your family’s vacation experience. Embrace the notion that it may become a memorable story to re-tell as part of family lore. Use your creativity and come up with a “Plan B.” Too wet for the zoo? Make your own out of stuffies. Pool closed for repairs? Build an indoor jumping pit out of couch cushions, pillows and blankets. Pull out a bin of toys the kids haven’t seen in a while or assemble something you don’t normally have time for, like an elaborate princess castle or train set. Keep a list of indoor activities you’ve been meaning to do with your kids on the fridge or in the notes app on your phone. You can also check out Linsey De Ruysscher’s suggested rainy day activities and Jen Millard’s recommendations for classic family movies.

This long weekend, you don’t need to have big plans – just the right plans for your family. And if things don’t go exactly as you intended, clean up the mess (popcorn or otherwise), smile and carry on.

Kristi York

Author: Kristi York

Kristi York is a freelance writer and mom of two sports-loving boys. She is a regular contributor to ParentsCanada magazine, Running Room magazine, and the ParticipACTION website.

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