How does a Family of 5 Alpha Adults Travel Together?

Very carefully.

The scene: Washington, D.C.

The players: my brother, his wife and their daughters (7 &10); our parents (in their 70s); and me

The context: we haven’t traveled as a family since my brother and I were 16 and 12 respectively. We love each other very much, mind you. In fact, that’s WHY we haven’t traveled together…

The reality: some bickering, some false starts, we lost Dad (only) once, but everyone put their alpha in check and deferred to my brother. He became D-A-D in this situation and it was beautiful to see the changing of the guard.

Another changing of the guard: watching my uber smart Dad whisper facts and perspective to one niece or the other. And watching her face go from polite listening to furrowed brow of concentration to a moment of enlightenment and curiosity. That used to be Dad and me. Perhaps it was also Dad and my brother. It’s been beautiful to observe the connection while remembering what it felt like to get that private tutorial. And yes, he still teaches me that way, too.

As for D.C. – Not So Much

I’m sure my taxes will be raised just for saying this, but I wasn’t smitten with D.C.

There’s an incredible amount to do and I found that overwhelming instead of inspiring. How do I choose which few experiences will be amazing in the limited days that we’re here? Analysis paralysis.

As it turns out, either I picked all lemons or D.C. simply isn’t my town. A few good moments, some good info here and there, but nothing that I’m raving about. The best has been, you guessed it, spending time with the family.

Incredulous Facts Learned While in D.C.

  •  • The term “lobbyist” came from the era of Ulysses Grant, who often escaped the hubbub of the White House to a local hotel for a cigar and drink. Folks found out and approached him with requests in the, wait for it, lobby.
  • • With a goal to make the Library of Congress the best in the world, but curtailed by the realities of budget, the crafty original librarian invented copyright law. Mutually beneficial to the author and the library. The author is protected and the library gets an obligatory copy.
  • • Those wacky Duck tours you see around town that go from street to water: They originated in WWII. There could be miles of rocky coast before hitting land/sand which would be treacherous and vulnerable. Now we scoot around town(s) learning history.
  • • The US Postal Service delivers 50% of the world’s mail.
  • • Like branches of the military, there are ranks within the Secret Service.
  • • With all due respect, and while I certainly don’t want to pay for it via taxes, it’s time to redecorate the White House East Wing (where all the social stuff happens). And the china patterns: yeesh. Someone needs to go with the First Ladies when they shop.

Happy, er, Day Mr. President

We were lucky enough to get tickets to tour the East Wing of the White House. Shazzam. And then it turns out the President (Obama, for those of you playing along at home) had to step out for a minute, so we got to watch the helicopter fly in, land with precision, the media corps hustle out, the President wave, and the helicopter leave again. Seen it once, seen it before…

President Obama boarding Marine One

The Secret Service presence had already been obvious, and then they amped up their detail in preparation for the flight. Buff dudes each carrying an arsenal circled the property. Seriously – you don’t want to meet one of them in an empty alley. Men who smiled and chatted with us a few minutes before now had “the look” while in stance. (Do they practice the look?) The crowd taking pictures from the street had been cleared. They don’t mess around.

As proof of this, upon entering the tour, we stood one at a time in front of a fancy fan that blew our scent at trained dogs (who we couldn’t see). The dogs were determining whether we were carrying anything sinister. Incredible.

So that’s D.C. as I choose to tell it. How would you describe it? What gems have you unearthed?

Does your adult family travel together? How does that work for you? Well, does it even work for you?

7 Responses


This was a very interesting post. I love hearing about the two changes of the guards. So touching and cool to see life cycles in action. I love that you are present enough to notice these precious moments- they should never be missed but often are.

I don’t remember much about going there as a child but I know we did not see the White House. I think it is great that you all got to see the President, especially for the kids.

Looking forward to hearing more about your travel adventures!


Your Comments

I’m not “in my 70s” yet…don’t push it…
Wonderful post. And though I did enjoy the trip, I’m done with D.C. National Gallery of Art was my favorite museum plus sitting in a donated Smithsonian garden and people-watching.

The English major/English teacher admires your writing style.

My favs on a recent visit were riding the Metro, touring different parts of the Smithsonian and visiting Chocolate Chocolate on Connecticut Avenue. The Smithsonian could take weeks to appreciate, but as one tiny example I saw a land grant issued to Charles Engles (Little House On The Prairie).

see, if i had known about Little House on the Prairie in advance, it would have made a world of difference. truly. those books meant everything to me as a girl!


I really like DC so I’m surprised. I think the flowering trees are amazing, and I love the tunnels under Senate to get everywhere. I also love the monuments at night.

Our family is headed to the beach this Summer. There will be 22 of us and 18 of them are my sibs and their kids. We’re all looking forward to it, but there will be no learning. That’s the thing about the beach, just playing the whole time. A city with all those people overwhelms my brain too much to think about!


Disappointed that you didn’t care for DC. As you know, it’s my favorite city. But it became my favorite city after I got away from the government monuments, which are impressive, but only a small part of DC. Like Atlanta, it’s a city of neighborhoods. Next time you’re there, wander further afield, and I bet you’ll like what you see.

So thrilled that you’re sharing your journey with us. Savor and enjoy everything!

Oh,all that said, I could live there as long as I can work for the natio park service!

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