Life with a Smile: Vacations with kids — what a trip
By Kate Snyder
I was on vacation last week. Or rather, I took a trip last week. Parents with young children know that there’s a distinct difference between a “vacation” and a “recreational trip involving your kids.” Spending eleven hours in the car with three small humans under the age of nine is nobody’s idea of a relaxing getaway.
Not convinced? We stopped nine times in eleven hours for my youngest daughter to pee. I rest my case.
Some people see vacation as a time to sleep, lounge, and rejuvenate. But again, those people are not traveling with small children. Or at least they are not traveling with MY small children. My offspring do not lounge; they wrestle and pick fights with each other and whine excessively. They also do not sleep in. Ever. Their internal clocks are firmly programmed into the rhythms of a working household and they’re up by 7 every day. Earlier, if you switch time zones.
Thus, since resting is pretty much out of the question, when we’re at my parents’ house for our annual summer trip, we Do All the Things. We go to the zoo and the water park and the amusement park. We visit museums and go swimming. We ride our bikes to the park and the movie theater and the library. We pack a summer’s worth of fun into a ten day trip and it’s absolutely glorious.
This may sound like an exhausting itinerary – and it is – but I absolutely guarantee you that corralling my kids indoors for hours on end (particularly inside my parents’ beautiful Victorian home full of lovely breakable things) is even more exhausting. Don’t believe me? Two years ago, my son accidentally broke a window by over-enthusiastically rocking a wooden rocking chair through one of my parents’ living room bay windows. I lived in that house for sixteen years and never broke a window. Boys!!! But that’s a topic for another day.
Thus, we sally forth most days in search of adventure, glory, and frozen desserts. Seriously. My kids consume a whole lotta slushies when we’re on vacation. It’s their summer sweet of choice, a fact which boggles my mind. Ice cream cones, I understand. Milkshakes? Absolutely. But slushies? So much potential for brain freeze with so little reward.
The best part of visiting my hometown is seeing my childhood friends. Although most of them moved away after high school, a core group has drifted back and we get together each summer to catch up. Our five families boast twelve kids under 13 – including not one, but two sets of twin boys – so it’s a good, rowdy time. We go to the lake and cook out in each other’s back yards and voyage en masse to the park to watch fireworks.
With all of our adventuring, the kids and I spend quite a lot of time in the car. My folks live in the far western suburbs of Chicago and it takes about an hour to get anywhere. For years, I fought against electronics in the car. My generation played I Spy and sang songs on road trips, darn it! But honestly, traveling with kids is hard enough – why make it harder on yourself? As a general rule, martyrs don’t have much fun. So this year we embraced the built-in DVD player of my parents’ minivan and watched approximately 14,000 animated movies over the course of the week. Note to self: hide “Shark Tale” next year.
We returned from our trip tired, sunburnt, and sated with happy memories. Just the way it should be. I loved my trip with my kids. Now I just need a vacation.
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