A Word on Family Road Trips

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Road trips used to be easier.  We used to truss  sorry – fasten securely in their car seats – the kids up in the back of the car with a laptop, some DVD’s, some snacks and we’d reach our destination with nary (ok, a minimum) of complaint.

Times have changed.

Our kids, both teens, are no longer content to sit in the back of any moving vehicle unless it contains at least two of their friends and is rolling towards either a mall, a movie theatre, or an amusement park.  Once the destination is reached, said teens flee the car before any other humans can see that they’ve arrived under the control of their parents.

So, imagine their…let’s use the word dismay…at being trapped in a car – not even a cool car with video screens or GPS – for upwards of nine hours at a time whilst their parents (one driving, one napping) provide absolutely no entertainment whatsoever and who have the unmitigated gall to drive right by any and all amusement parks.

Think then of the parents’ resultant rebuttal dismay  at being trapped in same said uncool vehicle for upwards of 9 hours at a time with bored, slightly hostile spawn.  Some tempers might become frayed.  Ok, just mine as my husband is a saint.

Back in the good old days, the worst we dreaded from our little ones was a tiny foot hammering away at the back of the seat  or a sudden potty break.  Mostly, our kids were dreamy travelers – they napped.  Our daughter’s eyes would start drooping the minute we strapped her in.  I remember my son sucking contentedly on his pacifier, his huge brown eyes gazing up at the car ceiling as if it was the most fascinating thing on earth.  Then his eyes too would close and peace would descend on our little mobile world.

On this trip, my daughter’s steely blue eyes bore into the back of my head, not blinking.  If I dared make eye contact in the rearview she fixed me with The Look, then slowly peeled her gaze away.  Oh dear.  We’ve gone beyond the days when all discontent could be fixed with a container of Honey Nut Cheerios, a sippy cup and a Dora the Explorer backpack full of paper and crayons.

The boy child was somewhat easier to handle.  He was quite content to sit for hours and play his DS.  The problem with this strategy revealed itself after we realized he hadn’t had a decent meal in six hours.  Dr. Jekyll, may I introduce Mr. Hyde?  Not pretty.

My husband and I must shoulder the blame for subjecting them to the monumental torture of a summer road trip to start with.  However, if I may just offer a word (or 500) to my “little” ones:

Sometimes, just sometimes, the world does not revolve around you.  Reality sucks, I agree, but sometimes trips have to be arranged according to time, budget, and parental desires as follows:

  1. It’s a miracle we went anywhere at all this summer given your father’s work schedule
  2. Sadly, none of our lottery tickets paid out and the miracle did not go so far as to provide us with an unlimited budget.  These days, we simply cannot afford to fly all four of us…anywhere.  Even if we could’ve afforded plane tickets, we would’ve slept in the airport terminal as a car rental would’ve done us in financially
  3. Last summer was The Big Vacation; this summer was about catching up, re-visiting old stomping grounds of the adults.  As you saw with eyes glazed over by stupefying boredom, your parents had friends, lives, houses, sand dunes that they could claim as their very own territory before you two became the focus of our familial universe

I know you did not enjoy this summer’s vacation as much as last summer’s.  And no wonder but it is important to realize that last summer was The Big One.  Not every summer will be filled with exotic locations such as Monte Carlo, Rome, and Santorini.

Kids, I wish we could.  I wish we were so filthy, stinking rich that we could go somewhere new and exotic every summer – and we could take all of your friends with us – in separate private jets, no less.  That is not our reality.  Next summer?  You’re probably going off to separate work camps nature camps.  Or working and going to the pool or that really, really big lake out front called Lake Ontario (complete with beaches, lifeguards, and cleaner water than we saw anywhere in the Mediterranean – or Virginia Beach).

[LECTURE ENDS HERE]

In an effort to reach some sort of common ground, I attempted to ascertain what comprised a good vacation – private jets and exotic locales notwithstanding.

Conclusion?  There is no common ground, at least not in our little unit.

My idea of a good time is my snow-white ass parked on a stretch of pristine beach with a good book, a bucket of SPF 50 by my side.  If a waiter wanders by with a tray of margaritas, so much the better.  My idea of a wild and crazy time is to add headphones to that picture.

My husband loves a little bit of time on a beach but ultimately he gets twitchy and longs for some physical activity – playing frisbee, flying a kite, blasting up and down the shoreline on a jet ski.  He also loves museums and churches.

The kids want to be waited on, catered to, and entertained.  Location is the only thing that differentiates vacation from an ordinary day at home.  My daughter loves a good pool and a beach with awesome, adrenaline-pumping sport like parasailing. She drives a mean jet ski.  My son would be just fine in a cave – not spelunking but playing video games.  Only occasionally would he emerge, blinking, into the light of day to sightsee.  I haven’t really nailed down his favourite type of place but the Colosseum and the Coca-Cola Museum were his two faves from the last two years.  A trail of chocolate would help in drawing him forth from any cave.

Are separate vacations the answer?  I need copious amounts of downtime – and food/alcohol at regular intervals – or I become unbearably witchy.  My husband and daughter are marathoners who can sightsee until their legs nearly drop off.  My son is a wildcard – depending on his mood and the charge left on his DS.

Vacations are supposed to be relaxing – a break from the tedium of everyday life.  Can this family’s vacationing future be saved?

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