I’m writing this as I sit on a shady patio in Orlando, Florida. I am on vacation…but I’m not really on vacation. I’m a parent of still slightly smallish children so being away from home with them all in tow at a place like this one, the happiest place on earth, is not quite my idea of a vacation. Vacation is a misnomer in this case, actually it’s a lot of work.
To be fair, taking all four of them to the grocery store at home is work too and the grocery store at least has some familiarity. When we go on “vacation” everything is unfamiliar, new, exciting, crazy making. I realized the other day while having the obligatory theme park experience that I am hyper-vigilant when I’m on vacation with the kids. I recognized it the moment I made eye contact with a harried mother across path from the ice cream stand. We sort of nodded at each other and broke contact before anything could escape our watchful eyes. We were on guard duty, she and I…alongside the multitude of caretakers and parents trying to keep it all together in a place that thrives on the chaotic energy of children.
I’m already constantly vigilant merely by nature of being a parent of still smallish children but to be on “vacation” with them with all the potential unforeseeable disasters lurking in every nook and cranny…the possibility of things I cannot fathom and cannot control…and the fact that my children are all “strong willed” or as we say now, “spirited…” Forget about it.
At THIS moment, the 5th day into our 6 day vacation, the kids are in the hotel room and they are watching TV…a LOT of TV..a lot…A LOT because I’m knackered (as my pretty Brit friend Jude would say.) Any reserves I might have to counterbalance the unknowable are spent and there is no amount of coffee to alleviate the absence of energy.
All this to say that for me, being on vacation with my children is not so much a vacation as much as it is simply parenting with a different set of circumstances and an absence of rituals like, say- tooth brushing and sane bedtimes and healthy food choices and brain stimulating activities.
It could be different of course. We could be that family who takes the historical vacations in which we learn about something cool and brain stimulating every 5 or 10 minutes. We could be that family who easily transfers all the normal rituals to “vacation” places. We could be that family who use vacation time to reconnect or recharge and obviously, I guess we do get reach into that that now and again…but mostly, we’re not that family.
We’re slapshot and last minute…we’re “let’s take off for vacation TOMORROW!” checking vacation spots on our iPhones as we drive south on I-75. We’re the “wouldn’t it be cool if we…” family…and really, it generally pays off. It’s the nature of being freelance/self employed artist types I think. We do have some intensely awesome moments but I confess, they do come at a price and today the price is too much television and microwave popcorn.
This too shall pass…