Vacationing with kids is not vacationing. It’s parenting in another location without all of your resources.
I want to tattoo that sentence on my forehead so that I, and every parent I meet along the way, will remember that taking a family trip is different from taking a vacation.
I sometimes think that once you become a parent there’s this unwritten rule forbidding you from ever having a truly restful respite until maybe your kids reach college age. The funniest part about all of this is that while we’ve all been members of a family since our inception, none of us had any inkling about how exhausting and stressful family travel actually was until we became parents ourselves.
Think about it. Didn’t you used to treasure family vacations? Did you ever once think that your parents didn’t look forward to those times as much as you did? Hah! Now you know the truth!
Vacation parenting is harder than home parenting. You have no help, first of all. Your regular cadre of baby sitters isn’t available. Your friends aren’t there so you have no one to share those endless hours at the park with. Your kids don’t eat right. They don’t sleep well. They don’t have their favorite toys, books or best buds. Then, if you filter in the expectation piece of the whole thing; this idealistic belief that these are supposed to be the best times in your life, you end up with a perfect recipe for disaster and disappointment.
Now I’m not saying there aren’t great moments that occur during vacations. All I’m saying is that we strive for this unrealistic ideal and then spend an equal amount of time and energy berating ourselves for failing to achieve it. So I’ve compiled a list of 10 guilt free family vacation rules that should help all of us as we start planning for Christmas break:
1. You’re allowed to yell at your kids on vacation and that doesn’t make you a monster.
2. You have the right to put your children to bed at a reasonable hour.
3. You will not scar your children by refusing to buy them ridiculous tourist paraphernalia that you know damn well will never be looked at again after this trip.
4. You are not a bad parent if the thought of one of your children being abducted for a few hours hasn’t momentarily crossed your mind as one way of offering a much needed parenting break. (Of course they always get returned happy and unharmed, even in your most disturbing fantasies.)
5. You are strongly encouraged to say “no” at least three times a day.
6.There is no dessert for breakfast, no matter how convincing your child may be.
7. Baby sitters exist in every city. Get a recommendation from family or friends of a friend and then give yourself a few hours off.
8. Portable DVD players are a good thing. Plant your kids in front of one for an hour and take a nap.
9. Theme parks are for young people. Rent one or bring one with you so that you don’t have to act like you enjoy those horrible, nausea-inducing rides that make your kids giggle oh so gleefully.
10. Hotels and resorts provide kid’s clubs and activities for a reason. Use them!
I guarantee that if you follow my vacation guidelines, you will feel better about yourself as a parent, you will appreciate and enjoy your little ones and all of their mercurial wonder and whimsy, and, most importantly, you may even end up having a good time yourself.