Sunday, July 18, 2010
The Family Vacation
We've just returned from what can only be deemed a classic American vacation. Last week we packed the minivan with beach toys, scooters, coolers, and antacid and headed for a rented beach house in Delaware, where we stayed with our close friends who also have two small children and an SUV filled with crap.
Overall the week was a success. We left on speaking terms with our friends. The moms got their well deserved rest and yet left more exhausted than they arrived. We only broke two dishes, a glass, and a vase containing fake flowers that was a victim of poor placement in the first place. And the dads, also known as the "pack mules", managed to squeeze out just enough relaxation to not go completely insane.
Paul, my fellow pack mule, reminded me of a post I created several years ago as a warning to future parents on what they should expect when a new member of the family arrives. Well, in a similar vein, a couple with no kids perhaps debating whether or not to join the parenting game might just decide against it after reading the following vacation highlight reel. I'm pretty sure the sound of doors slamming and tires squealing that I heard one night early in the week was the unmarried vacationing couple next door sneaking out in a combination of disgust and panic.
The bunk beds
The kids were quite excited to find two sets of bunk beds in the house where we stayed. Of course, with one kid still in a pack-and-play, that meant two top bunks for three kids. Time for a lesson on sharing, right?
Before the first night's sleep it was decided that, each night, the kids would switch things around so that the duty of sleeping in a lower bunk would be shared equally amongst them. This seemed like a reasonable idea at the time. Unfortunately it also meant that, each night, the parents had to deal with a child who was so traumatized by the possibility of bumping her head when sitting on the lower bunk that they would refuse to go to bed. For some reason, none of the kids bought into the logic that my buddy and I both spent four years of college sleeping on a bottom bunk while somehow avoiding a concussion. Go figure.
By the end of the week, Paul and I made it a game of deciding which kid would be next to tantrum, and why. With only a little practice we were able to call them moments before they would occur, much like Radar O'Reilly in M*A*S*H would announce the arrival of helicopters before anyone else could hear them.
There were tantrums over sharing of toys. Over naptime. Over sandcastles. Over hair clips. Doors being closed on fingers. Sequence of showers. Showers instead of baths. Baths instead of another five minutes in the pool. Getting out of the pool. Getting out of the bath. Getting out of the shower. Shopping for trinkets. Shopping for t-shirts. Over ice cream. Over dinner selections. Over being dragged on a pirate cruise. Over who got to be the 8th person in the minivan, forced to sit in someone's lap.
In other words, it was just like being home.
Fear of the ocean
I suppose it's healthy for a child to have some level of fear of the ocean. It's big and swirly, tastes bad, and movies are made about it with sharks eating people who like to swim. On the one hand, there's the level of fear that allows the child enough courage to go ankle deep into the water, only to dash out at full speed before the cold wave splashes at thigh level. On the other hand, there's the child who's level of fear is so high that just the sight of seeing dad enter the water without her causes screaming and panic. We experienced both levels, and every one in between. My oldest managed to work up the courage to join her dad several yards into the water where the waves broke, only to refuse to speak to him for the rest of the night when he somehow managed to allow the wave to crash directly into her face, filling her open and screaming mouth with salty sand. Paul's oldest took the stance of "uh uh...if I don't go in, you don't go in, so get your butt out of that water, mister!". Thus, he stayed pretty dry all week.
Out to Dinner
What would a beach vacation be without that night out at a big ol' seafood restaurant? Well, we belted through two dinners out this week, one more successful than the other. The first was in classic style. The little one's nap failed to take, so he was the typical bear that every parent dreams of. The only way to keep him from fussing was to constantly distract him with the spotlight-induced images of fish swirling around the restaurant floor, and thus we didn't see much of him or his mom the entire meal. And of course there were the usual bathroom breaks. First a child announces it's time to empty the bladder, so mom takes her. Upon returning to the table, the second child announces it's her turn, and the parent returns to the bathroom. Once back, she realizes that she, herself failed to go, and it's time for another trip. By then the appetizers are finished, and it's the dad's turn to go. Overall, we would have all seen more of each other if we'd asked for a table inside one of the restroom stalls.
The second dinner was almost strangely successful, with little issue to speak of. This was despite the 45-minute wait for a table, which we realized would be worth it when we thought about the fact that it would take us at least that long just to find another restaurant, and on a Friday night that place would have a wait as well. But the kids kept themselves occupied the entire time. Perhaps it was due to the four iPhones we had in our possession, each with a copy of the game "Pee Monkey" on it.
The noise, noise, noise, noise!
After accepting the challenge from my eldest child to swim down and touch the bottom of the nine-foot deep pool, I found myself unable to remove the water from my ear. After three days of asking people to repeat themselves and turning the TV volume up to eleven, a trip to the local urgent care facility was necessary. It turned out that the water pressure had compacted enough wax into my ear canal to make an entire colony of bees say, "dude, that's a lot of wax."
Unfortunately I didn't realize how good I'd had it. After my ear cleaning, I quickly learned just how loud a house with four children who've had nothing but ice cream and popcorn for four days straight can be. I promptly went back to the urgent care facility and asked for my wax back.
It only took about thirty years, but at last I finally understand why my parents never took me or my sister anywhere.