When it comes to vacationing with your kids, keep this in mind
Looking forward to your summer “cray-cation”?
OK, so it’s not my best pun. I’m struggling to create a word that adequately describes the craziness of an actual vacation when your kids are part of your travel plans. Our language doesn’t have a good word for this. The Eskimos have 50 words for snow, but we don’t even have one word that depicts the reality of spending a week away from home with our little loved ones in tow.
Now that summer is almost here, you’ll no doubt be packing up and heading out on a summer vacation of your own soon. Sweat collects on your brow, and acid churns in your stomach just thinking about it. You’ve traveled down this road before and know exactly what’s in store for you: exhaustion, frustration, and overall panic! Yes, a vacation isn’t anything like what it was before you procreated. Check out just a few of the differences:
Vacations: Throwing a few things in a carry-on.
Cray-cations: Lugging around the equivalent of a mini Costco.
Vacations: Sleeping in late.
Cray-cations: Entertaining your kids at 4:00 a.m. because it’s 7:00 a.m. in the time zone where you live.
Vacations: Dining at four-star restaurants.
Cray-cations: Eating at places that have crayons instead of a wine list.
Vacations: Letting the day unfold.
Cray-cations: Filling every minute with back-to-back activities to keep the kids busy and wear their little butts out.
Vacations: Arriving home rested and refreshed.
Cray-cations: Arriving home exhausted and facing the horrid reentry of five loads of laundry and readjusting your kids to their usual time zone.
Ugh! You need a vacation from your vacation!
May I suggest the alternative? Compromise. Remember this very important lesson: your kids are not the top of the parenting food chain! It can’t be all about them all the time.
Yes, after a chaotic week of nothing but Disney princesses, kid-related activities, and nugget-shaped food, you’re a shell of your former self. Did you have fun? Did you relax? Was it everything you had always dreamed it would be? Uh, that would be a resounding no.
First, choose a location that has something for everyone, and let everyone pick an activity. Next, make it absolutely and abundantly clear that you are all taking turns choosing an activity, and everyone must behave, even if the activity isn’t the one you picked.
You choose to go on a hike, your youngest wants to swim, and your preteen can’t wait to go horseback riding. Great! You all have chosen something fun to do. Try to do your activity first so when your kids “forget” the part about behaving, you can threaten, er, explain that unless they change their attitudes, their activities are toast.
By the end of the vacation, you’ll have done a few things that you truly enjoyed and during which felt more like a participant instead of a babysitter. And, more important, you’ll have paved the way for future vacations that you all can enjoy.
Look, I know this suggestion isn’t a cure. I know your kids will still give you grief on your hike, and you’ll still eat your share of nuggets. But I want to focus on the bigger picture here. This lesson in compromise goes far beyond one vacation. If you don’t teach your kids that everything isn’t about them, you’re in for deep doo-doo. It can’t always be their choice of restaurants, TV shows, activities, movies—or vacations. Life is about compromise and sharing.
Remember, people, we are raising children to become good adults, good friends, good coworkers, and good spouses. And that will be impossible if they only want to go horseback riding and never behave on a hike!
Enjoy your summer!
Joanne Kimes, ESME’s Parenting Resource Guide, is the writer and creator of the best-selling Sucks book series (some titles include Breastfeeding Sucks, Potty Training Sucks, and Teenagers Suck) and coauthor of The Stay-At-Home Martyr. She has contributed to numerous blogs and magazine articles, and has appeared on NBC’s Today show, Life & Style, and KTLA news.
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