Friday, August 31, 2012

A solution for the vacation conundrum

On Parenting

Need a vacation from your vacation. Don't worry. It happens to all of us.

Taking the kids on the road always sounds like such a great idea.  We can get a way.  See new places.  Relax.  Oh, to relax. Even for a mere moment.  It is more precious than gold to any parent.

Wait. Relax? 

Did you forget that you will have your offsrping with you as you truck down the highway headed for a hotel room one-tenth the size of your actual house?  Or even a tent.

What exactly are you getting away from, again? Just the actual house?

Don’t get me wrong, I love taking a vacation with the kids.  It’s the stuff that makes life so great.  And as the regular and mundane daily existence fades in memory, it's the vacation memories that will linger.  As with all good memories, the fondness of those memories will almost always grow as time goes by. Remember that time we drove to Florida? That was great.

None of that, however, takes away the immediate pain of a vacation with children -- the “knock-it-off-or-I’ll-turn-this-car-around” moments that bring us all to our on-the-road breaking point.

Ah, vacation.

My wife and I learned some time ago that the best way to enjoy our vacations was to bring one of the sets of in-laws. My parents or her parents, whichever one is able.  It is a must.

These built-in baby sitters love the kids and actually want to spend time with them – even on vacation.This allows us to have a night out, read a book, actually sleep in.  Whatever.

Without them, it just would not be a vacation – more a kid-filled family adventure. Which can be fun as well, but is hardly a vacation.

This summer, our family went on two vacations. One week-long break at the beach, and a long-weekend in the mountains. Her parents came to the first, mine to the second.

And thank god they did.  Sure, it adds some personalities to the mix, and after a week it can get tough dealing with extended family and all their flaws.  And at some point the relaxation quotient is reduced by the tension factor. 

But, for a few days it is well worth it. 

We were actually able to do the things that help us relax.  We actually went out to dinner, just me and the wife.  She read a book.  I went fishing - alone.  One day, we even slept in until 9:00 a.m.  It was like we were in college again.    

We also did tons of stuff together as a family.  We swam every day, walked the beach, watched the sunset.  We went on hikes, rode in paddle boats, and I took the kids fishing. 

The children loved every minute of it.  And the grandparents did too.  They actually cried when they had to say good-bye to the little rascals.  I felt like crying, but for a different reason.

Still, we had actual vacations this summer, filled with wonder kid-filled memories – and a few without.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

I have references ... sort of

On Parenting - Originally posted on shortlived parenting blog started and stopped in 2011

You really only need one thing to be a dad … I am referring of course to kids. You don’t even need plural “kids.” Just one will do. I happen to have more than one. In fact, if kids are qualifications for a blog on parenting, my resume is so impressive it’s frightening.

Not to overstate it. I only have four kids. These days, that’s about as many as you can have before people start thinking oddly of you. With four kids, old folks stop you on the street and tell you what a beautiful family you have. With five, everyone expects you to start handing out pamphlets on the coming apocalypse.

Four is plenty. I used to think three was enough. Heck, two was a handful. But, for some reason, we couldn’t stop. So we have four. Three girls and one boy. Ages, 9, 6, 4, and 2 – in that order.

As a general disclaimer, I love my kids. Each one is great, and different. And each drives me absolutely nuts at times. Some more often than others.

Take the first one, as an example. She is brilliant. I know what you are thinking. Every dad thinks their kid is brilliant. Maybe. But I tell you, she is smarter than most other kids I know - if you follow what I'm saying. Though the boy is only 2, so he still has a chance. She is also an intensely vexing child. I used to watch Sally Jesse Raphael and wonder how parents could screw up so bad. Now, I understand. I understand, Sally! Please make it stop. Uncle!

The doctors say she is a spirited child. That’s actually a word, or a phrase -- a term d’art for a kid that is a total pain in the buttocks, in a brilliant sort of way. There are even books on it. I know because after the doctors told us, my mother-in-law found the book, bought it, and sent it to us with a Dear Abby column on spirited children tucked in as a book mark. Thanks. My wife read the book. I decided to just live the movie.

Kid number two is far more mellow. Very sweet and loving. She always has been. When she could barely talk, she used to say, “You are the best Daddy ever.” I would tell her, thanks, but you have nothing to compare it too. Still it was nice to hear.

She is so sweet and so loving that I fear we screwed her up too. She has always been able to live well within the boundaries that number one pushed. So we almost never have to correct her, or anything. A few weeks ago the bad parent alarm sounded when she looked right at me and said, “Daddy, no one ever says no to me.” Oops. We have decided to start saying no to her every once and a while.

Kid number three is just plain crazy – in a cute sort of way. She is funny and random. A real comedian. Even though she is just three years old, she has this innate ability to remember movie lines. And I swear we don’t use movies as baby sitters too much. Scouts honor. So some of these movies she’s only seen once. After the first time she saw Monsters vs. Aliens (yes, we let a three year old watch it), she walked around saying, “Suuuusan. Oh, I just scared myself. That is scary.” And then she would laugh.

Number three laughs a lot, pretty much whenever she isn’t crying or screaming at her older sisters. There is very little middle ground. It’s either smiles or tears. Hopefully she finds something in the middle, and soon. But, no doubt about it, she is a real card.

The boy, who is the baby, is still revealing his personality to us. For a while, we thought he was going to be real mellow, like number two. But now we think that was just him being a baby – you know, laying around and not causing any trouble. The fa├žade of mellowness ended when he started crawling around – reaching for stuff, knocking stuff over, throwing anything he could grab. Now that he is walking, we have reassessed his energy level. He is not mellow. He’s happy and good natured. But not mellow.

So that’s a primer on the kids. My resume for a posts on parenting. I also have references, though I am afraid what they may say.

Like the article?  Here's others you may enjoy: 5 Signs Your Child Has Become a “Tweener”, My Kid Wants and iPhone, and I Don’t Know What To Do, and Learning Lessons from a Little Boy.