I never understood why my parents were so exhausted when we returned from vacations. Typically, about six to seven days in, everyone was grouchy and cranky – my brother and I fighting about who was over the line in the backseat – and I couldn't figure out why this was the case.
And then I became a parent.
It’s not that any of our vacations have every been on the grand scale of failure like the Griswolds, but each trip we go on seems to have some sort of issue that colors the entire rest of the journey.
One trip – which should have been an educational and entertaining visit to Colonial Williamsburg and the Shenandoah Valley – turned into a nightmare of Murphy’s Law. Hotel rooms which had been reserved in advance were mysteriously unavailable, or had half as many beds as we had planned on. A rental crib collapsed the moment my son stood up in it. Temperatures shot up over a hundred – in May --and there I was with a pair of hot, cranky 18-month-olds and a bored, cranky third-grader. My husband - also cranky - had his arm in a cast, thanks to a broken shoulder, and was heavily medicated on Percocet. I’d have happily traded places with him in an instant.
A couple of years later, when my twins were about three and my oldest eleven years old, we set out in the wee hours of the morning for the two-day drive to visit my parents in Florida. An hour after leaving the house, my youngest daughter threw up chocolate milk all over the back seat.
There I was, in a rest stop outside Chillicothe at four a.m. during a snowstorm, trying to change my poor child’s vomit-covered sleeper in a cold restroom, mopping her off with chilled baby wipes and holding her under the hand-dryer, while my husband tended to the chore of cleaning the mini-van – and trying to keep our other two children from upchucking as well. I had to pull into a truck stop in West Virginia to buy incense just to cover the smell in the car. On that same trip, I won the Worst Mom Ever Award when I shut the same kid’s finger in the sliding door. Eight years later, she still reminds me of it.
Then there’s the ever-present problem of moms never truly being on vacation. Even if we’re at the beach or Great Big Adventure World of Fun, someone’s got to be in charge of making sure everyone eats on time, has clean underpants, and knows what to do if they get lost. Someone has to do laundry in the hotel sink, figure out where we can eat, and keep the boy-child from falling into the Gulf of Mexico while chasing seagulls. And that someone is always me.
Helpful friends often point out that if I flew my family to our destinations it would be a lot more efficient, thus decreasing the potential for disaster. I’ve looked into airfares for a family of five, but it would mean taking out a second mortgage, and I’d still have to rent a car when I got there.
Knowing my luck, someone would probably throw up in it.