Just let go. That was the slogan of the hotel we were staying at for Spring Break, and it was a solid slogan. After all, this was a family resort, and at family resorts, parents often need to be reminded to ease up, take the sticks out of their asses, and TRY to enjoy themselves, if only to then fail. Did your kid get a Sno Cone and didn't like it and then wanted a different ice cream and then cried when you said no? JUST LET GO. Did you spend eight hours hovering by the two-year-old to make sure he didn't slip on the pool deck and kill himself? JUST LET GO. Worried about that sign that tells you to shuffle your feet in the ocean so that stingrays don't kill you (this was an actual sign I saw)? JUST LET GO. All over the place, I was reminded that this should be fun and special and TOTALLY worth the expense of shuttling three kids and all their shit to a different state for four nights.
I don't know many families that go on actual vacations anymore. They usually go to visit a grandparent, or a sibling, or a distant cousin—familiar places where you can save on lodging and maybe have Nana watch the kids while you sneak out for three minutes to suck down a rum runner a block away. That's an economical way of doing Spring Break, and it's a known quantity. No one wants to spend thousands of dollars on a vacation somewhere exotic that might feature corrupt customs agents, frat bros cruising for pussy, or a hotel room littered with cockroaches not seen in the brochure. Cruise TripAdvisor and you can talk yourself out of going pretty much anywhere.
But this year, we tried to do it. We tried to go somewhere new and fun and different on our own. We needed a great deal of alcohol to make it through this, mostly because any hotel arrangement featuring young children that does not involve some $5,000-a-night villa at some asshole rich person's boutique resort is bound to be a miserable experience. You got a zillion dollars and children who are old enough to wipe their asses? By all means, go nuts at Spring Break. Otherwise, avoid this. Here are the reasons why:
Sharing a hotel room with kids blows. You may as well arrange your own kidnapping. We had a "suite" with a little TV room and then an adjacent bedroom with two beds. Having a second room is a damn luxury, and yet nowhere close to being room enough. I had a dream in my head of putting the baby in a crib in the second bedroom at 7 p.m., setting the other kids down an hour later, and then enjoying Mai Tais with my old lady on the veranda until midnight. This is not what happened. What happened was that the crib was the size of a hamster cage, so my wife had to sleep with the baby so that he would stop crying, and then I had to sleep with my other kid because my daughter kept punching him in the face in the sofa bed. Ever share a bed with a kid? They're the WORST. They hog the blankets. They kick. They lean against you. They thrash. It's like sleeping next to a bear. We switched sleeping spots eight times over the course of an evening. I think I ended up sleeping on top of the television.
If you spend a lot of money on a vacation, you will have extreme weather angst. It was 70 most of the week and it rained three times. You are powerless to control the weather, and yet that's the problem. You just spent all that money just to cross your fingers and pray for five straight flawless 83-degree days. Why did you do that? That's like buying a car that has a 50 percent chance of exploding when you drive it off the lot (this car would be a Chevy). I sat there trying to WILL the temperature upwards so that I wasn't swimming in a pool in 55-degree weather. UNACCEPTABLE.
You will eat horribly. Planning on going to Kiku Hatsufaka's four-star omikase sushi joint near the hotel? Does it have a kid's menu? HAHAHAHA LULZ FUCK YOU. It's off to Crabby Joe's Clam Shack for you, where 50 hungry seagulls and five guys in eyepatches at the bar await you. They will have seasoned fries that are just a hair too adventurous for your children to actually consume. My kids had ice cream as a complete meal 60 times last week, because I suck.
You will participate in one-tenth of the family activities you planned on participating in. Oh, look! They have a scavenger hunt. And every night at sunset, the resort holds an iguana race! PAINT A GLAZED CHIHUAHUA FOR A SUPPLEMENTAL $40 FEE! Your kids will want to do none of this. Getting mine to the pool was a legitimate effort. They just wanted to stay in the room and watch I Didn't Do It all morning. I feel like I've made mistakes.
The fight over the window seat. I don't need to tell you that getting to your destination with children is an exercise in self-mutilation. You have to get to the airport, undo the car seat (THE HORRORS BENEATH), check your bags, go through security, board the plane, and pray that they back away from the gate in a timely fashion so that your kids don't ask you why you aren't moving every half a second. Now you're in the air! You have reached the easiest part of the travel day, and then one kid bitches because they can't see out the window, then you ask the kid with the window seat to make room, and then they don't, and then the kids start punching the crap out of each other. This is not relaxing. This is the opposite of standard vacationing. Every seat on every plane should be a single seat next to both a window and an aisle. And a kegerator.
You will always spend more money than you anticipated. I think I paid six bucks for a small bag of Sun Chips at the hotel deli. And you know what? They were pretty damn good.
You will see other people who are actually having fun. I saw parents with grown, functional kids chilling out by the pool. I saw a couple getting married on a beach (gotta be a second wedding; small beach weddings are always second weddings). I saw people who were freed of any kind of responsibility outside of pursuing their own pleasure. They could, like, go get a drink when they wanted a drink. I was not fond of these people.
It will take months to get your kids back on a regular schedule. One week of eating dinner out and staying up late to watch Tinkerbell: Secret of the Wings is enough to get them to scrap their entire biological routine. We may as well have gone to New Zealand. NO DIFFERENCE.
Any family venture is ultimately judged by whether or not the children had a good time. You'll get back from some far-flung excursion and you'll be tired and broke, and you and the wife will say to each other, "Oh, the kids had a great time!" "Yeah! They smiled in the pool!" That will be your final verdict on whether or not this whole stupid thing was worth it. Your own personal pleasure is often secondary. It's not a vacation for YOU. It's a sacrifice you make to take your kids out of their comfort zones and get them to experience something new and mildly adventurous. It's a field trip, and your ability to remain sane will always be tied to your ability to keep up a good attitude even when it's 3 a.m. and you've got a pair of tiny knees in your back.
When we got back, my wife and I noted all the pleasant moments we had in between manual parenting labor. But now that we were home, we could admit that we probably we weren't going to do that again anytime soon. We let go. Just let go. It took leaving the joint to do it, but we finally pulled it off.
At least we didn't go to fucking Disney World.
Drew Magary writes for Deadspin. He's also a correspondent for GQ. Follow him on Twitter @drewmagary and email him at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also order Drew's book, Someone Could Get Hurt, through his homepage.
Image by Sam Woolley.
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