“Family vacation.” It has such a nice ring to it.
But what it actually means is: Spend money on tiny hungry humans who complain too much, get tired by 4pm, and probably won’t remember any of your valiant efforts at family bonding.
I don’t mean that.
I may have meant that.
Stop shaming me for my lack of gratitude.
Seriously, why do we bring them?
Don’t tell me about “education” or “lived experience” or whatever other helpful thing you’re about to say. I am clearly not interested in that at the moment.
Vacation with kids is like regular life with kids only it costs more and there’s an added layer of THIS WAS SUPPOSED TO BE AMAZING. IT WAS SO AMAZING IN MY HEAD BEFORE WE LEFT.
How many times a day on vacation do Mac and I look at each other and say: “We’re never bringing them again?”
Well, that depends on how many hours we’re awake.
Twelve hours? Twelve times.
Eighteen hours? 27 times because after 14 hours it triples in frequency (Don’t check my math. I did not calculate.)
In the past three weeks, we’ve taken our kids to a wedding in Port Townsend, Washington, which required a FLIGHT, on an AIRPLANE, and we took them camping in an RV for three days.
As a reminder, my kids are ages: 4, 8, 12, and 16. One might think the older ones are super chill on vacation, and one would be correct if measuring them solely against the total-body-mind-spirit-breakdown of the toddler by 6pm since naps apparently don’t happen on vacation and when they do, they don’t count.
They’re like tiny refueling sessions so the kid can arise more batshit than before.
But if gauging from basic attitude and mercurial emotions and bickering over stupid shit that does not matter ever at all ever, teenagers rank pretty fucking high on the “WTF ARE YOU DOING HERE WITH ME ON VACATION” meter.
Between arguments over who sits where everywhere we go – restaurants, planes, cars, the ferry, benches, the ground – to all four kids simultaneously losing it by hour two in Washington traffic (seriously, Washington, fix your infrastructure), poking each other in the car like a goddamn stereotypical sitcom, there are just so many moments when I truly, at the bottom of my soul, cannot understand why we bring kids with us on vacation.
Other fun pastimes:
- Trying not to lose them in public places
- Trying not to let them drown
- Trying to find public bathrooms because somebody has to pee even though we just left the pee place
- Trying to navigate new roads, ferries, and drivers in an unfamiliar car while the kids throw punches and wail about Cheez Its
- Trying to pack
- Trying to unpack
- Trying to pack and unpack and then pack again and unpack once you get home which will either happen immediately or 2-4 weeks later
- Trying to hike
- Trying to not let them get sunburned while hiking
- Trying to keep caring if they get sunburned
- Trying to keep caring if you lose them
- Trying to keep caring at all, about anything
- Trying not to micromanage them to the point of uselessness for all (“Let them be happy, free children!” BUT DO NOT LET THEM GET HARMED IN ANY WAY WHATSOEVER.)
- Spending so much goddamn money on food at every meal you resort to buying loaves of sourdough at grocery stores and throwing it at them
- Sticking the toddler in a car at 3pm and flailing about hysterically trying to keep him awake until you’re back to the actual bed because god knows those 20-minute car naps that somehow replace the 2-hour ones create a Satan death child for the rest of the day
- Trying to talk a teenager out of a random, nondescript tantrum
- Trying to talk a toddler out of a random, nondescript tantrum
- Trying to talk yourself out of a random, nondescript tantrum
At one point, I simply screamed: “EVERYBODY STOP SPEAKING.” Oddly, it worked. It was one of my more successful moments, in fact.
I could go on. Should I? Nah.
Truly. Why the fuck do we do it? And more importantly, why do we keep doing it?
Well, I’ll tell you why.
We do it for the goddamn junior ranger vest.
We were in the gift shop at Olympic National Park when my eye landed on an adorable, overpriced little green vest situation that said “Junior Ranger” on it. It was covered in pockets, and I knew our four-year-old, Arlo, would lose his shit for that thing, so I showed Mac and he was like, “Um, yes,” so we bought it, and told Arlo he was now The Junior Ranger and must fearlessly lead us on our hike.
My god the seriousness of that child while receiving his charge. Very official.
I AM JUNIOR RANGER ARLO.
We clipped some sunscreen on it. He went around fastidiously asking if anyone needed it. We were a party of about 11, and every single one of us needed it. Twice.
We get on the trail and there he runs, straight to the front. George tried to get ahead of him, but never fear, unbridled earth-shattering shrieks from Jr. Ranger Arlo soon deterred her.
“I AM LEADING!” Okay, tiny human with a day-old man bun. We get it.
He walked and walked, until he needed daddy to carry him uphill. Which daddy did. Junior Rangers sometimes need carrying.
At one point, Uncle Cedric asked Arlo, who was stomping along in front of him, “What’s in your vest?”
Without breaking his stride, from over his shoulder, with an air of dismissive superiority, Arlo said, “Junior Ranger stuff.”
Like, you moron. Fuck off. This is top-secret information.
He wore it the whole hike, occasionally picking up rocks and beer bottle caps and sticks and flowers to stick in the pockets. He wore it later at the beach, where he collected shells. All the other kids brought it up constantly, praising his ranger skills, exploring the vest, suggesting he add this and that.
I think it may have been the cutest fucking thing I’ve ever seen in my life.
He slept with it that night.
And when we got home, when all the vacation shit was covering the kitchen table, entryway, and living room, Mac said, “You know, all we’re going to remember from this shitshow is the fucking Junior Ranger vest.”
And he is right. And it will be worth it.
The most expensive Junior Ranger vest in the history of humanity, and yet, somehow, it’s alright. It’s what we needed with our whole, broke, bickering hearts.
UPDATE: In looking for photos for this post, scrolled through all vacation shots. Now crying at the unending beauty of it all. I want to go back I LOVE ALL THE CHILDREN.
Or maybe it was some dude on Twitter. Your call.
But yeah, we talk a lot about the seriousness of the topic – motherhood & addiction – but my strongly held belief is that we absolutely must laugh, a lot, even at really fucked up things. Amazon editors even said it was “one of the best books of 2018 so far” in the humor category.
Also, a few people have been asking me about the audiobook. Yes, I narrated that shit! At a recording studio in Sacramento with half-naked women all over the walls. It was lovely. They were motivating.