Tag Archives: kids

Tips For Surviving A Family Vacation


The fam and I just got back from our vacation to the sunny (actually not so sunny) beaches of South Carolina. Weather was cloudy and overcast with threats of rain each day which actually made the trip delightful — not too hot, no sunburns, and the occasional afternoon cloudburst. Batteries recharged; time to get back to work around here.

Here, then, are five things about vacationing with family.

  1. Kids’ Energy Management. Being back and forth to beaches and pools and outdoor events and sights will wear the kids out. And I dunno about your kids, but when my kids (especially my adorable little girl) get tired, they get angry. You gotta keep their energy up. That means feeding them sugar in irregular large doses. Candy, ice cream, funnel cakes … just shovel it in. Eat meals at odd times. Routine is for the boring. And don’t even think about feeding them a vegetable — this is vacation, for science’s sake.
  2. Your Energy Management. All the problems your kids will have go double for you, because you’re old and tired. Luckily, the same advice also works. Lots of sugar, lots of huge meals at odd times (preferably fried food whenever you can get it, which is always). The golden ticket? You’re grown, so you get to add alcohol to the mix. Do so liberally. Bedtime is for suckers.
  3. Putting the Kids to Bed. Odds are, the sleeping arrangement is gonna leave something to be desired. It is what it is. And if you’ve been doing it right so far, they’re hopped up on sugar anyway. Leave them to their own devices, and they’re gonna invent games to play, babble at each other for hours on end, and otherwise avoid falling asleep. You need help, and the TV is your friend. It’s full of all sorts of programming that will distract and then zonk your kids right out. We discovered that the Weather Channel is excellent for this — their programming is somehow fascinating and boring enough to make you wish you were watching paint dry all at the same time.
  4. Mornings Are The Best Time. I know this never happens, but you might get lucky: since the kids are so wiped out, there’s a good chance they could sleep in an extra twenty or thirty minutes. You might feel compelled to seize the opportunity for a few extra Z’s yourself. Fight this impulse. Morning is a magical time — you just don’t appreciate it at home because you’ve seen it. Away from home, the magic is unmistakable. Have a tea. Meditate. Write. Run. Whatever. You can nap later.
  5. If At All Possible, Get Your Mother Drunk On Margaritas. Man, oh man, the things that will come out of her mouth.
Myrtle Beach, 6 AM. Got the street all to myself. Magic!

Vocabulation


We’re out of town the past few days, but a quickie here:

I have a tendency to over-vocabulate. (Big words are fun, especially in conversation — why reach for a five-cent word when there are perfectly good words to be had for a quarter, as the old expression goes? I’m pretty sure that’s how the expression goes.) So when the check-in attendant at the hotel informed me that the side door, while functional, was not totally reliable for entry to the building (card reader acting up), I told my wife that the side door was a “dicey proposition.”

And because my son, who is in kindergarten, soaks up every new word he hears like a black sweater collecting cat fur off the sofa, he immediately pulled me over. “Dad, what’s a dicey proposition?”

Being loaded down with luggage and a soon-to-be-shattered bottle of smuggled wine that I was trying to shoehorn into said luggage, I answered offhandedly: “uh, well, it’s something that’s kind of scary. You know, something you wouldn’t want to use.”

He responded with two words I am learning to dread, because they either mean he has misunderstood me completely or he has understood me perfectly: “oh, okay.”

Later, at dinner, I overheard him leaning in close to his 3-year-old sister to give her a surreptitious warning: “watch out, those green beans are a dicey proposition.”

So, as usual, he’s not wrong, he’s maybe just too blunt.

Which is to say that as usual, I could probably stand to learn a lot from the little bugger. The beans did need salt.

But what really made me laugh was picturing him having the same conversations when he gets back to school in a week. At the lunchroom table, or perhaps in gym. With his classmates who, perhaps, don’t have the affinity and curiosity for language that he does.

“You’ll want to stay away from the mashed potatoes, Tyler. They’re a dicey proposition today.”

“Dodgeball? No thanks. That’s a dicey proposition on a good day.”

My wife keeps asking me what I’m laughing at, and this stuff is really hard to explain.

Anyway.

In related news, since we’re on vacation, I currently smell of Coconut Mint Drop, which is altogether crisp- and creamy-smelling.


No Mo’ Snow


After three unexpected snow days last week, we’re back to the grind for a full work week this week. As has been pointed out by many of my teaching colleagues here in the environs outside Atlanta, the last full week of school we had was in November.

The lack of routine was definitely evident getting the kids out the door this morning. Sprout #1 spent the last thirty-six hours insisting that school still might get canceled today, and Sprout #2 threw a fit that lasted from a few minutes after she was awake until the moment I pulled into the daycare parking lot, at which point she changed her tune entirely and became a pitiful, clingy mess. And when I took my leave the tantrum started up again.

And friends and family wonder why my wife and I are such sticklers about getting these two little monsters to bed on time every night, even on weekends and vacations. It’s for the same reason that I spent the entire evening last night, from two on until I fell asleep, in a scowling, muttering, slamming-the-kitchen-cabinets and passive-aggressively-dragging-my-feet sulk. Routines matter! When kids — well, ANYBODY — know what to expect, they’re almost infinitely more likely to go along with it. And even if they don’t go along with it, they’re likely to protest less. And even if the plan changes, well just being prepared for the original plan leaves them somehow better equipped to deal with the adjustments.

Needless to say, when, following a three-day weekend, you go back to school for a single day and then get three surprise days off, followed by another weekend, your routine might as well have never existed in the first place.

I hope Mother Nature keeps this in mind the next time she brews up snow for the South. We are seriously not equipped for it.

Still, I got seven hundred words written today. So there’s that.


Sprout Tells Me a Story


“Dad, I have to tell you about this guy.”

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“Oh, yeah?”

“His name is Rocker Baddo.”

“Wow, that’s pretty cool.”

“Um, it’s cool, but he’s not a nice guy.”

“No?”

“Well, he’s a mean guy with powers. He catches people with his magics and his powers are being mean to animals, and he makes mean animals like dragons catch him. And he makes dragons catch other people, too.”

“Really?”

“Yeah. You’re putting this on Facebook?”

“Maybe. I’m not sure yet.”

“Okay, well, you should show someone. Put their name on the website, too.”

“Maybe I’ll do that. What else can you tell me about the guy?”

“Well, he smacks people with bombs. And he sneaks up on people to catch them. And he — you remember what I said about him that he says, when he sneaks up to scare you? He says BRRRRRRAAAARRRRRRR.”

“Wow!”

“Spell that word, too. And do you need me to tell you more?”

“If you like.”

“Okay, well, the worstest part that he does is when his stomach blows up with the little blower, it goes all over the city until everybody gets dooms right in the tower. (It’s just too long for me to sit, daddy.)”

(He gets up and starts monster-stomping around.)

“That’s okay, bud. Anything else?”

“I think there’s a lot more to tell you. Guess what? The other part is when the goats come out. After he does, he gets a lot of mean animals to come out, and after the animals come out, the animals are critters and they walk around like mean monster walkers but they’re robots. And when they blast people, people fall down. And when that happens, they put fire on you and your eyes, and then you don’t wake up anymore.”

(Jesus.)

“That sounds pretty scary.”

“Yeah, very scary.”

(At this point — he was stomping around like a mean monster walker robot, and unplugged the laptop, which distracted him enough to derail the story entirely.)

Oh, to have that amount of creativity, and the total indifference to whether it makes a damned bit of sense.


On Parenting: Lesser Indignities


The kids are screaming again.

We’ve been home from work for about twenty minutes, and they’re screaming. And “screaming” is precisely the word for it — this is not a mildly perturbed whine, nor a plaintive cry for help — this is a top-of-the-lungs howl that doesn’t even really call for action or intervention, it simply rails against the great injustice of the world.

And it’s in response to a “stolen” spoon.

Not even a special spoon. In fact, the spoon in question is the exact twin of the one that sprout the younger holds clutched in her pudgy, grubby fist. But the spoon in question has been claimed from the tabletop by sprout the elder, and she has decided that that is the spoon she wants, not eventually but right the fargo NOW, and it gives him great pleasure to deny her anything she wants, and from her tiny lungs comes the mightiest ear-splitting shriek.

That sounds like fun, sprout the first thinks, and then he’s shrieking too, for the pure, unadulterated hell of it. My wife is up to her eyeballs in work she’s brought home from the job that taxes her more and more beyond her pay grade with every passing day, and I’m elbows-deep in chicken slime from cooking the sprouts’ dinner (which they will later totally ignore, for reasons that certainly make sense in the brains of a two- and four-year-old, but for no reason this thirty-something college-educated male can discern), and there’s nothing that anybody can do.

Time out, we threaten, which has about as much effect as you’d expect. Spanking, we enjoin, which they know is an empty threat — I’m not going to turn my salmonella hands upon them, after all.

This is how it goes in our house lately. And as parents, we get really torn, because all they really want is attention. They’re in day care these days, after all, so they only get our company for a few blessed hours in the evening. But, as any working family knows, you come home from work and there’s dinner to cook and baths to prepare and messes to clean up and the stress of the day hanging like an albatross from your neck and it’s almost a better idea if we don’t interact with the sprouts too much, because we might really unload on them, and they sure don’t deserve that. But still they clamor, and sometimes we can push the dark clouds aside and spare them a few minutes amongst the cascading junk pile of demands on our time, but sometimes we can’t, and when we can’t, well, that’s when the screaming starts.

Over anything. She’s in his chair. He’s got a toy that she wants. She dropped that thing I was playing with. He’s painting and she wants to paint too. She’s chewing on the coffee table. He’s holding onto the back of her shirt.

Their cries could shatter glass at a hundred yards.

And again, we endure it, because it’s better that than unloading a day’s worth of frustration and choked-back snide comments and real gut-boiling traffic-induced rage on somebody who has to stand on tiptoes to brush their teeth and who thinks that a dinosaur might make a really cool friend.

And then, somehow, some way, the clouds part, a ray of light shines down, and they stop howling. My wife and I lock eyes in shock but we say nothing. We don’t even try to look and see what they’re up to, lest we break the spell. We hear harmless, idle chatter from sprout the younger, and giggling, broken sentences from sprout the elder.

Just as quickly as the toddler tornado struck, the skies have cleared and they’re playing happily together. If we believed in God, we’d fall to our knees and give thanks, but God will soon make his absence painfully clear.

THUMP. THUMP THUMP.

It’s surprising how much any thumping sound can sound like a toddler’s head whacking any significant surface to a pair of bedraggled parents. We’re sure one of them has somehow managed to surmount the childproof stair gate and toss the other to their doom. We dash around the corner and look.

But they’re not dead. Not even close. They’re standing behind their little toddler armchairs, which have been upended and rolled across the floor, like wheels if they were designed by sadists and masochists working in perfect concert. THUMP THUMP. They push their chairs over and over, and the sound is a bit like carpet-wrapped bricks in a tumble dryer. THUMP THUMP. THUMP THUMP. Giggles. Laughter. Smiles.

Chairs aren’t supposed to be played with that way, for sharknado’s sake, and our teach-them-to-be-decent-human-beings instincts flare and we start for them with our voices already rising in chastisement.

But we realize it at the same time.

They’re not screaming.

Sure, they’re mistreating the furniture. Sure, it’s making an ungodly racket. Sure, they might crush a cat under all that tumbling upholstery (but the cat has it coming, and frankly the cats can go take a flying leap for all we’re concerned about their well-being at the moment). But paint this bald man blue and send me to Vegas, they have stopped screaming.

Being a parent is nothing if not a tactical, well-calculated slow retreat from a thousand lines drawn in the sand. Problem is, the tide never stops coming in. You have to pick your battles, and sometimes you choose the lesser indignity of the children pushing their tiny chairs around the floor like the worst sleds you’ve ever imagined over the perfectly disharmonious symphony of their unending screams.

We let this one slide. I finish cooking and my wife finishes working to the THUMP THUMP THUMPing of their chair game that would rival the dance beats of a few songs I’ve heard on the radio lately. We place a lovingly-crafted dinner of chicken and potatoes and green beans in front of them and watch as they refuse to eat a single bite. And yeah, that hurts my feelings a little bit.

But at least they’re not screaming.


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