I write to you from the picturesque village of Westhampton Beach. We are sharing a house with my family for the week of July 4th. Months ago, I began the search for a house we could share for our summer vacation–to give the kids the gift of living in a house with a pool, by the beach, for seven days. Away from the city. To give the kids memories of a lifetime of their grandparents and uncle.
I searched tirelessly for a house within our budget, within “acceptable” driving distance (we need to reach our destination before the kids melt completely down or I lose my mind and begin babbling about jumping out of a moving vehicle).
And I found the perfect family retreat. The kids asked excitedly for weeks–months–about “baycation.” Who’s going? What will we do? Who lives there? What does the house look like? Where will we sleep? Is there a pool? Will we go to the beach?
Within the first hours of our vacation, I realized something that may change me forever: vacations with children are booked on myths, and lived through on the facts. I’d like to share some of what I learned. Lest you make similar mistakes.
Myth: Children will be excited and joyful when they reach the vacation home if you spend weeks going over all the details with them, so that they won’t be surprised or uncomfortable in a new surrounding.
Fact: My children wouldn’t step on the floor of the house. They wouldn’t sit on the toilet in the bathroom. One peed herself rather than go into the bathroom. One peed all over the bathroom because he was so frantic with unnamed fear.
Myth: Researching area attractions will ensure you have plenty to do with the kids on a rainy day.
Fact: We spent $200 on admission the Aquarium and then three hours begging the kids to stop whining; crying; hitting each other; screaming for food, toys, and to be picked up. And because we paid extra for the butterfly exhibit, they are terrified of butterflies.
Myth: City kids need to spend time in the country.
Fact: A small bug can derail an entire trip.
Myth: All the swimming and activity will wear kids out, and the fresh country air will make for early and sound sleeping.
Fact: It is 10:15 p.m., and my kids are still awake.
Myth: It is always better to make the best of a situation. You can’t predict the weather or anything else that may happen on your vacation with kids, so be prepared to be flexible.
Fact: GET IN THE GODDAMN POOL AND ENJOY YOURSELF! is a perfectly acceptable way to end the afternoon.
Myth: Trips to the beach with your small children are magical. Building sandcastles and wading into the waves with your kids are priceless parenting experiences.
Fact: Have you been to the beach with kids? Beyond the days of preparation of snacks, drinks, toys, towels, hats, sunglasses, endless applications of sunscreen, there is scorching sand and/or rocks. One of my children loves the water, one refused to get out of the car. One is convinced there are sharks waiting for her. (Thank you Aquarium trip.)
Myth: Exposing children to different foods on vacation will give them an appreciation of diverse foods and the foundation for healthy eating habits.
Fact: Gummy bears, cookies, and squeezies. That’s it.
Myth: It is wonderful to have family around to help out.
Fact: …And to witness my ability to string together several curse words when my children won’t stop playing at the top of the *&^%$#$ stairs.
Myth: These are the best days of our lives.
Fact: Next week, I will indeed believe that.
This post was written for and appeared originally on the Appleseeds blog.