“You’re not getting food until the pillow is back on the couch.” My husband stands at the refrigerater in our beach rental.
“YOU’RE NOT GETTING FOOD UNTIL THE PILLOW IS BACK ON THE COUCH,” my five-year-son repeats back.
My husband looks back at me, working on my laptop in the dining room.
“YOU ARE STUPID, STUPID, STUPID!” We are three weeks into our vacation; this is the third leg, third hotel or house. Everyone is staying up late, watching an endless loop of cartoons, and eating sugar by the pound. My son is brinking on another meltdown, lying on the kitchen floor.
He is probably right—we may be out of our minds for having the kids away from home for this long: two weeks in Florida, one day at home so the oldest could finish first grade, and off to the Hamptons for another week. A sort of madness surrounds us like the constant sunshine.
The whining quickly reached a fever pitch. Too much stimulation, excessive Florida heat, and ubiquitous gift shops turned my children into grabbing, saucer-eyed creatures unable to handle “no” or “not now.” Their capacity to consume is dizzying. And we gave up—but not without many fights.
Before our trip, we gave in to buying the three kids iPad Minis so that they would be entertained at the airport and on the plane, and in the car. We thought we were overindulgent and a bit weak for this, rolling our eyes at our own lack of creative solutions--but we saw the necessity. By the time we left Florida, we had acquired extra luggage just for transporting their new toys, princess shoes, character mugs, and (licensed) stuffed animals.
It is very difficult to know what is too much or why with children. Our “quiet” vacation out east was supposed to be decompression from the energy level of theme parks. And it has been that. Until one morning when we went into town for a little shopping and lunch.
The kids all got something they want or need—mostly want—but by the time we headed back to the car, everyone had a loud complaint about how she got fewer items than he did and he didn’t get the one teddy bear he really wanted and she didn’t get shoes when her sister got shoes. My husband threatened to leave them all on the South Fork while we drove back to the city.
I say it is difficult to know what or why is too much because even though my husband and I were horrified at their behavior—which we called “bratty” to their faces—within five minutes in the car they were all asleep, and it was clear how overtired each was.
Even I have reached my limit and miss more familiar surroundings and the comfort of my own things. I don’t know how to use this coffee machine correctly, and my cell phone doesn't work. I’ve been grumpy all day this last day, nagging my husband to get out of the hot tub, and complaining about the kids making crumbs and too much noise outside. Outside.
It’s a tremendous undertaking to ask small children to adjust to travel without a few bumps or fits of outrage. It’s unreasonable to expect them to fully understand and always remember their good fortune in being able to vacation. It’s even sillier to ask them to do something of which we grownups are incapable.