The Five Stages of Family Vacationing

This article appeared on Aiming Low, which, like visiting Disney, was a dream come true.

My husband, twin four-year-old sons, and I just returned from Disneyland Paris, and I’m happy to report we are still married and still claiming the children.

All families who visit Disneyland are contractually obligated to take a picture like this.

Though this was not our first family vacation, I was still rocked by the stress of it. I foolishly believed we had finally figured out how to enjoy vacation time as a family and would be creating wonderful memories whilst also mocking the other parents who were doing it wrong. Unfortunately, I had forgotten the Five Stages of Family Vacationing that we all must go through, novices and experts alike.

Stage One: Happy, Happy! Joy, Joy!

Your bags are packed! The sun is shining! Your children wake up with a smile! This is when you believe you are about to have a great time and maybe even reduce stress.

This is going to be so fun!

Stage Two: Tired, But Still Optimistic

You arrive at your destination. Maybe there were some hiccups to the travel process, evidenced by the poopy underpants you are carrying in a baggie in your purse, but you know a quick rest will set you on the right track. Possibly a child gets ill. That’s okay though; they will be better with a little dinner and some hotel bed jumping. It’s possible the crabby feelings and maybe some food strikes last into your first full day. But it’s okay! You have time to adjust.

Stage Three: What Have We Done?

You realize you are raising ungrateful, screaming lunatics who are pleased only when Mommy and Daddy are yell-whispering threats. Suddenly the children are scared of animatronic figures and fake rain. All the pizza places are closed though that’s the meal you’ve promised. In short, this has all gone to pot, and you vow to never vacation as a family again.

Exhibit A: Child will eat none of that food in front of him nor will he be seated in this restaurant due to evil Disney characters lurking all around.

Stage Four: Parents, Banded Together in Defeat

We eventually gave up on seeing Paris and just toured the twins’ favorite Disney sites. We started to laugh at the remarkable tantrums erupting all around us. One father literally just had a seat as his daughter flailed on the concrete. At this stage, you forget about what you wanted to do and just make the best of what you are doing. And you use sarcasm to cope. So much sarcasm.

The closest we came to the Eiffel Tower.

Stage Five: Where To Next?

You arrive home safe and sound with a pocket full of new experiences (like having a hotel doctor come to your room at 3am) and happy memories. Your kids hoot and holler as you pull souvenirs out of suitcases. Then your husband sends you a link to Legoland in Florida saying it looks fun.  You promise yourself the next vacation will be the easiest one yet.

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Parenting License……REVOKED!

I write to you from the comforts of my own home after a lovely family trip to London.  This was not a vacation as we took the children.  We had a great time.  Except on last night’s flight home.

Now, lately there has been banter on the internets about banning kids from things like airplanes, restaurants, and upscale hair salons.  (The last one is my idea.  How can I get my hair did and get a little tipsy with little ones about?)   I am against banning the wee ones except for the aforementioned drinking opportunity that my husband doesn’t know about.  There are kids in the world.  You may not like them, but you are bound to run into one or two.  Just like you are bound to stand next to the talkingest person ever at the post office when you really just want to stare into space and not think for the 5 minutes you have alone.  Unless you go hermit, you will interact with annoying people.  Even annoying crying babies.

This is my stance, and I’m strong in it.  So, I need a solution that deals with children on planes who are beyond annoying.  Children who make you wonder if you could talk the whole plane into a murder and cover-up.

As I mentioned, I was in a good mood going into the flight even though it didn’t leave until 8:30pm and arrive in Poland at 11:30pm.  I knew we had the next day off from work and school and that the boys would probably sleep on the plane a bit.

Waiting in line to board, we saw several other families with kids, including a family with two little boys.  The boys looked to be about 18 months and 3 or 4.  I should have been cautious as I saw the father actively encouraging them to wrestle and generally run amok.  I assumed he was wearing them out before the flight.

Ha! Ha, I say!

It turns out that dad was actually just an idiot.  And his wife is clueless.  And the grandmother must be senile.

The minute we were trapped, the two boys screamed wild little-boy-playing screams.  With abandon.  Without reprimanding or redirection from the parents.  But that was nothing compared with what happened after the seat belt sign was turned off.  These boys were literally taken from their seats and placed in the aisle.  Alone.  For the whole rest of the flight.

They ran.  They crawled and barked like dogs.  They hopped like bunnies.  They swung from seat to seat using the armrests previously being used to you know, rest.  They screamed loudly into their pretend cell phones which had obviously been filled with crack-laced candy an hour earlier.  They had to be moved by the flight attendants during beverage service.

I could not believe what was happening.  And, I could not believe no one said anything.  No one–not the flight attendants, not the 80 other passengers sighing and rolling their eyes with pain.  And not me either.  My excuse?  Um, I don’t speak Polish enough to say something politely.  I also don’t know what the customs are here for parental advice-giving.  What I did do was silently seethe.  That helped a ton.

Maybe I'll try this next time.

I decided that the best I could hope for was a Polish CPS worker meeting the family at the gate to take away their parenting licenses.  I wish these were issued in order to have kids in the US.  Sadly, they don’t issue those in Poland either.  Something to consider?

Life Lessons Out the Wazzoo

I have a lot of time with myself here in Poland.  That means the voices in my head are free to jibber-jabber all the livelong day.  Sometimes, they tell me that all the people here are staring at me in a mean way.  Sometimes, they tell me that my kids are plotting to drive me insane.  Sometimes, they say good stuff.

The boys and I ventured out on their first scooter ride, and the voices were on fire with good stuff.  Here are some things they taught me.

Lesson 1: Just go for it!  I was very worried to have the boys on these bumpy sidewalks and hills on wheeled vehicles with no brakes.  My kids are a bit accident-prone.  Alex has already broken his arm.  Also, I’m kind of a spaz and fall/bump into things/hurt myself mopping the floors all the time.  So, you know, genes are not so good in that area.

In spite of being anxious, I took them anyway.  And, lo and behold, no one broke anything!  Also, they rocked the safety gear like models.

Locked and loaded ladies!

Lesson 2: Exercise really does lift your spirits and make you not so yelly.   I came home in such a great mood.  I wanted to write blogs, watch TV, and read!  All at once!  While tap dancing!

Lesson 3: My kids are pretty easily amused.  Actual quotes that show their happiness:

“I didn’t even get hurt!” (See, we do fall a lot around here.)

“I’m so excited!  They built two paths!”

“Monkey bars Mommy! MONKEY BARS!”

Have you EVER seen 2 paths?!?!?

Left the scooter safety gear on for good measure

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