We were in Northern California at a Hampton Inn on our way to Disneyland. All five of us were in one room with two beds and a roll-away. We’d spent the last hour arguing with my 9-year-old son and 7-year-old daughter about not jumping between beds. My 2-year-old was having a wonderful time pulling the small hotel refrigerator apart, squealing because it was at the perfect height for her to reach inside and cause havoc.
When we first made the reservation online, the website wouldn’t let us book the room because it said that it couldn’t hold more than four people, and stupidly we called the hotel and argued with them until they relented. But in that moment, after we’d hit the pool for the kids to get their wiggles out, only to find that they had far more wiggles now than before, all I could think about was how badly I wanted to put all of them in their own room, hand them a bag of chips, and check on them in the morning. Not that I would, but I sure thought about it, and smiled at the thought.
I used to watch movies of family vacations, where the children sat quietly looking out the window, and then, later, sacked out in the car and ended up being placed peacefully in a hotel bed.
But that isn’t the reality — not by a long shot.
Sharing a hotel room with kids looks like begging and pleading to visit the hotel pool even though you are exhausted from driving hours with kids screaming in the backseat for snacks, or asking how much further, or flipping out because their tablet died. The thought of going into a cold, echo-filled, hotel pool feels like absolute death, but you muster up the strength, slide your doughy 30-something ass into a bathing suit, and take them swimming because it’s easier than listening to them bitch.
It looks like chlorine-soaked towels on the hotel floor, along with wet bathing suits, and naked, nappy-haired kids, leaping from one bed to the next, screaming and crying, and fighting, until the hotel manager knocks on the door and asks that you be more considerate of other guests. And you apologize repeatedly, all while the kids don’t stop for a moment, and your wife glares at the manager from the back of the room, arms folded, her face saying, “Eat shit, dickhead. Do you really think we can control these little monsters?” Then you both make assumptions about the assclowns below you — how they are probably millennial and childless and drive a Subaru and know nothing about the realities of life with children.
It looks like turning on the TV to whatever the hell the kids want so you don’t keep disturbing other guests, and then listening to your children argue over watching My Little Pony or SpongeBob, because naturally they are both on at the same time, and everyone has an opinion, until both parents start screaming for everyone to get along and stop crying because we are on vacation.
It looks like kids crying because the hotel water “tastes funny.”
It looks like one parent and one child sacked out, while the other kids are glued to the TV well after their bedtime, their eyes glossy and cold and ready to flip out if anyone suggests that they turn it off, so you just let them watch and settle in for a long night with blue TV light filling the room.
It looks like each parent sharing a bed with one or more children, which usually starts out sweet and snuggly, but ultimately turns into children sleeping at odd angles, and kicking and punching you in the boob, or the crotch, or worst of all, shoving their urine-soaked diaper-covered butt in your face at 2 a.m.
It looks like waking up to your wife, her hair smashed on one side, holding a wide-awake child, her eyes bloodshot, and ready to kill because she’s been up for who knows how long with this little turd, and since you slept through it, you are a the biggest asshole on this side of the Mississippi river.
It looks like waking up well before dawn to the TV back on and the children tugging and begging for you to take them to the pool again. It looks like a crappy hotel breakfast of dried-out, half-cut, powder doughnuts and close to expired yogurt.
And once the night is over, and the bags are packed, and the van is loaded and you are checked out, you get to hit the road again, and
dread going to look forward to another hotel, all the while wondering if all these family vacations are actually worth it.