Sure, vacationing with older children has its conveniences, as I recently found out while taking our first big trip in almost five years. I didn’t have to jam extra suitcases full of baby food, toys, bottles, a billion changes of clothes and special toiletries. There was no staring at my trunk in defeat, realizing there was no way I could fit the Pack ‘n Play and a bulk-sized case of diapers (because apparently going on vacation makes me forget that drugstores exist pretty much anywhere I would take small children). And the naps. No one has to have their fun time interrupted to keep to a sleep schedule, or have fun time end altogether in a fury of screaming tantrums because that schedule was ignored.
But I also came to realize vacationing with older children isn’t paradise either. Here are just a few ways real life took my naïve hopes that it would be, and crapped all over them:
1. Packing with a tween is a situation as bleak as that of a character in a Charles Dickens novel. At first, I was fooled into thinking I had been given a blessing. My tween daughter was adamant about packing for herself. It seemed quite helpful…until I remembered that she has inherited my husband’s fashion sense. In other words, a lack of one. However, unlike my husband, she won’t admit it and then allow me to pick out all her clothes. Not only that, but the mere suggestion that she bring along the sundress I specifically bought for its maximum beach-photo-worthiness may as well have been the strict enforcement of a totalitarian regime where expression of personal style is punishable by mandatory public display of Nautica upon one’s body, resulting in maximum humiliation in front of contemporaries wearing apparel from Justice.
2. Understanding the concept of time is not actually a friend of long car rides. No longer can I placate the question “Are we there yet?” with “One Sesame Street and three Doras,” because my older kids know that’s just code for two and a half more hours of cornfields, getting headaches while they try to read, pee holding and only being able to cross off the states in the tristate area for the license plate game. And this temporal understanding is apparently not deep enough to preclude them from asking the question again 20 minutes later, or even five minutes after we have pulled out of our subdivision. Nor does it lead them to practice self-control in spacing out their use of handheld electronics to ensure battery life stretches the length of the trip. This is also where that whole “no more napping” thing really comes back to bite you in the butt.
3. Older kids have distinct opinions about how every minute of vacation should be spent. Never mind that they aren’t paying for anything (evident by their ambitious daily plan to rent wave runners, play mini golf, take a dolphin cruise and get ice cream after every meal). I feel this comes out of a false assumption that vacation is something that occurs solely for their benefit. And finding out Mom wants to browse resort-wear sales while dad has a tee time scheduled really throws a wrench into their self-centered schedule. In other words, they don’t give two bird-flips about what anyone else wants to do on vacation. Long gone are the days when my kids were at the mercy of simply being strapped into a stroller and forced to go wherever I damn well pleased.
4. Ain’t nobody got time for vacation photos. Apparently, the only acceptable form of pictures anymore are selfies. Anything else is met with eye rolls, refusals to smile or protests that this is “so embarrassing.” Heaven forbid I want to capture a memory of my family in front of a famous landmark for posterity’s sake, or build a case backed by irrefutable evidence proving once and for all that “you never let us do anything” is a gross and overstated defamation of my character. Exhibit A: a picture of you parasailing. Exhibit B: a picture of me letting you boogie board in the ocean while suppressing my anxiety about shark attacks, despite knowing a person is more likely to be killed by falling coconuts or hippos. Exhibit C: a picture of you looking pissy and your brother picking his nose…okay, that’s not my fault. You were the one who was too cool to smile, even though we had just let you eat chocolate chip cookies the size of your head. And yes, this is what you look like in that outfit. Don’t blame me. I told you to bring the Nautica.
5. They don’t want to play in the sand with me anymore. They say they do. But then all of a sudden I look up, and they’re out wave-diving with their young, hip uncle who doesn’t have kids yet. And I’m looking like a fool digging a hole by myself with sand in my ass crack. Par for the course: that ends up being the one vacation photo someone other than me shot, and the only one I am actually in. Dammit.
Someone please tell me that vacationing with teenagers is easier. Actually, never mind. I won’t believe you. Maybe I’ll just try kenneling my kids next time.