I look forward to our weeklong summer vacation all year. We always go to Michigan with my husband’s extended family and it is the most amazing getaway. Our accommodations are cozy cabins that come with pretty much nothing, so we have to bring it all — sheets, towels, pots and pans. You name it, it’s loaded up into two minivans for the trip up north.
First, let me set the scene. I have four children. I adore them. They are darling and sweet and funny. They are also completely useless when it comes to packing. I mean, they can’t do a damn thing. This could be by design. The are manipulative little leprechauns who know how to do just enough to fuck it all up and have me come in to send them on their way so I can do it all myself … the right way. So, I take over the entire packing process, that takes about six months to prepare, for five people. Yes, I have a husband, but he is pretty much on his own.
I do his laundry for him and he is responsible for packing his own suitcase. He is a big boy. At 48, he should be able to handle this. And he does. But he never packs enough underwear, so I take it upon myself to throw in extras. For a 7-day trip, that is at least 14 pairs of drawers. You know, in case you get sick. He inevitably finds my secret stash and unpacks them. This year he declared that “I haven’t shit my pants in about 46 years, I think I am good without a two-week supply.” I secretly wished he’d get diarrhea and have to head to WalMart with his head hung in shame, but it didn’t happen.
Once I had packed enough to survive a zombie apocalypse, we were on our way. My parents went on the trip too, so we split up four and four in the minis with the third row seats down in each and filled with our shit. And it is A LOT of shit. That includes things like pool noodles, computer bags, a Keurig, and enough movies to last a month. We are jam packed in those cars. But everyone gets on their devices and is happy as a clam. We split up the drive there into two days so that the kids don’t get too antsy.
The next week is spent at the beach and fishing and just chilling out by the fire. It truly is a piece of heaven on earth. Before we know it, it is time to go home: a journey of 11 hours of complaining and whining, “When are we going to be home?” “I have to pee.” “When are we going to see the dog?” “I’m hot.” This year, in addition to the fun of a drive through four states in one day, I was sporting a giant knee brace on the right side, which made the journey even more enjoyable. I just wanted to get home and get out of the car.
But when we did, all hell broke loose for the next three days. My roommates unpacked the car and left ALL of their shit in my dining room. When I say “all”, I mean just about everything that they own. And once they made their deposit, they were finished with vacation and ready for the rest of the summer. No one thought for one second to assist the maid with her duties.
There were suitcases large enough to hide dead bodies filled with clothes that they just assumed I was going to put away. They thought nothing of the six sets of sheets that I also had to wash, or the towels that I was somehow going to have to smash into a space bag until next year. No one noticed the gigantic Rubbermaid tote filled with food that could have been put into the pantry. Nope, they were ready for some Minecraft and a snack.
I did all of the wardrobe laundry before we left so that I would have one less thing on my plate when we got home. It was simple. All of their clothes were neatly folded in stacks according to bedrooms. The only thing they had to do was take them up the stairs and put them away. That was it.
Talk about torture! The bitching started immediately. And because they were complaining, just to complain, they also started fighting. Three boys just beating the shit out of one another on the steps with piles of clean clothes in their hands, because, well why not? The simple request of “put your laundry away” turned into WWE. But I didn’t budge. I was not putting away a single thing.
Now, you would think that with the suitcases unpacked, they would at least take them to the basement for me, right? Nope. Those are there for good old mom to continually trip over for two more days. I swore that I would not take them down. If it meant that I fell to my death and they had to draw a chalk outline of my corpse on the hardwood floor, I wasn’t touching those Samsonites. I also wasn’t going to do anything with the Blu-ray discs or Nintendo Switch that were left lying in the window.
Yeah, they piled shit in the front window for the whole neighborhood to see. We have a cute little window seat that our dog likes to look out that suddenly looked like what a minivan might barf up. If anyone came close enough to peek in that window, they would have thought that we were moving. Or at the very least had been ransacked. At one point I blocked the basement door, thinking that they would certainly drag some shit down the steps if they had to physically move it to get to the door. Nope, they just stayed upstairs.
By day three, I lost my fucking mind and just started to scream. I changed from Mary Poppins passing out spoons full of sugar into that chick from the Exorcist spitting pea soup. My husband works from home and told me to head upstairs and he would take over. He is helpful, thank God, or I might have locked myself in my bedroom and never come out. But Jesus, I was just done looking at things like the pile of American Girl shit that seemed to be multiplying by the minute. My five-year-old daughter was uninterested in lifting a finger until I told her that her Bitty Baby, Francine, was headed to Goodwill and she got moving fast. She even picked up all of the shoes in the house and put them on the stairs for good measure.
Her brothers also realized that it was time to get it in gear. My second son — we call him Specs because of his darling orange frames — pushed his glasses up on his nose and said, “Mom, you never get mad when we’re making the mess, why do you get so pissed when it’s time to clean up the whole house by yourself?” The daggers I was shooting must have hit him square between the eyes, because he looked at me and the light bulb went off, “Ohhhhh. I get it now.”
Do you? Do you finally get it? Can you get your siblings on board? Maybe have a kid meeting like the Brady Bunch used to do and figure out a way to keep your mother at home and to not run away with the circus that’s coming to town next month. I may have a bum knee, but I bet you I can learn to juggle if I have to. Shit, I might even try out the tight rope if it means that I no longer have to look at one more person’s crap in my dining room.
They didn’t realize that I was photographing the progress for posterity. You see, my grandchildren might like to see the slovenly conditions that their parents once created for their grandmother. I can also text them to them in the middle of the night so that they can have nightmares of Mommy Dearest coming to town if they don’t keep it under control.
Kids, listen up. Your mother is not your employee. She does not make a regular salary for cleaning up after you. As a matter of fact, she doesn’t even get a tip for dumping a barf bucket in the middle of the night. This is all par for the course for Mom, so please, give her a break and put away your suitcase after you get home from the vacation where she really just changed venues to take care of you. She didn’t relax for one second, because moms never relax. They are always in charge of someone or something. So by all things holy, when she says “jump,” you ask “how high?” and grab the closest item and start putting it away.
Moms are the ones little children cover in barf and shit for years. We have to be the mean ones who enforce rules and make our children wear pants in the snow when they really would rather wear shorts. And we are the ones who need a fucking vacation after coming home from vacation and putting life back together.
Next year, I think I’ll pass on packing and unpacking. See how things go. As a matter of fact, maybe I’ll just stay home completely and let them survive a week without me.
Who am I kidding? I’d miss them so much; they’d never even make it out of the subdivision without me running behind the car.
So off on vacation I’ll go with my Xanax in hand and nary a care in the world for seven days and no thoughts of unpacking. And I’ll have enough underwear for everyone to last a month away from home. You never know when you are going to need a clean pair. But when we get home, they’re putting them away.
This article was originally published on