Sunday, July 29, 2012

The "No Fair" Family Trip - Part 1


I love this blog.  It does several things for me.  1) It allows me to write down my thoughts and memories on “digital” paper so I will never forget this time in life.  2) It is a place for family and friends to catch up on the raising of our three boys.  And 3) It is a place for me to vent all my anger and frustration from raising our three boys.  So everyone can empathize and sympathize with me like a “digital” group therapy session.  I can get all my feelings out in the open and you can know that you are not alone in this thing called parenting.  So please join the group, sit back, relax, and listen as I share with you our latest family vacation.
“Hi.  My name is Mark.  And I am a parent…”

The "No Fair" Family Trip - Part 1

va·ca·tion   noun, often attributive \vā-ˈkā-shən,

:a period spent away from home or business in travel or recreation (without kids)

trip   noun,

:an act or instance of traveling from one place to another (with kids)

Vacations are fun and exciting and relaxing.  Trips are with kids.  We just returned today from a family trip.  Before writing this blog, I said to my wife that I wish I could somehow relay to the reader the bubbling anger and stress that often swirled and gurgled in my gut many different times during this trip.  But there is no way to put that on paper so I will try to describe the situations and feelings but only true parents may really know what I am talking about: the teeth-clenching, muscle-tightening, eye-popping frustration that all parents are all too familiar with.
I went to Northern Michigan with my wife, her parents and our 3 little angels, ages 7,4, and 2.  The first part of the trip was to stay at a vacation house of  a friends of my wife's parents and the second half at a resort called the Inn at Bay Harbor.  The plan was to drive with her parents to Michigan on Sunday, switching kids and drivers to relieve the stress of an 8 hour car trip.  A week before we left, her dad tells us that his friends want them to come early and that we would be driving up... alone...for 8 hours..with our children.   
Before I had children I always judged the parents who had DVD players in their cars.  It started with hand held DVD players and then standard built-in DVD players in minivans.  I felt bad for the children who were missing out on quality family time because selfish moms and dads couldn't entertain their own kids for 2 hours in a car on the way to grandmas house.  Back in my day, we didn't have DVD players and iPhones.  We entertained ourselves.  But now thinking about it, did we?  I remember taking a family vacation in a truck camper with my brother and sister laying in the bed above the truck cab, baking in the un-air conditioned camper, sliding around from side to side with every turn, occasionally coloring a coloring book, but mostly complaining to our parents through written notes held up to window (cause they couldn't hear us) about who hit who and when can we stop to pee.  We had no car seats back then or any type of child safety precautions.  So thinking about now, we mostly spent our time just staying alive in a moving car.  Now that I have children, who are restrained to their car seats and can move nothing but their mouths, I now love DVD players.  They are the greatest invention to parenting since pacifiers.  They are electronic pacifiers, good at any age.  So before we left, I took the boys to the library to pick out movies for the trip.  To say that the boys are "into" Pokemon is like saying  Romeo was "into" Juliet.  They are obsessed with Pokemon.  So in turn they choose Pokemon videos...12 of 16 Pokemon videos.  They would have chosen all 16 but I demanded for some sanity, a couple non-Pokemon videos.  If you are unfamiliar with Pokemon, just imagine someone squealing in a mind-numbingly high pitch just under dog hearing directly in your ear for a 30 minute episode.  And my kids brought 60 episodes for the trip.  Here is an example:

Yeah.  I am now reconsidering my view on in-car DVD players.

We left early in the morning with a plan to take our time, stop for lunch, have a nice long nap period and eventually arrive in the late afternoon when the kids woke up from their nap.  We get on the road and Nate falls asleep at 10:00.  He sleeps for a half an hour.  There were occasional fights about which Pokemon video to watch and I knew then that the kids had packed their "no fair" attitudes with them.  Drew decides that during this trip he will never let a drop of pee stay in his bladder for longer than 5 minutes.  So we had to stop on the side of the road for the kids to pee out of side of the van because there is a 5 minute time bomb in his bladder that will go off regardless if there is a toilet in front of him or not.  The side-of-the road pee, standing in the van doorway is not stressful.  The fact that Nate likes to turn around to talk to you while peeing is.  So Lindsey has to hold him forward as we try to keep all distractions to a minimum while he pees in silence.  Drew also decides to skip his nap today because he hates us.  We finally arrive in Northern Michigan after 8 long hours.  And what would you expect from 3 sleep-deprived boys who spent 8 exhausting hours in car?  Yep, energy.  Unbridled, pent up energy with no outlet.  So we took them to a nearby lake which we thought was a beautiful beach where we could swim and play in the sand till dinner.  We pull up to this "beach" which is being very generous calling it that.  There was about 5 feet of beach and then lake water.  I am used to beautiful ocean water with clean sand and surf.  This was a lake with muck, mud, tree branches, drift wood, and lake-borne diseases in the water.  But at this point we could have played in the sewer as long as it would wear the kids out.  The water's temperature was also 5 degrees.  But the kids loved it.  Well, Drew and Zachary loved it.  Nate decided that he too was used to ocean beaches (even though he has never been there) and refused to get in.  Z and D fought over the rubber rafts in the water but generally had a good time.

The vacation house we were to spend the first 5 days turns out to be a 2 story house in a small sub-division which was very nice except for one fact: it has no air conditioning.  It was 95 degrees in Michigan when we arrived.  I stepped out of the minivan into 95 degree heat and into the house in 98 degree heat.  My shirt instantly turned to wet rag.  As I searched the house for box fans, I realized I would now be wet at all times during my vacation.  I had also packed my "no fair" attitude.

And then there was dinner.  As I mentioned before, the boys had packed their "no fair" attitudes and weren't afraid to unpack and use abundantly.  We went to a beautiful bar/restaurant on Lake Michigan overlooking the yachts at Bay Harbor.  Dinner would have been fine but this restaurant also contained a parent's worst enemy: the stuffed animal claw game.  We even sat on the opposite side of the place but my kids sniffed it out like pack of bloodhounds.  I held them off long enough till after dinner to go look at it and I had no intention of playing it because I knew what could happen.  But remember, we were with their grandparents who apparently brought a fist full of one dollar bills with them.  So while I was with Drew, here comes Zachary with 3 one dollar bills for each kids to try the 2 50 cent per claw games.  For a little insight into Zachary, he is a very compassionate little boy who cares about his fellow man.  He gets this from his beautiful mother, who has an amazing gift for compassion and watching out for the underdog.  But there is a fine line between compassion and injustice.  Especially to Zachary when he thinks he is the underdog.  Then it is all about the injustice and how it is not fair.  So Zachary goes first at the claw game and spends his dollar going after this pink bear which he dislodges but does not win.  He then returns to the table defeated but OK.  No injustice done.  Then comes Drew.  He goes after the same bear, and wins it!  He grabs the bear and runs back to the table for everyone to share in his good fortune.  My thought process was this: "Yea! Drew, he did it, I am so proud of him, I can't believe.... oh no!  NO, don't run back to the table, DON'T SHOW ZACHARY!"  But there is Drew both hands holding this pink bear above his head like Simba above Pride Rock in triumph...right in front of Zachary.  And with tears in his eyes and anger in his heart, Zachary runs back to the machine with a 5 new dollars from Pop Pop to win his own prize.  Well, sad to say he never does and Nate seeing that Zachary gets to play so many times, unpacks his no fair attitude and begins to cry for his turn, only he has already spent his money and Pop Pop is out of dollars.  So we left the nice quiet restaurant with Zachary screaming in anger at the injustice of not winning, Nate crying about the lack of dollars and turns, and Drew dancing around with his new bear.  As we walked away with Nanna promising Zachary to buy him his own bear, Drew thinking of new songs to dance to with his bear in front of Zachary and Nate quiet because of a well-timed pacifier, I turn to Lindsey and tell her I've named the new bear "Victory: the Unfair bear."  And like all care bears that have a special power, Victory is able to shoot injustice out of his chest.
We return home to the sauna and boys decide that sleep is overrated especially since they skipped their naps today.  So after many veiled threats we all cried ourselves to sleep excited about the next day of vacation.

So ends Part 1,
The Joyful and Tired Dad

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