Ahhhh, vacation. Rhymes with relaxation, rejuvenation or…frustration, alienation. Prying your son’s fingers off the doorway and dragging him screaming through the lobby of a four star hotel does not endear you to the staff or fellow guests. We don’t often stay in four star hotels, but a couple of years ago a dear person gave us a weekend at the Four Seasons. We were understandably excited to experience a few days of posh R and R. We carefully prepared our son for the upcoming trip. We showed him pictures of the hotel online, we played “hotel” at home, we talked about all the cool things there were to see in the area. We even drove there virtually on Google maps. All in an attempt to give him a preview, reduce the scariness of the unknown, and hopefully ensure a smooth transition. All to no avail, the minute we stepped into the lobby he froze, cocked his head for about two seconds, and then ran out the door. After we had wrestled him to our room, hog-tied him to the bed, and calmed him down, we found out that the buzz of the lights in the lobby freaked him out. Nevermind, that you would have to have a dog’s ears to hear the buzz, it was enough to set him off. We were okay as long as we stayed in the room, but if we ventured out the freak-out’s ensued. Needless to say, we didn’t get to enjoy many of the amenities outside our room, but we did enjoy the room service. Our vacations require masterful planning, unending patience, and lots of time for preparation. We wanted to go camping in Yosemite a few summers ago, so we erected the tent in our back yard a month prior to the planned trip. At first our son would not even go into the back yard. Eventually his desire to swing overcame his aversion; he would stand at the back door psyching himself up and then run in a panic past the tent looking like he expected it to swallow him up at any moment. After the first week he could calmly go into the yard, but continued to give the tent a wide berth. Meanwhile, his sister had been using it as her own personal campground and she and her Dad had already had a campout. This ultimately proved be helpful, because being his twin, she cuts him no slack and refuses to be sensitive to his “weirdness.” One day as he walked innocently by, she hi-jacked him and pulled him into the tent. She was not expecting the human whirlwind that erupted, flinging her aside, and nearly pulling down the tent in his exit. While the immediate result was painful for all of us, over the next few days he did agree to willingly put his head through the door and look into the tent. Then he was willing to sit outside the tent and listen to me read to our daughter inside the tent. Finally, he sat in the tent to hear a story. After many stories, he eventually spent the night in the tent and we were ready to go camping…until he found out that we were going to MOVE the tent SOMEWHERE ELSE!
The first trip we took that required flying found my son researching the safety of flying, which planes were least likely to crash, where to sit in the plane to have the best chance of surviving a crash, statistics on how and why planes crash and on and on. By the time he was done, I was a nervous wreck and haven’t been able to enjoy flying much since then.
Yet, every year hope springs eternal. This summer we rented an RV to see the wilds of Canada and take in a family reunion. I figured it was a good move since he would have the consistency of his “room” traveling with him. We did all our normal preparation, even letting him help select the model of RV we rented. When we took possession of the RV he brought all his books and special things to set up his own home-away-from-home in the bunk over the cab. He thought it was really cool that we had our own traveling bathroom and that you could actually use the restroom while driving. He seemed to be settling in nicely, was happy with his little space, and excited to see the places we had mapped out on our itinerary. Then he found the instruction manual provided by the RV rental place. He spent the first two hours of our journey reading it cover to cover. The next few hours were spent checking the equipment, the panels, and quizzing us on what to do in various situations. I guess my husband and I didn’t pass the quiz, because for the entire trip our son harassed us about our lack of proper knowledge and conduct with the RV. It was like traveling with a bossy, annoying father-in-law, who thinks you are an idiot that can’t do anything right. I look forward to the day when he is old enough to actually take over those duties rather than nag us about it. Maybe then I could have a relaxing RV holiday.
I keep trying new vacation ideas and telling myself that these life lessons are important, that someday he will thank me for them, and that eventually he will learn to enjoy travel. In the meantime, I will continue to grit my teeth and pay through the nose for trips that take weeks to recover from. On second thought, maybe I will take my adventurous, fun-loving, ever-so-adaptable daughter on a “girl’s-only” get away next year.