Why do parents take kids on vacation? Because we’re nuts.
Vacationing with kids isn’t a vacation; it’s an obli-cation. We feel obliged to take our kids on holiday, to spend hours packing, organizing and planning for a few happy hours in the sun. Then we deal with the resulting sunburn, sand-encrusted crevices and sickness.
Yes, sickness. I’ve been trying to remember one family vacation during which one or both of my kids didn’t get sick.
There was tonsillitis in Charleston, flu in Atlanta, impetigo in Chapel Hill — just to name a few memorable travel bugs.
Last week, on the coast of Georgia, it was a raging infection in the boy’s chronically bacteria-besieged left ear. I’d even made a pre-emptive visit to our ear, nose and throat doc and stocked up on eardrops and earplugs. Unfortunately, I hadn’t asked for the just-in-case antibiotic prescription.
Luckily, the moment I noticed the first symptoms, I called my ENT, whose number’s on my speed dial. Although I don’t think I could hack medical school, after nine years of dealing with ear infections, I can spot one just by the look on my kids’ faces.
Even when we decide to stay home for vacation, my kids get sick. We decided not to go anywhere over spring break this year, and both kids got the tummy flu.
When they get sick at home, where do they get sick? Not on the bare hardwood floors, but one of the two Oriental rugs. Everybody, including the dog and cats, vomits on the Oriental rugs. I’ve tried three different rug cleaners to get the smell out.
Dealing with illness has gotten easier as the kids have gotten older. At least now they can tell me where it hurts and occasionally they make it to the bathroom in time to spew.
Although traveling plus kids plus sickness is still difficult, it’s not as intense as it once was. When my girl was a baby, she’d scream like a teenage girl in an ax-murder movie every time we strapped her into a car seat — from birth until about the age of 3. I’m not exaggerating. Much. She would scream until she vomited all over herself. Pretty smart of her, because then we had to stop and remove her from the evil car seat/straitjacket.
When she was three weeks old, we drove to Cleveland, Ohio. After hours of screaming, punctuated by regular barfing, I told Enviro-spouse to drop me and the baby off at the Charleston, W.Va., airport so we could fly home. Five minutes later, the baby girl finally fell asleep. I agreed, in whispers, to stay in the car, but told E-spouse to floor it and pee in Coke cans until we saw the “mistake on the lake.” Under no circumstances was he to stop the car while that baby slept.
Another of my favorite travel-sickness moments occurred when the girl and I rode to the beach with a friend of mine and her daughter. Our spouses were coming down a few days later because of “work.” We were happily driving down the highway when my friend glanced in her rear-view mirror.
“Oh no,” she said. “Isabelle’s about to be carsick.”
I undid my seat belt, turned around on my knees, and cupped my hands under her 2-year-old’s chin just in time. Then I stayed in that position until my friend pulled over. She opened my door, and I carefully climbed out of her car and shook Isabelle’s breakfast off my hands and into the grass. That was a moment of true friendship. Also, it was better than sitting for another three hours in a car redolent of vomit. I can do that at home in my dining room.
One day, I may be bold enough to travel with my kids without a medical kit the size of a suitcase. One day.