Alex Barnett is looking forward to traveling with his three year old son for the holidays. Or maybe not.
It’s that time again. The holidays. Time for my wife and me to pack our stuff and our 3 year-old son to go on vacation. And, by “vacation” I don’t actually mean “vacation.” I mean going to visit other, older members of our families. And, by visit I don’t mean “visit.” I mean stay with them, trapped in their homes, subjected to dinner at 5 pm and defending our parenting methods.
First comes the packing. By the time, we’re done with that process – packing toys and diapers and at least three outfit changes per day (gotta account for “accidents”), our son’s duffle will be so big and overstuffed it will look like that of a Navy Seal going away on a year-long deployment.
Next comes the coordination phase. Countless calls to the Grandparents to give them our day and time of arrival. You’ll also call your extended family promising that we will come visit them too, though we don’t know why they want to see us since we don’t talk to them the other 364 days per year.
The third step in this process is the ever-popular last-minute work emergency. If you plan to take time off, especially to visit family, you can bank on the fact that a crisis will erupt at your workplace that you, and only you, are capable of handling. And, as you watch the minutes countdown to the time you’re actually supposed to leave, you will scramble around the office looking for the one person who doesn’t have a life and who can cover for you on Christmas Day. This person, in future, will be known as the “bane of your existence” because of their tendency to remind you of the time they “did you a solid” and of their incessant calling in of chits and favors for the one time they helped you out of a jam so you could go spend a week on vacation (read: trapped in a home with people who make you feel like you’re six and make you eat dinner at 5 pm).
Assuming you manage to not let work sabotage your vacation (read: save you from a week of eating dinner at 5 pm at your parents’ and your in-laws’ home), it’s time to depart. Now comes the fun.
If, like us, you have a toddler (and by “toddler” I mean the living embodiment of a rogue nation-state), the travel from home to your destination will require every last bit of strength your work-weakened body can muster. You want to learn about your strength, endurance, and mental toughness? Travel with a toddler. You wanna see if you’ve got the right stuff? Take a toddler and his/her stroller through security at the airport, with 17,000 people in line behind you. You wanna see if you have the ability to go from a standing stop to 60 mph in casual shoes? Let go of your toddler’s hand in the food court/shopping area of any local airport and watch as junior sprints away faster than Usain Bolt. You wanna see if you have nerves of steel and manageable blood pressure? Imagine that moment (and there’s always at least one when traveling with a toddler) when you relax for a half a second and then look around and realize that you don’t see your kid. Just before you scream bloody murder, start crying and keel over from a heart attack, you will feel a tug on your pants. You will look down and see your toddler saying “Daddy, Daddy, Daddy, Daddy, I wanna go. I wanna go. I wanna go.” And, it will pass through your brain for half of a split second that while you were previously going to go get the cops when you thought your child was missing, you now have to go get the cops so that they can prevent you from murdering your child.
And, if you can make it past all that, there’s one more hurdle you must clear before you make it to your ultimate destination — the nirvana, the paradise (read: home of grandparents who will make you eat dinner at 5 pm) to which you are traveling. It’s this: at some point, your toddler will do something, it may not even be something that bad, but it will be timed to coincide with your moment of greatest vulnerability. It will be after you’ve weathered the dagger-like stares of strangers who think, “How dare you bring a 3 year old out into public!”
It will be after you’ve had to change a poopy diaper in broad daylight in front of 10,000 people who are making snide comments about why a 3 year old isn’t already toilet trained. It will be after your pride and joy has asked you “Why?” for the gazillionth time. That’s when it will happen. I don’t know what “it” is, but it will be involve you telling your child not to do something that could theoretically cause him or her injury, and he or she will ignore you and do it anyway. “Get down off the back of that chair,” you’ll say. And, your little angel won’t. And, you’ll look at your son or daughter, and you’ll say: “Get down now! I don’t want you to get hurt.” And, they’ll smile and not budge. And, then you’ll say, “If you don’t get down now, you’re gonna be sorry.” And, that’s when you know the vacation has begun – because they’ll refuse, and then everything will be just as it should be, for in the next moment you will make sure that your child feels just as sorry as you do for agreeing to go on this vacation (read: week living in someone else’s house, sleeping on a pullout sofa, eating dinner at 5 pm) in the first place.
Photo: Heather Poole/Flickr