Apropos of Nothing: Traveling with the Family
An Editorial by Jamie Beckett
It’s been said that travel broadens the mind. That’s true. Experiencing life outside the cocoon of your own normal existence can give you insight into other cultures and customs. It can provide the thrill of grand vistas that are totally foreign to you. Although if you’re not careful, travel can also introduce you to a slew of ugly biological lifeforms that will compel you to spend an entire vacation in the bathroom of your very expensive hotel room.
Travel is not for the weak. Anyone who has ever voyaged beyond the county line with children in tow can tell you that. There will be screaming that leads to fighting. Food will be thrown. Drinks will be spilled. Personal space will be violated with glee. Then the retaliation begins.
Somehow, and science is completely in the dark as to how this happens, the cutest, cuddliest little girls can be transformed into raging monsters with an uncomfortable resemblance to the Crypt Keeper by merely putting them in the back seat and motoring off to grandma’s house for a surprise visit. Sure, you can try to prepare in an effort to forestall the conniption fit that’s headed your way. But your best attempts at placating the she-beast in the back seat will fail. I know. I’ve tried.
If you’ve got boys in your family, that’s a different thing entirely. The male of the species is suspect even under the best of circumstances, and shouldn’t be trusted within arms reach of any other living human until they attain the age of 45, at least. For boys the boredom of travel can be extremely dangerous. Fellow travelers be warned. Toys become projectiles. Books become projectiles. Corn dogs, french fries, SpongeBob SquarePants action figures, and even little sisters can be transformed into weapons or targets in the blink of an eye.
No matter which way the scenario goes, it’s not going to be good.
Fortunately for parents, time is the great cure-all for family travel adventures. Not so much because your children will become better behaved of more respectful. That’s never going to happen. Put the thought out of your mind. Time benefits parents simply because at some point, usually by the age of 12 or so, your children look mature enough that inexperienced outsiders assume they can be left to their own devices for short periods of time. This is the break you’ve been looking for. Finally, after years of pain and suffering, you can ignore your children in public for hours at a time with only a minimal risk of government intervention.
Even federal agents are aware of what it’s like to travel with teenagers. Whatever their behavior, unless there are open flames or visible blood spatter, most federal agents will just give you a nod and a wink as they let you go on your way. They’ve got kids. They know the deal.
Surprisingly enough, in recent years family travel has become a real joy for me. I wouldn’t have believed that was even possible in the old days when I was weighed down with diaper bags, insulated snack sacks, a cooler full of drinks, multiple changes of clothes for each kid, and a first-aid kit that would be the envy of many emergency room administrators. Now, my kids are independent, more or less. More, in the sense that they live in a dwelling other than mine, most of the time. Less, in the sense that they still ask me for money on a fairly regular basis.
What I find so wonderful about our recent travel arrangements is this; we commute separately. Our most recent outing to New York City is a prime example. It was time to go meet the new grandchild, and everyone was understandably excited. Those feelings of joyousness were preserved family-wide as my daughters jetted off to our destination two days before I did, and my wife flew out of a different airport than my daughters did, a day after I’d departed. Me? I chose to settle into a comfy, private room on a slow moving train all by myself. At the other end of the line, we all gathered together, had a few family style meals in outdoor settings where things couldn’t get too far out of hand, and ultimately headed home via separate methods of travel.
I think I’m in heaven. Finally, I can go on vacation without the annoyance of my family being underfoot all the time. Whew! If only I’d known this 25 years ago, I might have left the house more often.