As it drew closer, the kids counted down the days to spring break. No homework. No school. No problem. I’d envisioned sitting poolside, working on my tan while the kids swam for hours. There would be no rushing around, since most of the after school activities had been cancelled.
It began with a bang. We threw my daughter’s surprise birthday party on the last day of school. Giggling, screeching girls filled our home until late that night. I’m still sweeping up strands of fuchsia clip-on hair extensions and hot pink glitter.
After a day trip to the La Brea Tar Pits with friends, spring break stagnated. Our normally bustling cul-de-sac was eerily quiet. Many neighbors had packed up and headed out, seeking either snow or sun.
I decided we’d make our own fun. I’d take the kids to San Diego for a quick overnight getaway while my husband worked. After pulling an all-nighter to ensure nobody had to go naked, wear their underpants inside out or dirty laundry dive, we were off to find our FUN spring break.
By the time we arrived, everyone was ranting and raving about how starving they were. Driving our over-sized family SUV in a crowded metropolitan area with one way only signs on every other street and crabby kids proved difficult. Finally we found a suitable watering hole.
While impatiently awaiting our food, kids visited the restroom in shifts. Shift #1 returned to the table sprinkled in water. It was reported that the toilet had shot water at them. I somehow managed to convince them we didn’t need to leave immediately to shower and change clothes. A family friendly conversation of explaining what and how a bidet is used followed, over lunch. The hole-in-the-wall Mediterranean fare was delicious and plentiful. One of the kids finding a small black spider meandering through his yellow rice? Not so much. Lunch came to an abrupt halt and we high tailed it out of there, feeling a bit queasy.
We checked in to the hotel. Kids rejoiced in jumping on the freshly made beds, watching tv, waving to passersby below from the balcony, drawing on the note pads, playing “hotel” on the unplugged room phone and making coffee…just because.
Sunshine hid behind a thick grey blanket of clouds. We ventured out for dinner. After threatening to ship each of the complaining, bickering offspring back to the room, we returned. Together. We warmed up in our jammies. Just as we were settling in for the night…FIRE ALARM!
Through the deafening, relentless noise of the hotel fire alarm I barked at the kids to find their shoes. The girls immediately began sobbing, and dashed around the room gathering belongs they didn’t want to burn. Seeing their sisters fall apart, the boys’ tears began flowing. I tried shouting over the horrendous racket that it was probably a false alarm. My voice went unheard.
As quickly as the chaos ensued, it ended. We got word that indeed it had been a false alarm. Nevertheless, all kids were thoroughly rattled and begged to return home. Nope. We were going to stay and have fun, darn it.
We talked about what had happened. “Mommy said the F word”, said one kid in a hushed and questioning voice. Oh. That. I did recall some forbidden word escaping my lips when it all began. Shoot. “Well Mommies make mistakes too”, I replied. The whole trip seemed like one giant mistake at that point.
The next morning was rainy and cold. We got dressed in our skimpy summer clothes and headed out for morning gelato. I mean, why not? Our getaway had been an epic failure. With no umbrella and without warm clothes, I made the executive decision to leave that morning. Home had never sounded better.
To my surprise the kids didn’t want to leave. As I listened to each of them recount their favorite parts of the trip, it actually sounded like they’d enjoyed themselves. Really? It certainly hadn’t been what I’d envisioned.
The ups and downs are all part of it. Life. Our kids didn’t need our vacation to be epic. They don’t need perfection. Through it all they’d found the fun.