Three kids. Sleeping horizontally in one bed. You see that small, slither of a spot on the end, there? That’s the spot they left for me, mom.
We were 25 miles from home. Staying at a hotel for one night and one night only. There were no palm trees, no roller coasters, no ocean. Our night away was much closer to a staycation than a vacation. But that didn’t matter. Not even a little. Because vacations are a state of mind, helped by an unfamiliar setting. Vacations are about stepping outside of normal.
Normal for my family is not 3 kids sleeping in one bed. Normal for my family is not sharing nicely and taking turns. It’s not playing virtual baseball and zombie dodgeball and doing it together without one argument. Normal for my family is not staying up until midnight, and it’s not sleeping until 11. But this is what we did. By definition, we were on vacation.
It all started when this year, like every other, the kids were full of envy as their friends spoke of tropical locations like The Caribbean, Florida, and Arizona. We had been planning on staying put, just as we do every April.
“But, moooom, everyone is going somewhere! Why don’t we ever go anywhere?”
I took out my smallest violin and played the sympathy notes. But, they had a point. It was spring mother-freaking break and the one thing I did have was vacation days at work!
“You’re right. We are going somewhere this year. I don’t know where yet and it may not be very far from home, but we will get away from this house for a night or two.”
In a last-minute attempt to make our spring break feel just a bit more spring-breaky, we planned a quick trip to an unlikely location for a family of 5: MGM Springfield in Massachusetts. I know, I know, who brings kids to a casino, right? We do, I guess. It was close to home, the price was right, and we had visited once before for a quick walk-thru that left us eager to go back and take advantage of the fun activities like bowling and virtual golf. Plus, I have a heavy hand on the slot machine, and nothing says escape from the real world like the overwhelming feeling that you could, possibly, transform into a millionaire at the press of a button.
And so we did it all. Myself, my ex-husband, and 3 excited kids took that casino by storm for 24 hours. We bowled, we played virtual golf, we jumped on the extremely comfortable beds and the kids filled up on the complimentary Starbucks hot chocolate. We played hide-and-seek in the hallways. We even hopped into the outdoor pool and hot tub despite the 50-degree weather and a lack of bathing suits. I snuck away and left the kids with their dad while I won $70 on a slot machine. I went really crazy and quickly spent that $70 on gourmet desserts and the on-site movie theater with the oh-so-comfortable reclining chairs.
For 24 hours, we escaped. We escaped sports and homework and chores. We escaped the monotony of fighting over phone chargers and computers and Playstations. “But mom, her turn with the computer is over. It is not fair!” I didn’t hear the words but mom or that’s not fair once on our getaway. For 24 hours, I was no longer the referee. I wasn’t worried about money or laundry or the spreadsheet I forgot to update at work. I ate what I wanted and then I ate some more and not once did I feel guilt over the calorie-count or disgust over my growing muffin top. Mom and Dad weren’t even fighting. We were bowling and golfing and laughing together as one happy, albeit divorced family.
You know those rare occasions in life when time goes by so fast and so slow simultaneously? The times when one day feels like three days because you packed it with so much damn activity that the morning feels like it was two days ago? But at the same time, you are struck with the overwhelming, rhetorical question: How is it over already?
And that’s traveling with kids. You plan. You pack. You anticipate. As a family, you talk about it and share your excitement for weeks or months about your upcoming trip. When it arrives, you simply don’t want it to end. Ever. But it does end. And life reverts back to normal, whatever that is for your family.