Family Style Vacation

sons 2000 Corbis - All rights reserved.
by Bob Schwartz

With a supreme look of indignation, my youngest son bellowed, “This is
supposed to be a family vacation! You’re supposed to spend time with your
family! Not dump us off!”

Ah, the mouths of babes can capsulize things so precisely with a slightly
tainted view of the facts. Truth is we had just discussed with our children our
family vacation plans for the summer that involved a trip to a family-type camp on the East Coast.
What that terminology meant was apparently open for
interpretation. To me, it was the best of both worlds. We could enjoy family
activities together, but there would also be the opportunity for them to do
organized fun-filled camp things with other children. And my wife and I could
then have a five-minute conversation which was uninterrupted by refereeing the
variance of opinion between two brothers, treating a skinned knee for the 476th
time or answering a phone call from someone wishing to sell me a time share
condo in Bettendorf, Iowa.

By the second day of our vacation my younger son had changed his tune
significantly. He was having so much fun that by 8:00 a.m. he was pleading to be
able to ditch his parents at the breakfast table and go join his fellow campers.
His chorus was now, “I see you guys all the time at home. Vacation is the time
to enjoy my new friends and activities. Can I go now? Can I go now? Huh, huh,

Yes, the fickle mind of the eight-year-old. From the trepiditation of not
knowing to the titillation of experiencing in less than 24 hours. One of the
parental bonuses here was that meals were included. A week of no cooking brings
joy, but nothing like the ecstasy of 158 hours of not having to wash dishes.
Additionally, dinners were available as “adult only,” so that while your children
ate buffet style with their new friends, so could you. The trade-off was that
without the nutritional police/parent around your child was undoubtedly washing
down one bite of spagetti with sixteen chococate chip cookies and five scoops of
ice cream. I’m not the king of small talk like my wife, who can strike up a
conversation with a mime. I viewed vacationing with strangers as going on a
first date every night and having to provide your life story. I figured it might
be much more entertaining to have a different life story every time I met a new

The first night I told our table-sharing dinner guests that I was the
conductor for the Montgomery, Alabama traveling orchestra, after having told
others during the cocktail hour that I was the US ambassador to Madagascar. My
wife wasn’t in earshot of the first fib, but was for the second. I was suddenly
shot a look that said something like knock off the vocational shenanigans or
you’ll find yourself looking for a new career as a husband.

The activities available for adults are more aptly titled, “Let’s do
physically challenging things that we have never done before and try to live and
tell about it.” Pain relievers are apparently the big seller at the local drug
store. By the end of the week you’ve got to pack up and head out as the new
influx of families is arriving. You look at the interlopers with a tainted eye
for they signify that you’re now back to the reality of no forty foot buffet
table every night. But if you weren’t disappointed upon leaving, what kind of
vacation would that have been?

Copyright 2000 © Bob Schwartz