In college, Spring Break meant a time to jam to your favorite music as you road-tripped down the highway. Maybe you’d hit a Florida or Mexico coast. Maybe you’d confuse a fiesta for a siesta. Whatever you did, you are no longer that person. Because — hello! — now you’re a parent. You work.
Two days into a nine day vacation, and you’ve already abandoned the kids in front of all kinds of screen time. When you kick them out to “just play,” they gather around friends’ devices. If you enforce the two-hour limit, they’re bored to literal tears (BTLT?) by 9:48. Sleeping in won’t happen until the day before school starts again. Their abandoned orange juice warms on the table like the deadlines you’re missing.
Every time you check your Facebook page in your haze picking up popsicle sticks, stray socks, and stuffed animals, heroic parents smile at the top of your feed, bursting with energy. The Jonses’s manage to structure entire days with their kids, day after glorious day. See the Jones’s rock climb in the morning, picnic for lunch, roller blade in the afternoon, grill out, and roast s’mores in their backyard by evening. Tomorrow they’re making Memory Boards to be archived in a trunk, which Mrs. Jones will reveal to them when they’re 18 and home from college for the first time.
You have an advanced degree. You are a lifelong learner. You will not be outdone. You still know how to party like it’s 1999. You are, well, pretty fucking awesome if you must say so (to) yourself. You don’t self-celebrate on Facebook — and as a matter of fact you are careful never to use colorful language in front of the kids. Yet if you still want to ensure a memorable spring break, here’s what you should do:
1. Take the first step: Consider a budget and reasonable places to go.
A cabin tucked between Black Mountain and Asheville? Click. Nature and the city. Four-hour drive. After cleaning fee, taxes, gas, and food, you’re looking at several hundred dollars. Your spouse can only get away from work for two days. No problem. The cabin has a hot tub.
2. Spend the next day getting ready.
Arrange for a house sitter to take care of the dog and take the trash to the curb on Monday. Wait in line at the grocery store behind a woman who rummages for coupons in her massive coupon book. Patiently repeat, “No, I said you can’t have watermelon Bubbalicious.”
3. Develop your multitasking skills.
Neat piles of clothes and toiletries accumulate around the house. Laundry is running, dishes are running, you are literally running. By morning, the cooler should be stocked with ice and beer, juice boxes, eggs, and bacon.
4. Tie up loose ends pre-leaving.
Remember to hide certain personal possessions that might be found by the house-sitter. Make up the bed for the house-sitter. The house-sitter may ask if her boyfriend can come over to study. You are down with that. No problem.
5. And the loose ends post-leaving.
Did you remember the Disney DVDs for the kids to watch before you hit the mountains? Yes you did. (Elsa should be singing “Let it Go” as we speak.) Did you remember to turn off the air upstairs? Oh yeah. Did you remember to give the house-sitter the password to the Wifi? Yes! Did you remember your toiletries? No? Okay, so you won’t be wearing contacts the next two days. Hit Wal-Mart on your way in to the cabin for the rest. Boom.
it’s all good.
7. Account for the weather.
By the time you arrive, the wind buffets your windbreaker like a balloon. How cold is it? 35. Did you check the weather? Did you remember jackets? Don’t answer that. If necessary, see #6.
8. After the kids steam in the hot tub for 20 minutes they will be BTLT.
You are so patient though, the way you clap your hands together like a cheerleader, the way you take deep breaths like you’re in Yoga class. Find Life, Yahtzee, and Headbanz in the closet. Spend the next hour forgetting about screens, guessing whether you’re a banana or a monkey or an ice-cream cone, and bond. This is what it’s all about.
9. The next day should be planned (perhaps during step #3 or at least #5 while driving with Disney music in background).
Hike Black Mountain in the morning, provide water, buy t-shirts, gorge on Mexican food, and watch dreadlocked smack-heads play guitar in the streets on Biltmore Avenue. The vibe here is so artistic.
10. While kids eat ice cream, sneak in an IPA at Wicked Weed.
Distract them with curbside jugglers if necessary. Now you can drive safely back to the cabin and enjoy a few more hours of bonding time before packing up and leaving first thing in the morning because your spouse has a meeting at 1:00.
11. When one of the kids emerges from his room at 10:03 with vomit plastered across one side of his head, see #5.
Then, toss him (gently) into shower, and check on your spouse who has tried to wash the sheets. Open the washer and shake out the chunks. You always have to shake out the chunks — this step is easily ignored.
12. Try to sleep.
Or at least as much as you can while one child throws up throughout the night and the other coughs.
13. Drive home with one child hovered over a barf bag.
Best to keep quiet even as your spouse careens down the wet mountain at speeds that make you fantasize what it would feel like to go airborn off a cliff.
14. You get a free pass.
Forgive yourself when the scalding coffee trickles down your wrist at McDonald’s while holding the door open for your spouse, and for the colorful word you used. It’s entirely possible the kids were out of earshot.
15. Applaud yourself.
When you do find yourself alive and back at home in time for spouse’s meeting, and cranking through the laundry, give yourself a personal pat on the back. No one has to know. The kids are pacifying themselves on their iPads before a nap (which they are taking).
16. Finally, go ahead and post a little something on Facebook.
Everyone’s doing it. There you are – all of you – on top of a mountain, sunlight glinting off the galax-speckled rocks, wind snapping your hair.
Follow these steps, and while you might find yourself a little paler and poorer, remember this is what’s it all about. And what a relief as the Likes come dinging in.