About Me

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My interests include veganism and vegetarianism, health, ethics, politics and culture, media, and the environment. I have three kids; I teach college part-time, study piano and attempt to garden. I knit. I blog on just about anything, but many posts are related to my somewhat pathetic quest to eat better, be more mindful of the environment, and be a more responsible news consumer. Sometimes I write about parenting, but, like so many Mommy bloggers, my kids have recently told me not to. :) Thanks for reading.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Summer Trip #2

Just got back from our latest family trip -- this time with old friends, in a lovely, scenic, outdoorsy spot in Central Oregon. The adults thought the place was beautiful and interesting with plenty of opportunities for outdoor adventure. We went on several cool adventures and came home each day dusty and sweaty and in awe of nature. At least that's what the adults would say.

Tell that to the kids, please? The older ones (12, 11 and 9)insisted every scenic place was "boring," and, like snarky pre-teens everywhere, complained of time spent in cars (hey, Oregon is a big state!), and insisted that lava flows, rocks, wildlife, mountains, lakes, streams, and waterfalls were not worth a second look. They would rather spend their parents' money on horseback rides (I'm with them on that, but too expensive to do more than once), rock climbing ($$$$$), and fake surfing at indoor pools(huh?).

The adults had a good time, at least when they were not repressing the urge to strangle the complaining and sulking kids. One loses one's patience and one's sense of calm when a vacation ends up being a job catering exclusively to children.

As I've said before in these blogs, family "vacations" are really trips, not vacations, at least not for the adults. Adults end up tired and at times resentful of their greedy, selfish progeny and the kids end up pissed at the adults who just CANNOT understand why they would prefer to watch a horror flick, buy candy, eat in restaurants, and fake surf rather than hike, go to museums, watch chipmunks and otters, and eat a picnic lunch.

I remember being bored on family vacations, too. Adults and kids have different needs (one for sleep, the other for ADVENTURE!). I think that's part of life, frankly, and part of the experience of being a child. Not every minute of life is a circus; not every penny should be spent on kids. But I find that adults EVERYWHERE (including me and my husband) are far too often sucked into the worry of "are we doing enough for the kids?"

When I sit back and think of it, the obvious answer is "HELL YES!" and "Maybe WAY too much!" I don't remember my parents playing that much with me. We were expected to entertain ourselves and to do so quietly. (As a parent, I've had lots of problems with the "quiet" part, at least with my boys.) Perhaps some of the difference between my family of origin and my family now is attributable to gender: my family was girl-heavy, but the family I've produced is boy-heavy. And of course, the personalities of the parents and of the children are TOTALLY different (are we really all related?). Still...I wish that I could get my kids to entertain themselves better. But perhaps they do so poorly at it because my husband and I have been sucked into a parenting culture of catering to children and being "involved" parents? A little benign neglect (my mother's phrase) might be in order, here. Honestly.

Somehow many people in my generation think that parents need to play with, and entertain, their kids, which means that adults on vacation with their children rarely get to attend to their needs. I never read a book on this vacation; I never took a nap. Neither did any of the other adults. There was far too much time spent, in my opinion, consulting children as to the day's plans. WTF? That was a BIG mistake -- one I will not make again.

I don't remember my parents spending a whole lot of money on me (other than gifts at birthday and Christmas), but I'd be embarrassed to confess how much money was spent on four kids during this vacation. I'm sure my family is not alone; it's a cultural problem and it's time people woke up and stopped it before this generation grows up to think that the world really does revolve around them and only them.

There were some funny moments and I am SO glad we were on vacation with friends. (If you're going to suffer with your children, at least do it with another family.) I look forward to another "vacation" with them in the future. Really I do.

Perhaps the funniest moment occurred in the car: my friend and I had the tired, cranky, temper-tantruming four-year-old with us in the van, while both dads were in the other car with the three older, complaining kids arguing in the back seat. At one point, we realized that three cranky, irritable, unreasonable children were in a car with two strained, irritated men in a red Chevy impala, going down the highway in the desert. Honestly, I couldn't stop laughing at how miserable, and how worthy of a sitcom, that drive was. It wasn't just the "are we there yet?" questions; it was "I HATE THIS TRIP!" and "This is SO BORING!" to which the fathers were saying the common refrain of "If I have to ask you one more time to be quiet...." Ah, parenthood. Not for the faint of heart! At least not on vacation.

Sigh. I just hope that the kids will grow up to look back fondly on this trip -- to remember what they DID see and not how they behaved. And maybe while they're at it, they can forget how the adults behaved, too.


  1. I love the honesty and insight in this post. I totally agree that the culture around kid rearing has changed dramatically from the time when our parents raised us to what we have now. There are lots of factors but a big one, I think, is that we all work now and kids lives are planned, structured and activity-ized from just months after birth. I'm not sure we could ever return to a time when having a parent at home meant that kids could just come home from school and engage in unstructured play or go outdoors to build forts or just mess around. But that's my memory of childhood. Not big trips, not lots of activities, no spring break flings ... just uninterrupted hours upon hours of "playing."

  2. I remember that, too. Of course, I wasn't raised in an academic family and now, most of my friends are high-expectations academics who want the best IN EVERYTHING for their kids, which translates, in part, to spending TONS of time exposing kids to all sorts of stimulating, semi-intellectual stuff. Damn exhausting for a parent! No time to make mud pies! Kid needs to be "doing" something or parent looks bad...sheesh! Stressful. And I think it even seeps into vacation, because you wouldn't want the kid to just lay around...right?! Elaine

  3. One thing that changed dramatically during the kid rearing years was the birthday party. For me, nothing better exemplifies this phenomenon of culture change than the transformation of the family celebration of a b-day with cake, candles and a few presents into the extravaganzas that are now routine. The first thing I noticed was that there were themes. Then there were locations. Then there were the party favors ... great gifts actually. Then the mounting expectations throughout the years that this year had to be even bigger and better. I confess to having rented the ice rink one year for the kiddos. It's all in the name of giving good things to our progeny, but, as you point out, we end up over stimulating, overeating, over spoiling and generally over doing it. :-)


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