“Ooh, look honey! It’s a train!” My husband was unmoved by this delightful news, so I elaborated, “Wow, it’s a big one, too! I’ll bet Thomas the Tank Engine and Percy would have to work together to pull that one, huh?”
My husband carefully considered the locomotive chugging alongside the highway. “Honey, the kids are back in Michigan. You don’t have to point out the trains. Besides,” he added, “You’re nuts. It would definitely take Gordon to pull a train that big.”
It was day one, hour three of our official “First Vacation Without The Kids,” and my husband and I were still adjusting to our sudden non-parent status.
Six days without kids. No diapers. No whining. No Chicken Krispers for breakfast, Chik’n Thumbs for lunch or Chix and Bits for dinner. It was almost unfathomable.
Please don’t misunderstand. It’s not that we don’t enjoy traveling with our three toddlers. My husband and I have taken several family trips. After all, the internet makes it easy to plan a fun, toddler-friendly vacation that will create memories to last a lifetime. Unfortunately for our kids, my attitude about these web sites is, “The heck with planning. Let’s just wing it.” As a result, we have a long and illustrious history of dragging our three kids to wildly age-inappropriate activities. Our vacation conversations usually go like this:
1) “Okay honey, here’s the plan: You distract the museum curator over by the Michelangelo exhibit, and I’ll let the kids bounce on the chairs in the lounge area for a few minutes to let off some steam!”
2) “Look baby Luc! It’s a plastic model of the retina! Isn’t that the cutest retina you’ve ever seen? Oh yes it is the cutest retina you’ve ever seen!!!”
And, of course:
3) “Great news! The sous chef has decided not to press charges!”
So, although we like vacationing with the kids, we don’t have much luck when we’re actually on the road and searching for toddler fun. I believe it was Confucious, or perhaps Mr. Miyagi, who said, “To find a McDonald’s PlayCenter, you must first stop looking for a McDonald’s Playcenter.” This maxim was certainly proven true during our drive. No sooner had we dumped the brats off – uh, I mean, lovingly taken leave of our darlings, than we were inundated with billboards:
“Toddlerpalooza Ice Cream Factory and Funatorium! Ten Miles Ahead!”
“Thompson’s Puppy Farm and Caffeinated Beverage Emporium!”
Where, I wondered, was the Wee Wonders Fun Zone when we were dragging the kids to that interpretive dance exhibition in downtown Atlanta?
But those days were long past. Now, my husband and I were kid-free and headed to a bed and breakfast in an apple butter-intensive area of New York. The kind of place where you had long, candlelit dinners and held hands. The kind of place with a king-sized bed, a whirlpool tub, and a fireplace. The kind of place where the innkeeper solves the mystery of who on earth buys all those lace-applique tunics from the Coldwater Creek catalog.
Our particular innkeeper was named Mrs. Swifton. She met us at the door with a plate of cheese and crackers and a bottle of wine.
Now, I’m not usually a complainer, but this was beyond crazy. “Mrs. Swifton, wine will be fine for us adults, but how about a few sippies of apple juice to go with those crackers? And what on earth is with all of the porcelain figurines and baskets of pine cones?” I examined the cheese tray. “Hey, is that honey mustard? Haven’t you ever heard of Infant Botulism? What kind of Norman Bates establishment is this, anyway?”
*Slap!* Mrs. Swifton, who had clearly dealt with parental withdrawal before (and who had quite a mean left hook for somebody wearing a teddy bear pin and gingham skirt), quietly offered a doily-wrapped ice pack for my throbbing cheek and led us to our room.
And as we settled down for our first night of vacation without a one-year old balefully glaring at us from his pack-n-play, I think my husband and I could both agree on one thing:
We missed the kids.