Vacationing with kids is hard work. I spent weeks cramming Fun, Educational Travel Activities into a duffel. Some of these (Mad Libs) worked. Some didn’t, including the game Meaningful Dialogue. Following is a real excerpt.
Me: Max, what’s the wisest thing anybody ever said to you?
Max: The letter three!
Maybe Max was making a symbolic reference to the Holy Trinity, but considering he’s five and wears his underwear backward, I doubt it.
Max was responsible for many dramatic moments on the trip. Consider when he told Daddy, who was driving, “I gotta go potty.”
“Just five more minutes,” Daddy said.
Back and forth went this exchange until Max said, in a sweet, high voice, “Too late.”
I had moments too. Gatlinburg, Tenn., was so hot, I visited the bathroom and sat on a tissue toilet-seat cover. When I stood, my bottom was so sweaty, I had to peel off the tissue in teeny scraps.
Jake became part of the scenery, really, in North Carolina’s Biltmore Estate the next day. We were inside for five minutes when Max lost a junior ranger badge, and I tromped outside to find it. My cell phone rang, and it was Daddy. All I could understand was “Jake is stuck.”
Stuck? We weren’t crawling through tight cave passages. I heard a child sobbing and saw a crowd gathering around a pillar in the Winter Garden, the skylit pavilion behind the grand foyer. I pushed through crowds of tourists photographing not Renoirs but a worker dumping green liquid soap on Jake’s forearm–somehow he’d wedged it between limestone carvings.
Everybody had advice for Jake–wiggle this way! That way! An Asian family couldn’t speak English, but they sweetly gave Jake bottled water to sustain him during his travails.
The worker called his supervisor on a walkie-talkie, and she arrived to give Jake her Expert Advice about the column’s construction and how he should dislodge his arm. A third worker gave Jake a $5 gift card to cheer him up.
Thirty minutes later, the crowd shouted triumphantly as Jake pried his arm from the column. A pool of goop surrounded us. Jake reeked of soap, and he would until he showered that night.
Later, I was an enthusiastic wine taster at Biltmore’s vineyard.
But I know our journey made a lasting impact on the blossoming minds of our children. I asked Max to name the most important lesson he learned. He fixed his cornflower-blue eyes on me, pursed his cupid’s-bow lips, and stated, “Big Butt Mountain and Little Butt Mountain are in North Carolina.”
At least he learned something.