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Published August 19, 2013, 10:00 PM

Parenting Perspectives: What to know about vacation with children

A couple of summers ago, I was preparing to take my first trip to Medora, N.D. I’m a Tennessee native, and I’d never been to the Badlands so I was pretty pumped. We picked up the obligatory Medora vacay literature and started figuring out what would occupy our time while there. What activity captured my daughter’s imagination? Going to the ice cream parlor.

By: J. Shane Mercer, INFORUM

A couple of summers ago, I was preparing to take my first trip to Medora, N.D.

I’m a Tennessee native, and I’d never been to the Badlands so I was pretty pumped. We picked up the obligatory Medora vacay literature and started figuring out what would occupy our time while there. What activity captured my daughter’s imagination? Going to the ice cream parlor.

Despite that we can pick up a whole carton of the stuff for less than five bucks any day of the week at the grocery store only blocks away, we’re driving across the state to get ice cream.

Which brings me to my first entry on this list of things to know (and maybe just go ahead and accept) about vacationing with children:

Kids will be impressed with things that are not impressive.

Along with ice cream, the girls were also quite taken with the cable television offerings at the motel.

Kids will not be impressed with things that are actually impressive.

While the possibilities of watching “SpongeBob SquarePants” in a faux-wood-paneled motel room will entrance a youngster, the majesty of nature’s wonders won’t. SpongeBob will be met with an unwavering gaze. The majesty of a towering mountain or painted canyons will get about two seconds of attention, which will then be directed to the pile of dirt at the child’s feet.

Someone will puke (or otherwise shame you in public).

During the abovementioned trip to Medora, we went to the Pitchfork Fondu for supper, during which one of my wife’s sister’s children threw up. One of that child’s siblings reacted in rather high volume (and if I recall right, long-lasting) manner, drawing attention to our awkward situation. And my daughters lost their appetites in response to said vomiting. Bodily functions: get used to them.

There is no correlation between money spent and joy obtained by a child.

The old cliché about buying a kid a toy for Christmas only to watch them play with the box is also true for vacations.

It’s not a hard-and-fast rule, but I guarantee that the entry fee to just about anything that is not specifically designed for your child’s age right down to the month will produce no more sense of joy in that child than the motel swimming pool (which, by the way, your child will likely poop in, forcing its closure and you being banned from the hotel for life – see the above entry).

Troy Becker, a father of three and my co-worker, says the motel room could be “three cots in a box,” but if it’s got a pool, you’re golden.

Kids can’t differentiate between souvenirs and regular junk.

Children don’t know anything about picking a memento from the trip. Troy says that for them a souvenir could be a “Barbie from Kmart.” He’s right. All they know is they’re getting something. They don’t understand the value of a wooden keychain in the shape of Nebraska with little cartoon characters of all the products that come from that state.

It doesn’t really matter how it goes because you’ll remember it better than it was.

Nostalgia takes care of so much. And, actually, the crazy, frustrating parts may make it even better in the long run.

How many times has my family laughed about driving to western North Dakota to get ice cream or about the insanity of the “Pitchfork Fondue Incident?”

So, remember, when your kid runs giggling out of the bathroom at the Museum of History wearing nothing but underwear and said underwear is on their head, it’s funny – you know – later.

Shane Mercer is the business coordinator at The Forum and lives in Fargo with his wife, twin 9-year-old daughters and 4-year-old son.

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