Why Fathers Hate Family Vacations–Part Two

A bit of insight into the world of little kids--there is nothing on this earth funnier than a fart.

A bit of insight into the world of little kids–there is nothing on this earth funnier than a fart.

If you haven’t already, I would invite you to read part one of Why Father’s Dread Family Vacations. Really, I could make this into a whole series. But I won’t. Probably. Not sure I have the strength to delve too deep into the many reasons why vacations suck like a Dyson vacuum.

We left off with the car finally being packed, the kids buckled into their seats and the Partington family about to set off on a family vacation.


With our large SUV packed to the brim, resembling an overstuffed burrito with pillows and blankets poking out of the cracked windows, we departed while singing along to the CD that was blasting out our ear drums—No, not a good ol’ rock n’ roll song, but a yippy-yappy version of Do Your Ears Hang Low, featuring lots of tuba-playing and sound effects one might hear on a carnival ride.

One thing non-parents should know and parents of older children should be reminded of is that young children learn by repetition. And so when the next song began, the boys voiced their objections and demanded that we play Do Your Ears Hang Low a second time. Hint to parents of young children—DO NOT ALLOW THIS! They will want to hear the song approximately 763 times before one of two things happens: you begin a gradual plummet into some dark abyss within your subconscious mind that you never knew existed, or the song will permanently embed into the deepest pockets of your brain and never ever leave, much like a homemade wedding gift that wasn’t included in your registry.

My wife and I are fortunate in that we purchased a vehicle with built-in TV screens and DVD players for the backseats. When we bought the car, we never thought we’d use them but felt differently after the first long trip with the kids.

Before you judge us, know that I understand how too much television watching can be a bad thing. But it’s funny how the rotting of a child’s mind suddenly doesn’t seem so awful when placed against losing one’s mind and committing murder.

Think I’m being over dramatic? Witness a typical conversation between the five-and-three-year-old in the middle of one such trip.

Five-year-old: “Stop looking at me.”

Three-year-old: “I’m NOT.”

Five-year-old: “STOP LOOKING AT ME!”

Five-year-old: “STOP IT! MOMMMMMMMM! He’s LOOKING at me!”

My wife: “He must think you’re handsome. Just ignore him.”

Five-year-old: “But he won’t stop looking at me and I don’t like it! Kyle, I don’t like it. STOP LOOKING AT ME!”

Three-year-old: “I WON’T!”

Me: (only half-paying attention) “Kyle, stop looking at your brother.”

My wife, shooting me dagger eyes: “Really? That’s what ya go? My hero.”


Such is our life. Being crammed in an SUV with the kids for so long kind of makes you feel like one of those snakes-in-a-prank-cans that shoot out when someone opens it. Incidentally, this is also how I feel at the end of these road trips, like everything just kind of shoots out of the car in a massive explosion–bags, clothes, toys, noose…

As bad as having three kids in the car can be, it’s made that much worse if ever an outsider comes along for the ride. On one such car ride, an extended family member sat shot gun (that’s “sat shot gun,” not to be confused with “sat with a shot gun,” which might have been a wiser move). When she first asked for a ride, my wife and I looked at each other as if a police officer had just asked us, “What’s that sound coming from the trunk?” Reluctantly, we agreed and so began our plummet into the abyss.

I drove and my wife sat behind us in the middle row next to the youngest. We had the GPS system on to help us find what was beginning to feel like the Lost City of Atlantis, what with all the turns and random roads that didn’t appear on any map not coated in vinegar.

Now, you should know that as good as my five-year-old’s vocabulary is, he still struggles with certain words, as many five-year-old kids do. For example, he always says “re-nect” instead of “connect” and “ree” as “three.” At a point, just after the GPS woman’s voice prompted me to make a left turn in approximately 200 feet, my five-year-old blurted out from the back of the car, “DADDY, IS SHE GIVING YOU ERECTIONS?”

While the next words were probably spoken only a few seconds after he said this, the pause seemed to last forever.

“Whh..what?” my wife asked.

“Erections,” he said again. “She gave Daddy erections, Mommy.”

In my peripheries, I could see my extended family member shifting in her seat, calculating her chances of survival if she were to leap out of the moving vehicle and onto the freeway.

That’s when the middle child farted—a loud ripper, like the ramping up of a chainsaw.

Another bit of insight into the world of little kids—there is nothing on this earth funnier than a fart. Laughter ensued—high-pitched, squealing laughter from my two oldest boys…

…and all this is what prompted my wife to put on Frozen for the remainder of the trip. Another hint to parents of young children: sometimes digitally manufactured peace is the way to go.



Why Fathers Dread Family Vacations – Part One

Family vacations present new adventures and wonder...at least for the kids.

Family vacations present new adventures and wonder…at least for the kids.

Growing up, it was hard to understand why my father never got as excited as the rest of us over family vacations. Whether it was getting on a plane and spending a week in Disneyland or simply camping at a nearby state park, when a family trip was approaching, my sister and I would sometimes have our bags packed as early as a week in advance (perhaps the only time we were ever ahead of schedule in those days), as we dreamt about what the adventure might hold for us. My father never seemed to want to breach the subject. At the time, a part of me thought he was a curmudgeon for it—these days, I know better.

Any trip that requires packing luggage also requires the father to load the car and then fetch the small toy at the bottom of whatever suitcase has already been buried under other luggage in the back of said car to stop the one-year-old from screaming like a hurricane warning siren. More than that, with small children come larger and more oddly shaped items to pack, making for one crazy game of real-life Tetris.

Now, don’t feel bad for me—at least not entirely. My wife has it way worse when it comes to family packing and getting the kids ready. Typically when I’m outside packing the car, she’s inside chasing the two-year-old with a pair of two-year-old pants, yelling at him to put them on as he screams back, “NOPANTSNOPANTSNOPANT!” Meanwhile, the four-year-old is following my wife with his own pants on his head, because “look, Mom, I’m funny…I’m funny, Mommy!” (and I know just what my wife is thinking at this point: at least HE has his pants ON!) and, through all this, the one-year-old empties the bathroom wastebasket of its contents…and wears it as a hat to mimic the four-year-old.

I hear all of this from outside the house, fighting the urge to prolong the process of packing up the car because–once I do–I know I’ll have to tag in to this madness.

But this time I’m lucky. This time my wife exits the house with the children dressed and ready—one child wearing mismatched shoes and a shirt meant for a child two years younger, another with marker blemishes across his face, and another with his diaper on the outside of his pants.

We are now ready to depart…or so I foolishly think.

I look at the back end of our SUV with a broad smile and a long sigh of relief, thrilled with how tightly and efficiently I was able to pack that car. I really am a prodigy at these sorts of things. Then I look to my right, where my wife is carrying a baby basinet that seems more appropriately sized for a small horse, one that bears a shape that is not conducive to packing into an already-overstuffed SUV.

“Do you have room for this?”

Remarkably, she is able to repress her frustration from her earlier dealings with the children. Sure, she’s glaring at me like I just put one of her scrapbooking scissors into a bin that was clearly meant for scrapbooking ink stamps, and sure her left eye is twitching like a twerking Miley Cyrus…but all three kids and myself had yet to be maimed. Knowing what it’s like to get the kids ready for anything, I call that a win.

And so I look at the massive baby bed next to her, and then back at the car, noticing how the body of it droops heavily toward the back wheels. I know this item won’t fit. Of course it won’t fit, but I have to be delicate, have to use that charm of mine that once won over her affection enough to agree to spend the rest of her life with me.

But knocking her up won’t help in this situation, Phil.

Kidding, kidding! Sheesh, that’s how rumors get started.

But I do have a fleeting thought that how I respond here could dictate how long of a life I get to enjoy–and so with careful deliberation, I come upon the exact right words:

“Yes, hun.”

Her eyes soften and her grimace twists into a smile. She mouths the words, “Thank you,” and proceeds in buckling the boys into their car seats. I had made it…I had survived.

And that’s when I did the dumbest thing ever.

“Uh, you know Kyle’s diaper is outside of his pants.”

…and while I can’t tell you exactly what happened next—I blacked out through most of it—I am fairly certain that whatever happened is the reason I now have a slight limp whenever I attempt a sharp left turn.

Finally, we get in the car and begin our journey…

…but that’s for another day.