You just knew this was coming, right? In fact, a few of you even requested this.
So the rest of you can blame them.
We’ve already established that being a mom is the toughest job in the world, worse than being a lawyer for the Kardashians, even. But being a dad is no picnic, either. Okay, so maybe being a dad can be a picnic at times. Okay, so maybe being a dad can be a picnic most of the time…
Let’s move on shall we?
My point (I knew I had one somewhere around here) is this: any father worth their sea salt knows the truth of his existence:
If you’re a single dad, it’s up to you to hold your clan together, to fight off the monsters that roam at night, to create the template for adulthood, to be a lifelong friend.
If you’re one-half of a parenting team, you need to back your partner up… always.
In other words, no matter what your situation… you need to be a good dad.
Of course, now the question is… what is a “good dad”, exactly?
I’m so glad you asked. While I can’t claim to know everything there is to know about being a father – I’m wise enough to know that I could fill a million posts with everything I don’t know about raising a teenage girl – two decades in the hospitality trenches have left me with a nugget or two of travel wisdom worth sharing.
1) Know when to speak. It’s taken me years to pinpoint the moment when my wife needs back-up when dealing with our daughter. Along the way, I’ve messed up big time and made my wife feel as though she was alone in the whole child-rearing thing.
Don’t be me, dads.
I see it every day; a traveling mom is walking through the hotel lobby, dragging her rug rats behind her as they flail about and scream like Kardashians out of camera view. And what’s dad doing at that oh-so-critical moment?
He’s wandering around completely oblivious to the hell his partner is going through. Oh sure, maybe he’ll jump in with a half-hearted, “All right, kids, listen to your mother!”, but only after his spouse practically begs him to do so.
Take the reins, fathers. Make sure your progeny know what’s what long before you travel an inch past the driveway. Today’s dads can be soft touches when they should be imposing figures of great authority.
2) Know when to shut up! There can be strength in silence as well. All you have to do is suppress your innate urge to suggest “Vegas, baby!” every time the subject of a family trip comes up. I’m not suggesting you let the clan choose every destination you travel to, but it’s important to let the wife and kids have their fun. Then you can hit the links, the NASCAR track or whatever floats your rented boat.
Additionally, it is never more important to be quiet than when your spouse is on a roll. If your partner has something important to say, whether it’s about your travel destination or anything got that matter… let her. Period. Trust me, she’ll make it up to you…
3) Know when to pitch in. Moms often feel as though they have to handle every detail of every day family life, so family travel pretty much devastates them. Let your wife know that you’re available to scour travel sites for deals. (Great deals are snatched up instantly online, and so this is a two-person job – at least.)
Do whatever you have to in order to lighten the spouse’s load. This is for your benefit as much as hers. “Happy wife, happy life” isn’t just an overused turn of phrase, it’s the real deal, man.
4) Make what is usually hellish into something… far less hellish. Let’s face it, long car trips with the family are as enjoyable as a rectal exam performed by Donald Trump.
“I’ve done this many, many times and people love it! I leave the other guys in the dust when it comes to coming in from behind to dominate!”
It doesn’t have to be this way. Let the kids put on some of their music. (Your ears may bleed, but you’ll survive.) Research some cool attractions/rest stops along the way. Cut down on the Red Bull and soda. Pack some fresh fruit instead of junk food. And most of all… and this applies to the entire trip…
Talk to your kids! And your spouse for that matter!
Families barely communicate these days. This has to change. Forego the electronic communication for actual face-to-face talks and you’ll be amazed by the results. Or your money back.
5) Keep a bottle of water handy when checking in. This applies to any line you find yourself in (and there will be plenty to choose from). Dehydration is the enemy, my fellow dads; it’ll make you cranky and the next thing you know, you’re battling your partner over… pretty much anything. Vacation arguments are stereotypical and must be avoided at all costs.
And speaking of drinking…
6) Keep the alcohol consumption to a minimum. I’ve seen dads hauled out of the hotel in handcuffs. I don’t drink alcohol, so I have no idea just how tempting it is, but as a bellman I’ve seen its negative effects more often than I can recount. And believe me when I tell you, alcoholism can ravage a childhood beyond repair. Don’t drink and dad.
7) Do your homework! Yes, I know you were told there would be no math… but this about ensuring you don’t fall into the, “Well, we’re here…what do we do now?” trap. There’s more to the web than sports, saucy stuff and stock forecasts, dads. Use it to give yourself options for family activities before you arrive and find yourself wandering aimlessly as the kids grow more restless.
And don’t forget to talk to the people in your temporary neighborhood. Like the bellman, for example. We’ll steer you in the right direction – as long as you haven’t stiffed us, of course.
8) Be thoughtful. Put your wife over the moon – while clothed – by arranging for a little gift to be waiting for her in the hotel room. You can even do the same for the kids, assuming they’ve behaved themselves.
9) When necessary, be a travel snob. You may not be a Kardashian, but that doesn’t mean you should travel with just anyone. Group vacations can be great, especially if your kids get along with your friend’s rug rats. But be advised, I’ve seen these things go off the rails instantly.
- Don’t travel with friends who bring out your dark side.
- Never travel with a friend whose wife you secretly burn for.
- Avoid trips with friends who repeatedly leave you with the check.
- For the love of God, make sure the wives get along!
Be selective and you’ll be good, I’m guessing.
10) Keep your wits about you! Yes, you’re on vacation and you long to veg out (people still say that) but you can’t. You’re the dad, so be the dad. Steer your family’s ship to bright and sunny shores.
To your beautiful partner.
To your kids.
But not to next-door-neighbor Phil’s impossibly-flirty wife, Sylvia.
See you in the lobby, kids…