It’s the bane of every traveling parent’s existence: what to do when their kids act like monsters while away from home.
Do you open a can of whup-ass all over them in public? Or do you wait until you’re alone and safe from CCTV evidence, the authorities and judgemental busy-bodies? Or do you take the third route and use your kids as part of a tax dodge, “gifting” them millions of dollars in the process, transforming them into privileged, soulless bloodsuckers who lie, cheat and steal their way through life until one of them becomes president of the United States?
Okay, so I’m the first to admit that third example, timely as it was, went off the rails. But it raises a good point: many parents these days allow their spawn to go full “Lord of the Flies” while on vacation and the rest of the world pays the price. From hockey parents to corporate drones attending a conference or even just regular folk, many parents these days have just given up; they don’t read their kids the riot act before leaving the driveway – and again, it’s their fellow travelers that end up suffering. Raising little humans is the greatest gift and responsibility we can ever receive/undertake as adulta, so there should be no half-measures taken, friends.
I recently traveled to New York City with my daughter for the Broadway Flea Market and a show or two on the Great White Way. (That’s the official moniker for Broadway, not some kind of racist ideology.) My daughter’s nineteen now and less prone to tantrums – though her old man certainly isn’t – but together we observed a rugrat or ten whose progenitors fit what has become the new normal profile for parents: they ignored their kids, played with their phones, sipped their overpriced lattes, and let the little ones wreak havoc, leaving a path of destruction in their wake.
I also see this pattern all the time as a Niagara Falls bellman and so I recognize that I may not be the most unbiased person to write about this subject. And so I have consulted an old (and insanely-talented and hawt as hell!) friend of ours, the actress/blogger/writer/television-parenting-expert/mom know as Shantelle Bisson.
(To be honest, Shantelle wears even more hats than the ones described above but my slice of the internet isn’t as boundless as it appears, nor is your patience for my writing, so we’ll leave it as is. Okay?)
Shantelle not only consults on parenting issues on television and the HuffPost, she’s raised three young women with her husband, and so she’s more than qualified to share her views/experiences on how to parent while traveling with little humans…
1) You’ve been a “sport parent”, shuttling your kids cross-country (and further, perhaps) and in and out of hotels. Were your children always well-behaved? Or were they human and prone to fits of… humanness?
We did travel for sports with our girls, but not all that often, and rarely with all three in tow. But, I will say this, and nobody believes me, but our girls were not the fit-throwing kind. They didn’t do it on airplanes, or in cars on long road trips, and they never behaved badly in a hotel lobby, hallway or room.
I mean, they would fight with one another, but they never screamed bloody murder or inconvenienced a fellow traveler with entitled fit-throwing behaviour. Not once.
(You see? They were obviously educate din travel etiquette long before leaving home.)
2) Were your kids instructed to keep the hotel room clean? (Because most parents let their kids turn the room into an exact replica of Thunderdome.)
Yes they were.
In fact they were also encouraged to tidy up after themselves when they had sleep-overs at their friend’s homes. It’s so blatantly disrespectful to allow kids to grow up with the mindset; “that somebody else will clean up my mess” that I can’t even get into it here on your blog, cuz you’re a nice man with a clean site. You don’t need my profanity laced response to cause you to lose followers. But suffice it to say, that the people in hotels are there to clean bathrooms, change linens and make beds, not be your personal maid.
(I’m a nice man? Wow. I’m quoting Shantelle on that one.)
3) What about packing; when were your children allowed to pack and be responsible for their own belongings while traveling?
Wow. Great question.
(You see? I display a flash of competence every once in awhile.)
Our girls LOVED to pack their own things. We would give them a list of events they would be attending and they would pack accordingly. They pulled their own carry-ons, or wore them as backpacks, and hubby did all the heavy lifting of suitcases on to carts etc.
Once in the hotel room they were expected (and they did) keep all their belongings in their assigned section of the room. Even their traveling stuffies were delicately placed on bed pillows in every single room they’ve every stayed in, which is literately every place on the earth that they’ve visited with us. Our girls joke that Zulu and Squealer are world travelers!
4) Did you or your husband ever try to make time for yourselves while on vacation with the family, or did you dedicate the entire trip to spending time with the kids? When is it okay be somewhat selfish when you’re a parent?
When we’re on vacation or a trip with our kids, we’re on a trip to BE WITH OUR KIDS. But that’s just us, even as recent as last year all five of us went to Thailand for ten days. This year we, along with our son-in-law, we will be spending Christmas in New York. We go on holiday with our kids to actually get them all to ourselves, since life goes so fast, and you don’t actually get all that much time with your kids if you break it down.
I mean I see parents every single time we’re on a family trip that have a nanny in tow, and cellphones and tablets in hand…I guess to each their own. But for us, family trips were always about exactly that.
Saturday nights in the city? Those were always for the two of us, and least once a year we got away alone, even during the financially challenging ones, even if it was just for a weekend away at some local hotel. It’s important to make your intimate relationship a priority, considering, if you do it right you will eventually end up all alone, just the two of you. So, you better like one another, and know one another, or else, trouble…
…And her not quite human kids.
5) Your kids are hardly that anymore; how has your travel regiment changed? Do you find yourself treating them like adults or does your default setting always switch to “Mom”?
Damn. Another good question.
(What are the odds I’d get lucky twice in one post? I better buy a lottery ticket.)
Nowadays we don’t have as much daily interaction, which makes it easier to turn off the Mom button when we do end up traveling together.
I mean the reality is, I’m always going to be their mom, even when they’re mothers to their own children, so the tendency to want to mother them is strong. But, I find dialing that back is getting easier and easier to do, and this new role of “arms length” Momming is settling in. When we travel the only time the mom hat seems to come on is when they argue with each other, or leave one out in the cold. Then good ole Momma Bear comes out whether I want her to or not 😉
6) Any final thoughts on parenting on the road, Shantelle?
Like do you, as parents allow your kids to crash around your home? Do you allow them to leave their shit all over the place and not pick up after themselves??
If you do, well then, whatever… but most likely you have a standard and an expectation of behavior required for them when they’re inside your four walls.. this should be applicable to when they’re staying in a hotel… just saying.
(Preach, sister, preach!)
And that’s all the damage I’m prepared to do today, friends. I hope you’ve enjoyed Shantelle Bisson’s reflections on raising tiny mammals. I want to thank her from the bottom of my frozen/jaded Canadian heart. Maybe we’ll do this again sometime.
See you in the lobby, parents…