‘Have you had a fun summer?’ an acquaintance inquired, politely, when we met unexpectedly. I stopped to think. A ‘fun summer’, had I had one? Images clouded my mind, of me.. bending over a laptop while frowning and trying to figure out whether an author meant to use discrete or discreet; yelling, distractedly, at my children to stop fighting, to stop running, to stop.
It had not been a fun summer, I concluded. And so, with the looming start of school and the end of my 205,000-word editing project in sight, I reserved a hotel room in scenic Banff. Determined to somehow compensate for the lack of summer-fun.
We would go and we’d all somehow turn into different people and it would be great.
Sure, it sounds deluded when spelled out in that manner, but who can blame a girl for thinking children and parents would magically acquire longer ‘fuses’ when placed in different surroundings?
‘The thing is, you really think it’s going to be great,’ the professor sighed, ‘which is what’s wonderful about you and what drives me insane.’
Bottom line, ‘being in Banff’ did not make my children more patient, it did not stop the Hen from throwing a killer tantrum because I didn’t buy him his own, personal slab of fudge at The Fudgery, it did not stop Percy from screaming bloody murder (in a thin-walled hotel room, no less) when we tried – quelle horreur – to put a jacket on him; to protect his little limbs against rainy, 50 degree weather. And it did not magically equip me with the supernatural ability to endure my offspring’s outbursts.
While waiting for our evening meal to arrive – the one during which one parent sucked down a cocktail and after which another parent locked themselves in the hotel bathroom while eating a chocolate bar – the professor wondered (aloud): ‘when is this going to be fun?’
Meaning, I suppose, what ages do our boys need to be for us to become ‘the family who travels’. The family who visits museums and interesting places and goes on long hikes and eats a meal in a restaurant…..and sort of enjoys it? I mean, we were driving in the car, hinting at taking a short walk when the older boys stage-whispered in the back: ‘let’s just stay in the car….because we don’t like hiking.’ At least they bond over their mutual disdain of that-which-their-parents-enjoy.
We got our answer about the ideal age for travelling with kids the next day; watching a nineteen year old boy eat lunch with his parents. He sat quietly, waiting for his food; keeping to himself. ‘I’m not going to make it to then,’ the professor despaired, while we begged-threatened this one to stop touching that one for the umpteenth time.
Of course, the excursion wasn’t completely devoid of pleasantries. After all, staying in a ‘hole-tell’ as the Hen calls it, comes with one substantial perk: the television. That rectangular screen that is on whenever we are awake and within the confines of a hotel room. Of course, child-friendly offerings dwindle considerably in the evening. Much as the boys would like us to believe that Family Guy is a ‘boy show’ – just because it’s animated. But we found something we could all watch together: Wipeout.
I had no idea there existed a television show in which adults compete on video-game-esque obstacle courses to win money. But there is….and we watched it. For what seemed like hours. ‘I love this,’ the Hen sighed happily as he fixed his attention on the ‘big kids’ trying to ‘jump the shark’ and doing their best to exit a moving, slippery slide onto a ramp. Delighting as their efforts failed and they plummeted into the pool of water below.
On our way back to Calgary, as I schemed quietly on how to make a family trip a success, I decided the only way….was to turn my house into a hotel. Perhaps if my bedding was ultra-coordinated (with a stain-resistant-sheen) and I had more pillows than I can use, and there was a flat-screen tv against a wall, I could just pretend that I was staying somewhere fun.
Without having to leave the house.