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Saturday, November 17, 2007

Defining a successful vacation

When I was a kid and we went on vacation as a family, I never wanted to go back home. It always seemed that mom and dad were happier, more likely to agree with us kids and let us do things our way, and, of course, we didn't have to do any homework.

My dad owned a car lot, so on the way we'd usually have this nice sized van to loaf in, and most of the time we'd turn the table and chairs into a bed and rest comfortably. We did not worry about seatbelts back then. And, of course, there was a TV. While it wasn't hooked up to cable, there always seemed to be at least one channel we could pick up.

Sure we got into some fights, and mom would yell at one or all of us or dad would smack us with the back of his hand if one of us got way out of hand if he could reach us while maintaining his grip on the wheel, but for the most part we all seemed to enjoy ourselves.

If we went to visit a relavite there were always new toys to play with that were far better than the old boring ones that we had at home. And there usually were other kids to play with. And when we weren't visiting we were doing something cool like going to Mammoth Cave on the way to Florida or mini-golfing when we visited grandma in Florida or going to someplace.

Maybe my siblings didn't enjoy it as much as myself, but to me it was fun just to get away from the reality of home life for a while.

I suppose a successful trip as a kid is one where you have so much fun you don't want to go home. My parents succeeded in accomplishing this many times, as I hope I did with my kids this past weekend.

Now, as an adult, I remember those trips. Now I feel joy in knowing I'm the dad, the one who gets to decide what cool things we do. So last weekend when my wife decided she was going to have a girl weekend with her friends, I asked the kids what they wanted to do for fun.

"I want to play with Arlan," my son said.

"Okay," I said.


"Sure. Pack up your bags and let's go."

They were so excited I can't put it into words. When I asked KK to get dressed in the morning she didn't fight me one bit. My son packed his own bags.

There is some kind of joy in traveling in a car for 2 1/2 hours, stopping at McDonalds and not worrying about the diet, lettting the kids get whatever they wanted because mom wasn't there to tell them they couldn't have something. And drinking pop and eating donuts and chips the rest of the way.

And while we were at my brothers both my son and daughter had a cousin their ages to play with and they played non-stop. And my brother and I talked sports and politics without worrying about what we said because we don't judge one another. There is nothing better than hanging out with people you know won't judge you.

Then my older brother showed up with his kids and we watched the Redwings, played live-aciton sports on the Wii. The new Wii has a motion sensor where you actually have to swing the golf club or the baseball bat to hit the ball. It's amazing how far these games have come since the Atarii we played with back in the 80s.

When we were hungry we ate hamburgers or ordered pizza without worrying about price or about eating too much. We rehashed some old memories, and listened to the kids giggling late into the night, way past bedtime. My daughter came to me on her own accord finally and said, "Daddy, I'm tired."

Finally, my dad showed up with another one of my brothers and we watched the Lions. The game was a bust, but it was cool to have all us brothers together again, even while it was only for a few short hours.

We dads love vacations. Dad was vacationing here from his winter home in Florida. He was happy to be with his kids; he didn't need to say it. Just like he didn't need to say he was happy to be on vacation with his boys when we were kids.

Dad never even asked why I didn't go to hunting camp with him this weekend, for he just knew.

My youngest brother, Trin, did. "Why didn't you come out to camp with us."

"Kids!" I said, bluntly. "This was my weekend with the kids." He smiled. Some day he and his wife will have kids and he'll know how I feel, if he doesn't have a clue already. I bet he does because he loves to play with his nieces and nephews.

As an adult, no matter how long a vacation lasts, a successful vacation is one in which you are equally excited to get back home as you were to leave. My trip to the big city this past weekend accomplished that.

So we were all happy. Now we are home, me and the kids, and we're all happy and well rested -- and so is mom.

It was a nice weekend.

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