By Elizabeth Bottiaux
As it drew closer, the kids started counting down the days until spring break. No homework. No school. No problem. I envisioned sitting poolside, working on my tan, while the kids swam for hours. There would be no rushing around since most of the after-school activities were canceled that week.
It began with a bang. We threw my daughter’s surprise birthday party on the last day of school. Giggling, screeching girls filled our home until late that night. I’m still sweeping up strands of fuchsia clip-on hair extensions and hot pink glitter.
After a day trip to the La Brea Tar Pits with friends, spring break stagnated. Our normally bustling cul-de-sac was eerily quiet. Many neighbors had packed up and headed out, seeking either snow or sun.
I decided we’d make our own fun. I’d take the kids to San Diego for a quick overnight getaway while my husband worked. After pulling an all-nighter to ensure nobody had to go naked, wear underpants inside out or take a dirty laundry dive, we were off to find our FUN spring break.
By the time we arrived in SD, everyone was ranting and raving about how starving they were. Driving our oversized SUV full of crabby kids in a crowded metropolitan area full of “one way only” signs proved difficult. Finally, we found a suitable watering hole.
While impatiently awaiting our food, kids visited the restroom in shifts. Shift No. 1 returned to the table sprinkled with water and reported that the toilet had shot water at them. I somehow managed to convince them we didn’t need to leave immediately to shower and change clothes, and a family friendly explanation of what and how a bidet is used followed. The hole-in-the-wall Mediterranean fare was delicious and plentiful. One of the kids finding a small black spider meandering through his yellow rice? Not so much. Our lunch came to an abrupt halt and we hightailed it out of there, feeling a bit queasy.
We checked into the hotel, and the kids rejoiced in jumping on the freshly made beds, watching television, waving to passersby below from the balcony, drawing on the notepads, playing “hotel” on the unplugged room phone and making coffee … just because.
Sunshine hid behind a thick gray blanket of clouds as we ventured out for dinner. The bickering returned and after threatening to ship each of the complaining offspring back to the room, we returned. Together. We warmed up in our jammies, and just as we were settling in for the night … FIRE ALARM!
Through the deafening, relentless siren, I barked at the kids to find their shoes. The girls immediately began sobbing and dashed around the room gathering belongs they didn’t want to burn. Seeing their sisters fall apart, the boys’ tears began flowing. I tried shouting over the horrendous racket that it was probably a false alarm. My voice went unheard.
And then as quickly as the chaos ensued, it ended. We got word that indeed it had been a false alarm. Nevertheless, all kids were thoroughly rattled and begged to return home. Nope. We were going to stay and have fun, darn it.
So, we talked about what had happened. “Mommy said the F word,” one kid offered in a hushed and questioning voice. Oh. That. I did recall some forbidden word escaping my lips when it all began. Shoot. “Well, mommies make mistakes too,” I replied. The whole trip seemed like one giant mistake at that point.
The next morning was rainy and cold. We got dressed in our skimpy summer clothes and headed out for morning gelato. Why not? I was finally ready to admit that our getaway had been an epic failure. With no umbrella or warm clothes, I made the executive decision to leave that morning. Home had never sounded better.
But to my surprise, the kids wanted to stay. As I listened to each of them recount their favorite parts of the trip, it actually sounded like they’d enjoyed themselves. Really? It certainly hadn’t been what I’d envisioned.
The ups and downs are all part of it. Life. My kids didn’t need our vacation to be epic. They didn’t need perfection. Through all the bumps, they’d found the fun.
Elizabeth Bottiaux is mom to four small humans, ages 5, 7, 9 and 11. She’s a San Clemente resident and has lived in Orange County for the past 16 years. She publishes a blog, www.fourkidsandadog.com, about family life in our tri-city area.