“Preparing for family vacation is like a commander preparing for war,” my sister-in-law, who is a three-star Lieutenant General of Motherhood, says.
She’s a veteran with Vietnam-era type experiences. She’s been in the trenches, having had three kids in three years and vacationing with my family in the dark days before my father had been mellowed by eight grandchildren and a prescription for Xanax.
“A good commander must assess, in the war room/living room, the unknown dangers that may confront them in their destination and be prepared for all outcomes,” she says. “But you must also balance this with knowing how much you can afford to bring.”
I’ve never been good at that balance. In fact, that’s how I ended up living back in Florida. We were on vacation one year and my husband said, “You packed everything we own and it doesn’t fit into our hotel room, so I guess we should just buy a house.”
Having kids expounds that problem. One of the natural laws of parenting states that: Whatever you are not prepared for will happen. Therefore, as a mother, you try to over-estimate every catastrophe that awaits you: Tylenol for fevers, cortisone anti-itch cream for bug bites, antibiotics for oyster cuts, fingernail clippers for children who gnaw their nails into talons, Benadryl for bee stings, plus an EpiPen just in case they transition from non-allergic to deathly allergic in one sting.
“You don’t get invaded with vomit and diarrhea in the afternoon,” the Lieutenant General says. “It is always a midnight attack.” So now I pack Pepto-Bismol, baby Tums, and homeopathic cough syrup. This year I even tricked my parents into hiring Dick Cheney’s private physician’s nephew to stand by in case of emergency.
“Pack for all climates and know the particulars of your area,” commands my sister-in-law. (Meaning always know how close the nearest liquor store is.) My family is vacationing in Miami this summer, so I packed a chainsaw to kill zombies, a spaceship in case the world ends, and some strawberry pop tarts in the event of a hurricane.
I thought I had every possible outcome covered, but unfortunately, this year, I forgot to pack a replacement boat.
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