There comes a point in time at which every parent is forced to answer the one question they have been avoiding since the day their children were born.
When my children started racing toward their teen years, I knew my day would come. I knew I was about to be faced with the most difficult question a child will ask a parent. I knew I was going to have to come up with some sort of honest answer for them. I promised myself that when my day came, I was going to be as open and honest as I possibly could, without giving away too many of the more sordid details.
Two weeks ago, it finally happened.
My children asked me THE question.
They asked me, “Are we there yet?”
(Well, what did you think I was talking about?)
For years, my wife and I had been discussing the possibility of taking a family vacation together, something we hadn’t done since our son Max was born in 2007. Every time we discussed the possibility of taking a vacation, however, we kept asking ourselves the same three questions: Do we have enough money? Can we find the time? Should we take our children with us?
Eventually, however, we were able to save a little money (well, that and the fact we were able to find ways to circumvent child labor laws), we managed to set aside the time and, finally, we decided the kids deserved to go on vacation with us (I mean, all that work we had them doing in shady factories and coal mines probably earned them something, right?)
It wasn’t a particularly extravagant vacation — three days in beautiful Sandusky — but we considered it a “practice vacation” that hopefully would go well enough for us to consider a more elaborate (a nice way of saying “expensive”) vacation down the road. Given that we had never been on a vacation together as a family before, we didn’t want our first time to be something too extravagant — the French Riviera will just have to wait for the Fongs’ arrival.
And that’s how I found myself packed into the family minivan with my lovely wife and our two children making the nearly four-hour drive to Lake Erie.
The drive itself wasn’t too bad, actually … for the first 30 minutes. From that point on, however, the requests became pretty relentless — particularly for my wife, who was driving. Someone had to go to the bathroom. Someone was hungry. Someone was thirsty. Someone wanted to play another game of “I Spy” (perhaps the worst car ride game ever created). Someone wanted to know how long it would be before we got there.
The kids’ requests could be a pain for my wife from time to time, too.
Two stops for food and four stops to use roadside restroom facilities later, however, we did make our way to Sandusky. We spent our first day at Put in Bay, which — from what some people have told me — is a lot like Ohio’s version of Daytona Beach at spring break, only with older, fatter versions of fraternity guys gone wild.
Well, it turns out it’s not that way on Thursdays, and certainly not that way if you are with small children and looking to avoid certain establishments. We cruised around on a tame golf cart, visited tame monuments, swam in a tame pool, explored a tame cave and had a tame dinner overlooking the lake.
It was, in a word, tame.
If I were going to describe the first day of our vacation as tame, I would describe the second day of our vacation — which took place at Cedar Point — as “painful.” You know, there was a time in my life I enjoyed riding roller coasters. Those days were probably 10 years and 40 pounds ago, however. These days, however, roller coasters make me hurt. A lot.
Lucky for me, my kids wanted to ride every single on in the park. Which hurt. A lot.
Our last day was spent at Kelleys Island, which does not, in fact, hurt. We spent most of our day laying on the sandy beach … or, in my case, under the beach. See, I had lost a bet to my lovely wife the day before, which meant she got to bury me in the sand during our beach excursion. And that’s how I ended up buried, from neck to ankle — my head sticking out one end, my feet out the other — under a massive pile of sand … much to my wife’s apparent amusement.
Fortunately, however, she dug me out before it was time to go — although I’m sure she was tempted not to.
It’s OK, though … I asked her, “Are we home yet?” every 10 minutes the entire ride home.
Reach David Fong firstname.lastname@example.org; follow him on Twitter @thefong