There’s a saying in poker that goes like this: “If you can’t spot the fish [a.k.a., the worst player] at the table, it’s probably you.” Something very similar could be said about family travel—when you can’t spot the most poorly behaved child on a plane or at a resort, it’s probably yours.
This isn’t a platitude, people. It’s not me waxing philosophical. It’s truth. It’s reality. It happens to every traveling family at one time or another. It happened to us. On our vacation to Maui earlier this month.
As amazing and perfect as she is, our Big Girl, L, is incredibly sensitive to disruptions in her sleep schedule. As a result, the poor thing spent portions of our trip being a wildwoman. She hit. She scratched. She screamed. She kicked. She said horrible things about how she wanted a new Daddy. At times she even lashed out at her Mom (this is akin to the Dalai Lama dropping an f-bomb).
In short, my kid had a few bad days—just like every other 5-year-old in the history of 5-year-olds.
For us, managing her during these episodes was trying and exhausting and exasperating and awful. For other guests of the hotel, however—people who don’t know her or us—the scene was full-on hell.
These people gave us eye rolls. They tossed dirty looks. Some shook their heads in disapproval. One night, when L was grunting like a gorilla because she didn’t want to pee before bedtime, a neighbor actually shouted, “Shut the hell up!” from his lanai.
To be honest, I sort of don’t blame the guy.
I also don’t feel bad. Kids are kids. When you travel with them, sometimes it gets ugly. As parents, we can try our best to manage these situations when they arise. But at some point, you just have to deal.
Many parents “deal” by not taking their kids anywhere. That’s not an option for us. And it never will be.
Instead, we simply take things as they come. On good days, those days on which everyone behaves, Powerwoman and I kick back and watch the girls and smile squinty smiles and whisper to each other how lucky we are. And on bad days, those days on which a stranger tells our kid to shut the hell up, my partner and I try our best not to snap at each other, and to remember that, despite the drama at hand, life’s still pretty great.
Sometimes we fail—we’re human, after all. Sometimes it’s so stressful that one or both of us ends up crying in the bathroom. And sometimes we wonder why we even try to travel with such young kids.
Here’s the thing. Sure, we question. Yes, we doubt. But we never waver from our commitment to show our kids the world. Traveling with children can be tough—we’re the first ones to admit it. But even when our kids are the fish at the table, we wouldn’t have it any other way.