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Family vacations inspire fodder for posterity
Kids make vacations hard, but, in the end, it's worth it. - photo by Amy Choate-Nielsen
If you were in the back car of a shuttle in Zion National Park around noon on Friday, Id like to apologize on behalf of my 2-year-old.

My normally happy-go-lucky, laid-back guy had a meltdown that was, shall we say, unprecedented. It started when our party of 14 boarded the crowded bus, and I unwittingly took the 2-year-olds seat, thinking he could sit on my lap instead. It escalated when he wanted to fling himself out of the shuttles window once it started moving, and he was restrained, much to his aggravation.

He was hot, his personal space was compromised and his deepest desires for freedom were not being honored. So he did what all toddlers do when theyre fighting for control he cried.

And not just with his eyes. He cried with every cell in his body. He thrashed and rolled his body around so he couldnt be held. He screamed. He turned red in the face. He gnashed his teeth. He balled up his little fists and punched me. He slapped my face. He pinched my hands. He bawled, yelled and kicked.

Each second on that bus seemed to be an eternity as I tried to reason with my son with the effectiveness of scooping peanut butter onto the floor and asking it to dance.

I shushed him. I brushed his hair. I kept my hands away. I bounced him. I sang to him. I rubbed his back. I offered him food. I offered him treats. I passed him to his aunt. I took him back. I showed him the window. I blocked his screams with my palm.

He was inconsolable, and the time kept ticking on as slowly as possible as the driver drove as slowly as possible, the heat intensified to as hot as possible, and I tried to disappear as much as possible.

By the time we got off the shuttle about 25 minutes later, we were all traumatized, but especially my son. We found a spot in the shade to eat our lunch and to let him run around. He threw his shoes over a concrete barrier in marked protest to our tyranny.

Right about then, my husband looked around at our motley group sweaty, dirty, stuffing our faces, kids shrieking and running in circles and said he was just starting to remember the vow he made as a young employee at Teton National Park to never bring his family to a national park for vacation. Yet there we were.

To me, as much as I didnt like the embarrassment and stress of wrestling my son in front of a bus of strangers, the scene of a family at a crowded national park, sweating and hiking and exploring the world together, is the quintessential childhood memory.

Just as soon as we started our hike and everyone had finally finished whining and we were all having a great time, it was time to go.

Its true: Kids make traveling harder. But they also make it a lot more fun.

Somewhere down the line, one of my ancestors must have realized kids make things more complicated, but they saddled up and brought their brood along for an adventure anyway. Then their children brought their children from Tennessee to Texas, and from Texas to Oklahoma, and from Oklahoma to Connecticut, and from Bountiful, Utah, to Zion National Park.

I imagine the kids who came along with my relatives then were cheeky, and maybe a little bit tired like my 2-year-old and funny.

One day, on the same trip, my daughter said to me, in all seriousness, Mom, I feel like this room (where we slept) is a jail cell with just a TV in it and we are trapped.

But my other son saw the caverns carved out of a soaring canyon wall in Zion and declared thats where the purple sea eels lived, so wed better hide in the river.

And another time, after plenty of whining and stalling and crying, my children said to me, Mom, I loved that hike. Lets do it again.

I beamed. And almost, almost, forgot about the need to apologize to a bus full of strangers.
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