Motherhood, insanity and everyday life.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Family Travel = Family Trouble

Editor's note: Lest people think that I really am this crabby all the time (I'm not) and that I actually say something out loud in these situations (I wouldn't. I'm passive-aggressive), I just want to go on record and say that I do love kids. I have three of them and I'm in favor of other people having more. Oh yeah and also, despite the tone of this post, we had a GREAT time in NYC.

We just returned from a vacation in New York City. Yes, I know, that's sort of an oxymoron, but it's our kind of trip, so I'll leave it at that.

While there, something struck me again and again. Something besides strollers in the ankles, which, as you know, I am not fond of. What really made an impression on me was the fact that families on vacation are pretty damn annoying. Seriously. And yes, we were technically a family on vacation - my husband, my 14 year old daughter and I - but we're gifted in the way that we don't annoy anyone except ourselves, which is a long post all on its own.

We stayed smack dab in the middle of Times Square, one of the busiest places on earth. Although our hotel was terrifically convenient, it required us to swim our way through kazillions of people just to get to the front door. There were people of every race, creed, nationality, age and size. And although some of our irritation was caused by tourists in general (stopping in the middle of crowded intersections to take photos,) families were our biggest hurdle.

A case in point: Why is it that when families travel together, they feel the need to walk four or five abreast? This is a great idea when you are in the middle of a field in Kansas or perhaps the Salt Flats in Utah, but when you are walking down Broadway in Manhattan, it means that everyone else on the sidewalk has to move aside in order to get by. It’s as if they’re afraid that they’ll lose their molecular structure if they don’t walk side by side. How about a couple people in front and a couple behind? Why is it that they get more space than everyone else? It’s because they TAKE it!

When families travel, they also suddenly feel the rotation of the earth revolve around them, their needs and their problems. If something is amiss, we all must stop until it is resolved. One day, we were going to the elevator in our hotel. The family of four in front of us suddenly stopped because one of the daughters had something in her eye. They stopped, four wide, in front of the elevator as the door stood open. We could not get on the elevator without squeezing behind them because they were not moving until the eyelash was removed from little Suzy’s eyeball.

I do understand that sometimes group dynamics dictate that when there is a large family, they will take up more space than, say, the three of us did. Fine. But then when you stop to look at the map, argue about where to eat, or whine about where you are going, then move off to the side of wherever you are. It’s really not that difficult and yes, trying is enough.

I can’t help but address the issue of strollers again. Strollers are the greatest invention since high chairs. They allow families to walk great distances without tiring out the tiny kiddies’ feet. However, there are some places that are not appropriate for strollers. These places include: Crowded city streets where people are walking with cigarettes and the children are eye level with thousands of dirty hands; Teeny-tiny stores with narrow aisles and many people; Restaurants where tables are crammed together closely and it’s difficult for people to walk by. I could go on, but people just don’t get it. If you’re going somewhere that is packed with humanity, leave the stroller and/or the kid behind!

Why is it that when families go to movies or shows together, they feel that the “whisper rule” does not apply to them? Just because it’s a matinee doesn’t mean that we should have to listen to the kids fight and the mom discipline them. Perhaps they’re not bothered by missing the dialogue in the movie/play/musical/performance in order to hear the questions uttered by their children that are obviously way too young to be there, but we are. In my opinion, if your child can’t sit still for more than 20 minutes, then perhaps a babysitter and a rented DVD might be a better investment for your entertainment dollar.

And this wouldn’t really be a discussion of families on vacation if I didn’t bring up the crying child syndrome. Look, we’ve all been there. Kids decide to melt down in the most inconvenient places. It’s a bit embarrassing, but everybody understands...unless you decide not to step outside the inconvenient place thereby forcing all of us to now deal with your screaming child. Unless you are on a roller coaster or stuck on a 12-hour bus ride, you can ALWAYS leave or step outside to let junior meltdown and pull himself together. And yes, you will miss part of the movie/play/musical/performance. That is the price you pay for having children. Pay it and do not ask others to do so with you.

I know, I sound rather...intolerant. And, yes, I guess I am. But in some ways, I feel I’ve earned the right to be. I’ve vacationed with my kids since they were tiny, so I’ve been in all of these scenarios and I swear that any conflicts can be avoided with a liberal use of common courtesy and the words: “Excuse me.” I’ve ducked out of movies and performances and stood outside of church services and hung around the lobbies and hallways of many fantastic tourist destinations all in an attempt to let others without children enjoy the venue. I tried my best and now it’s my turn to stay inside. Now, if you’ll just move that stroller so that I can walk over and look at Monet’s “Water Lillies.”


At 9:29 AM , Blogger ƒåυνέ said...


At 11:36 AM , Blogger Rene said...

Hi, thanks for coming by my blog.

OH, I know exactly what you mean. I was an only child so my experience with family vacations was fairly easy. I used to work at Disneyland when I was in college and really got to observe families in action. Now that I have my own tribe, I try to be aware of everyone else's space. I can't imagine taking a family with small children to Manhattan. Geez, going to Target is enough of a hassle.

At 1:46 PM , Anonymous Maryanne said...

I use to go on vacation with my oldest sister and she was one of those people who took her five kids to places like Manhattan and did exactly what you posted about. I decided early on not to follow in her footsteps. We waited until our kids were old enough to be out of strollers and able to withstand the vacation itself. Sightseeing can be exhausting and expensive. Who needs to deal with cranky kids who fight, cry, annoy or show any one of the other character traits they have up their sleeves when they are "bored or over-stimulated." Save it for when they can deal with it because it makes a better memory and experience for all. Good topic!

At 5:47 PM , Blogger all that's right, or not said...

Our kids are 2, 5, and 7 and we do not take them to those places. I can't wait to! But I refuse to spend money on activities that have more potential to go bad than good, I can stay home and yell. It would be nice if the rest of the world realized there are just some things you miss out on when you have kids. Hope you had a good time anyway!

At 2:16 AM , Blogger Linda said...

I have a 2 and 5 y/o. We've missed out on a lot because of wanting to be courteous. We DO stroller the boy as he's heavy, rambunctious and would probably be better served with a leash. But courtesy dictates that I fold up the stroller in restaurants (and stash it away, too). We have played "tag - it's YOUR turn with the boy" in a restaurant that just took TOO long to serve that other patrons could enjoy their meals without the crying. He was happy to play in the lobby, and we DID get our meals eaten, albeit not as a family. Here in Germany, dogs are better accepted in restaurants than kids are!

I take my kids out of the environment when they cry - I HATE it when other kids cry, so I won't let my kids do it...even if it means sitting in the car for 20 minutes while dad and the other kid finish their meal. And I practice stroller courtesy - I don't run up on peoples' heels, butts, hands or other things. I avoid large crowds. I entertain my kid while he's strapped in.

At 6:27 AM , Blogger Sue said...

As a NON parent, I get even more frustrated but I do realize that families just can't be stuck at home. I have been on a family outing with my sis's child (she only had one at the time) and that was pretty traumatic when she was tired. Here via Michele's today :)

At 11:10 AM , Blogger Juliabohemian said...

I agree with you. But, as a Mom whose children are still small, I feel like we should also have the right to go out and do things. I am certainly not going to wait until my children are both over 14 to go on vacations. But, I would also not take two small children to New York City or any other similarly metro area. I would choose a destination that was more kid friendly, like Florida.

I took my older child to Disneyland when she was 2 1/2 and I was 8 months pregnant with the other one. I hate Disneyland. I hate doing it with a stroller. I am not going back until they can both walk around all day without tiring. Trying to do things with a stroller is a pain in the ass. The only perk is that you can stick stuff in the back of the stroller. I often used a backpack for my younger child because she would take naps in it (yes, really -while we walked around)

At 12:09 PM , Blogger Jess Riley said...

Great post. :) Hope your trip was fun! I think that what's really missing from many parents and non-parents alike is simply old-fashioned courtesy, manners, and empathy for others.

At 7:34 AM , Blogger Viamarie said...

Have a great weekend!

Here via Michele.

At 8:09 AM , Blogger Sandy said...

LOL! But you did have a good time in NYC right? I love visiting there. Wouldn't handle living there well, but I love to visit.

Here via Michele today.

At 11:25 AM , Blogger KaraMia said...

Would love to visit NY too, i'm with you on the group thing and how everyone thinks its perfectly ok to just STOP wherever they are...blah.
Hey, if you get a chance, check out my test site for my new blog and tell me what you think....i'm soliciting opinions before I give the big OK

At 2:21 PM , Anonymous Kismet said...

Hi, Michele asked me to come by today. I agree with your post. Most of the problems could be overcome if people were just more aware of their surroundings and were more polite.
Have a great day.


At 3:55 AM , Blogger OldOldLady Of The Hills said...

I so agree, my dear! It is very hard to understand why the simplest of courtsy's aren't adheared to by so very many people! Do you think it because this is such a "It's All About Me!" generation?

BTW, I'd love to read about all the places you went in NYC! I can live vicariously that way.(lol)

At 7:02 AM , Blogger Jean-Luc Picard said...

I know what you mean about families. The strollers they have now seem like Panzer tanks and seem guaranteed to break ankles.

Michele sent me.

At 7:05 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

A great commentary on travelling with kids. I love New York city holidays and can't wait to go back there.

Here courtesy of Michele.

At 9:46 AM , Anonymous Laura said...

Amen... oh my..
Girl, you tell 'em!
I live in a city that is home to vacationers from all over the world.

I've often noticed that while driving on the main stretch where all the hotels are located, the tourists seem to get into a frame of mind where they think they're immune from having to obey laws or even use common sense. I've seen them step right into the road way in front of cars, just assuming the traffic will come to a screeching halt simply because they're in their own little world while on vacation.

By the way, would you consider doing a post or share information with us about where to stay in NY City when traveling with kids? I'd like to plan a trip there with my two teenagers, and could use some advice!

At 9:47 AM , Anonymous Laura said...

opps, here via Michele!! (sorry, I got sidetracked).

At 9:50 AM , Blogger vanx said...

I and mine are going to Disney World this summer. I am already doing the psychic carbo-loading I will need to prepare for the trip.

I live, and always have, in and around New York. I'll never know what a vacation there is like. I do know what Times Square is like. I liked it in the 1970s. Much more crime, fewer strollers. AND NO DISNEY.

That neighborhood has gone to Hell!

At 2:37 PM , Blogger Carmi said...

I so hear you. Funny, but as parents of three as well, we're also conscious of the fact that we can be just as annoying to others as they can be to us.

But the difference is that we're aware of it, and we try to keep out of others' way. I find most folks don't return the courtesy. Sad.

At 2:41 PM , Blogger srp said...

Nyssa is an only child. But she learned early to behave in public places. Part of this is due to our church that had a policy that a child turning 4 would go to BIG CHURCH. They gave them a big medal to wear and a little bag with a coloring book and crayons. So, I took her to see Phantom of the Opera, and Joseph in Chicago when she was seven. Of course her uncle was in Phantom.

I agree with the crying child thing. I didn't pay $85 a pop to hear a screaming brat. Nyssa didn't take to her first movie, started screaming when the lights went down. I made her dad take her out, hey, it was Robert Redford, I'm not going!:)

In Europe the "moms with strollers" are lethal weapons, sometimes it seems as if they purposely aim the buggy at your legs and feet. WOW!

BTW, Here from Michele.

At 2:46 PM , Blogger rashbre said...

Great to hear you've been vacatioing in New York. I love the city. As a Londoner, I'm sort of used to dodging miscellaneous tourists and have a special purposeful walk which is quite good at anticipatiing and avoiding SMOs (Slow Moving Objects).

Strangely, London habits seem to transfer well to driving in New York, whuch I've done a few times as well and been reasonably unphased by general New York driving, although the one way systems throw me because everyting is in reverse for a Brit - and a single mistake is a 20 minute delay to get back to the same point.

Still, cliche though it is, I love New York!

Thanks for dropping by!


Oh and ps - did you do taht thing at the marriott where you go to the top floor in one of the glass elevators and then press ground and get an unstopped run to the street - its great and going past floor 8 at a squillion miles per hour is great fun!

At 4:20 PM , Blogger Aimee "Roo" said...

Hi, Michele sent me! :)

At 8:57 PM , Blogger Mike said...

I agree. When my son was young we always tried to be aware of others around us.

Michele sent me

At 8:59 PM , Anonymous Grins said...

Hi Karen, Michele sent me. I couldn't agree more about some of the comments on families or large groups vacationing together. Totally oblivious to the world around them and I should mention I'm mom as well. These are the same people that think the moving sidewalks at the airport are a ride at Disney by the way.

At 7:57 AM , Blogger kenju said...

Karen, this describes a lot of the vacation I just got back from; with 4 of my grandkids. Strollers in the ankles and all that jazz. I'll be back to read more later, when I get back to my house. Michele sent me this time.


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