I recently survived my first family vacation (physically; emotional scars linger). Unfortunately, nobody had forewarned me that the word "vacation" used in this context refers not to an actual vacation, but to a series of events similar in fun level to getting dumped by your first love and similar in difficulty to tweezing your eyebrows into a normal shape while having toddlers in the room clawing at your legs (is this just me?).
I believe now that the word "vacation" in the phrase "I went on vacation with my husband" and the word "vacation" in the phrase "family vacation" are really not the same word at all, but homonyms. (Similar to the word "bear" in the sentences "I would rather get eaten by a bear than go on another family vacation" and "I was unable to bear my family vacation for another second and feigned appendicitis to leave early.")
Here are some of the finer distinctions between the two types of "vacations."
Couples vacation: You do things you yourself find pleasurable, such as getting a massage, going sight-seeing, and relaxing by the pool with a drink. This aspect of the vacation cannot be overstated, and is even perhaps essential to the very definition of "vacation." In the very worst case scenario, you do things you feel neutral about, e.g. eating at the hotel restaurant because it's more convenient.
Family vacation: You do things you would never personally pick to do if they were the last options for activities on Earth. Instead of making your own choices, you consider what your children will enjoy and draw cute pictures about when their preschool teacher asks what they did on vacation. This is a surefire way to end up doing something terrifically boring and unenjoyable by any adult standard, e.g. standing in freezing knee-high water catching your child who is coming down a water slide, easily 500 times, while you develop a migraine and a twitch from the heat. Assuming you are not caring for your other child, who has vomited.
Couples vacation: You eat high-quality food and drink big, colorful drinks. You gain weight, but it was worth it. Between your trainer and your hot yoga classes, it will be gone in no time anyway.
Family vacation: You eat complete crap because you do not want to enter any higher-class establishments and disrupt the ambience with your pack of children. You gain weight and feel self-loathing for weeks afterwards, as the only exercise you do is Swiffering (sporadically).
Couples vacation: You have sex. This is, again, almost part of the definition of the word "vacation" for couples. You have better sex than at home. Sometimes, ironically, you conceive a child, not knowing that this will hammer the nails into the coffin of "vacations" for the next decade.
Family vacation: There is no time, no place, and no desire for sex. Except when you see the 25-year-old lifeguards, but even then, your fantasies involve a younger, childless version of yourself. You feel fleeting desire for your husband when he offers to take the kids potty or when he says he agrees that the vacation sucks. It passes quickly.
Couples vacation: You lie around in bed in the mornings. You shower lazily and figure out how to use the in-room coffee maker if you're feeling industrious. You don't really get going 'til after 11 a.m. or noon, and you really still consider this the morning.
Family vacation: A late day starts at 6:15; typically it's more like 5:30. Just back up an hour from when they usually wake up at home. You have stolen cereal packets from yesterday's continental hotel breakfast and serve them to your complaining kids at 6:30. By the time you go downstairs, the children are hungry again. Thus you have had two breakfasts by 8:30 in the morning and zero showers because who has the energy?
Couples vacation: You have emotionally and intellectually fulfilling conversations. You talk about all the things that you don't have time to delve into at home. One of these topics is how much you love each other. Another is where you see your life going in the next few years (you may even adorably discuss the idea of children). Another is which beachfront bar to go to for a margarita.
Family vacation: You have conversations with your toddlers and preschoolers that make no sense, such as "When do we go to the water park?" while you're at the water park, and "Hello, apple head" followed by maniacal laughter at random intervals. You and your husband talk not at all, except to discuss which restaurant is less likely to kick out your family.
However, you do get pictures like this:
And your daughter happily says, "I had a really fun time on vacation."
I better get a really great preschool drawing if my kids want me to do this ever again.
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