Fantasy Vacations

Is it possible to take a truly restful vacation with children under 10 years old (and more than one of them)? Perhaps, though I think it involves 10 nannies, a hotel suite with separate bedrooms for each child, and vats of whine wine.

Sometimes I like to watch all the well-rested empty nesters with their golf tans and sweet indulgent grins directed toward me and my screaming children and imagine we get to trade places for a day. A week. A month. 

They finish conversations. They are often showered and wearing matching clothing. In the twilight between retirement and assisted living, there seems to be a magical playground of free time and toned calves (at least in my town). 

I was sitting in a business meeting a few weeks ago listening to a colleague with grown kids rhapsodize about her plan to go to Napa for 2 weeks. Seeing the look of total envy cross my face, she reached over patted my hand and said, “Just think. In 20 years you’ll be able to go on vacation.”

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20 years? That’s too damn long — especially in Parent Years.* And while it is possible to find ways to rest in the midst of your busy day or to engage in bedlike behaviors in non-bedlike places, that ain’t Napa, baby.

As vacation spots, Disneyland, the Greek Islands, and Tuscany all have something in common. They are all places you can bring your kids and theoretically have a great time as long as you have oodles of cash and don’t require a kid-free shag-fest.

But let’s say you do have an immediate need for a rugrat reprieve… but with insufficient cash for Italy and reaching well beyond the ability of a long soak in the tub to redress your grievances. Enter the fun of Fantasy Vacation. 

Fantasy Vacation is a fun game where you and your parenting partner pretend that with sufficient planning and saving you could go any place in the world sans kids, just the two of you, wearing nice clothes, and smelling nothing like oatmeal. It’s actually quite fun if you don’t get too caught up in the probability of its implementation.

Let’s say you had a year to look forward and save? Let’s say that’s enough time to manage to set up reasonably loving childcare (hopefully involving well-tanned and cheerful empty-nesters) and dream of clean white hotel sheets, room service, and new experiences. Where would you go? What would float your boat? Sweeten your pie? Fill your tired little mommy/daddy heart?

Pretend for a minute that you are facing a Big Birthday (a troubling one ending in zero) and you love museums and old cities and dream of someday going to London. In the Fantasy Vacation game you can plan your itinerary (even imagine a first-class plane ticket) pick the hotel and map out all the fabulous restaurants and shops you and your lover (husband or wife becomes lover in Fantasy Vacation) will enjoy.

Even if your fantasy is never realized, you will have given yourself a fun and potentially healing mental vacation that is surely healthier than envying all the empty-nesters out there. You might even have forestalled an imminent marital or parental breakdown. You’ll be 40, slender, dressed in Jackie O. elegance and wandering down London streets with your svelte adoring husband lover on your arm. And who knows? Maybe someday your fantasy vacation will come true. 

*for each year of your child’s life under age five multiply by 5 to get the equivalent experience of time in ‘Parent Years.’ ( E.g., your four year old’s life span “feels” more like 8 years to you.)

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