Yes, I Am Allowed To Take a Vacation. So Are My Kids.

Something really weird happened to me today.

My kids and I are on vacation. I know, shocker. Everyone else takes a vacation and there are photos and stories and Instagrams and Snapchats and canceled plans – “sorry, going to be in Cabo that week!”

I take a vacation and everyone acts like I’ve gone on a two week cocaine bender and spent the electric bill money on a balloon of heroin.

My kids wanted one thing for Christmas: a trip somewhere. Anywhere. We so infrequently leave the area, and having just about everything under the sun they could ever imagine or want, it’s what they naturally asked for. I had a trip planned that was drivable, in our Christmas budget, and would involve stuff they enjoy (shopping, tennis, waterpark, etc.).

Then as Christmas neared, it all sort of fell apart.

First, my dad had surgery on his hip and it was taking much longer to recover than planned. That meant he would need someone to stay home with him.

My husband was SWAMPED at work, I mean swamped; so a vacation was not exactly ideal for him either.

But the kids and I were still all about it; packing and getting those little travel sized bottles of our toiletries…we were just about ready and the day was swiftly nearing for us to leave, then my oldest daughter hurt her knee and rendered herself un-vacation-able.

The resort was nice enough to refund me our entire booking, and I quickly sprung into action to salvage Christmas. I filled the bottom of the tree with some basic gifts I knew my kids would appreciate, and started trying to plan a substitute vacation that wouldn’t require so much physical activity on her knee.

I mean…a trip was what they asked for, and had already been promised…

So I said I would take them to El Segundo to shop and stay for a few days before the holidays; that didn’t pan out because Christmas chaos got in the way. Then I thought *well how about Solvang for New Years.* Didn’t happen. My kids started getting that whole *things Mom promises never come true* air about them, though, so you guys can imagine my delight when both of their tennis teams got invited to the section championships…

…in the same exact place our original trip was planned for (only further out enough in weeks for my daughter’s injury to heal).

Easy peasy, right?

So I got back on the horn with our reservations and the plans; I kicked our activities planning and packing back into full swing. I had an entire bag of those travel sized toiletry things now. My dad and husband’s restrictions were still in place, but that wasn’t going to stop us this time.

So on Tuesday, we headed out. And we are here now.

But I’ll be honest with you guys: I’m not really enjoying it.

We slept really late yesterday, and I woke up feeling like shit. Not like I was ill, but like I should have been up doing things.

We are on vacation and all I could think about was doing the laundry and wiping down the counters.

I took the kids to explore the town a little. We came four days ahead of the rest of their team mates, so we have time to kill and there is a lot to do here. Because my kids play tennis and we’ve never been to the BNP Paribas, I took them to the Indian Wells Tennis Garden to have a look around. We headed out to the Living Desert Zoo. Then we ended our day on a local court so they could get in some pre-tournament practice.

I felt awful the whole time. Same thing: others are still up at home working, going to school, doing their chores. And we have the gall to be here enjoying ourselves?

Today – Thursday – has been no different. I woke up feeling unsettled. Like we needed to be doing things. Productive things, not enjoyable things. Not relaxing things.

Definitely not relaxing.

My kids homeschool, so they aren’t missing school or anything; and actually they worked on school all through the public school Christmas break. So while other people we knew were in Hawaii and Cancun and Cabo and Chicago and Bali and Thailand and Big Bear and Aspen, we were at home doing school work and canceling our own plans.

Still, I woke up looking for educational things around the area we could do. Because I just feel like I shouldn’t be taking breaks, from anything.

Why is that?

Then today it came to me, like an epiphany: I feel like shit because I am still letting others influence my feelings and thoughts.

I still let other people’s comments affect how I live my life.

I still let other people’s negativity impact my knowing that how I’m raising my kids is the right way for us.

In the weeks and days that led up to us leaving this past Tuesday, I found myself explaining over and over again to every person I saw just why, how, and what was the reasoning behind us going to the tournament early.

And to be fair, people often questioned or commented or even demanded answers.

“Oh I wish I could afford to go early” – from someone that spent their Christmas in Mexico.

“Wow, must be nice to not have kids in school so you can do whatever you want” – from someone whose middle schooler skipped the first week of school this year to go to Europe.

I counted a whopping 15 questions and comments as I sat here this morning, from people we have seen or talked to over the last few weeks, that were all along those lines.

This is my perpetual dilemma, and it’s weird and I’m tired of it. No one else feels they have to ask permission or explain themselves for the way they live their lives to me. So why do I?

Today I realized that it’s perhaps just the aftermath of all the years of me putting myself in this defendable position. The tangled mess of those years of opening myself up to the judgment and opinions of others won’t unwind overnight. For whatever reason, I still don’t allow myself to enjoy my life. Which is a shame, because I’m teaching my children to do the same.

I fell down in my quest to enjoy life unjudged and in peace this last week or two, when I apologetically explained and defended to everyone that asked just why we would have the gall to do something so heinous as go on vacation. But, I’m correcting that right now before it’s too late.


Something really weird happened to me today. I caught myself allowing old habits to creep up and ruin this experience. I am allowed to take a vacation. So are my kids. The details of it – where we are going, why we are staying there, how we can do such a thing when other people are at school and work – is just a fact of life.

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My Child-Rearing Philosophy Is Simple.

Or is it?

I grapple with this myself on the regular.

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My philosophy as a parent in theory is really, and truly, very simple: don’t raise assholes. As I said, in theory this is easy. Raise good people. People that are kind. That care for others. That experience empathy. That know how to set healthy boundaries. That practice mindfulness. And so on…

Do all this by example. All of it. Let me be clear: ALL. OF. IT. You are not going to raise empathetic and kind people if you, yourself, are not empathetic and kind. You are not going to teach your kids about healthy boundaries and taking care of themselves if you, yourself, let people walk all over you, and let it affect your own physical and mental well-being.

But there is one area in not raising little terrorist assholes, who one day grow up to be the likes of Donald Trump or Ann Coulter – willing to stomp on anyone to get ahead, drop anything and anyone for the next best thing, all while spewing hateful words every single time they open their mouths…

…it’s in not letting other people raise assholes of your children either.

Without going into too many specifics, we are surrounded by a lot of people in our daily lives who have otherwise undesirable characteristics. Is that a nice enough way to say it? just-a-friendly-reminder-that-getting-shit-faced-is-not-always-the-key-to-having-a-good-time-5e363My husband and I are just very far on the opposite end of the spectrum from a lot of people we regularly encounter in that regard. We have high standards for the way we treat people, and as a result expect to be treated the same. We do not believe in getting shit-faced in front of the children, and we don’t have anything to do with gossip even when it’s just being spoken in our presence. Above all, we believe in being kind, understanding, honest, empathetic of other people’s feelings, and trustworthy.

Not everyone agrees with us on these things, though. Look, not everyone agrees on the way to live their lives. And, people have different priorities.

At some point, though, my husband and I started to realize the profound effect being associated so regularly with people who do not share our values (again, a nice enough way of saying it? …you never know who is reading this blog…) – how much those people were affecting our ability to raise good kids.

We have a couple of people (again, the vaguery) that constantly promise things and then drop said promise for something better that comes up. Now I’ll be the first to admit that sometimes things come up – you get sick, your car breaks down… Sometimes it’s something innocuous – like we kind of-sort of have standing weekly plans together, but something came up one weekend and the kids got disappointed but the plans were never really set in stone so… But then other times, like in the most recent event, it’s “yes I will be at your tennis tournament that weekend” and then the very next day decided instead to go with friends and family to a casino to drink, gamble, and waterski.

Um…shitty…

We are very fortunate that this hasn’t – yet – taught our kids that it’s OK to make a commitment only to drop it if something better comes along. But what left me with a chill down my spine that I could just not shake this afternoon was when my daughter said “you know, I guess from now on I’ll just tell them I’ll do things with them only to cancel for something better too.”

My parenting philosophy to not raise assholes seemed so easy. Just be good, show them what it means to be good – even when it feels like a slow, agonizing death inside to do so (like not saying nasty things about other people in front of them); and it’ll all turn out well, right? Wrong. The impact of others, though -especially as they get older – seems to have more and more of a profound effect on them.

And now raising kids gets hard again.

It sounds like just a petty reaction, do unto others so if they flake on me for something better, I’ll do the same. Won’t become a long term habit, right? Feet, meet slippery slope – suddenly in front of my eyes flashed a day when my kids thought it was legitimately acceptable to tell someone that you’ll do something only to flake because someone asks you to go gambling and drinking, or water skiing, or whatever it is you were asked to do that seemed more fun.

I mean…that’s what other people do. It must be OK.

So now my husband and I are tasked with figuring out the next phase. The next phase of not raising assholes, which not only involves showing by our own examples, but making sure that the examples they are shown by others are in line with our own values as well.

Talking about how others act in a way that is undesirable is clearly not enough. So then how do you even go about surrounding yourself by the people you want your kids to grow up to be?

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To The Writer Of “Dear Mom On the iPhone”

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To the writer of “Dear Mom On the iPhone” –

This morning I woke up and served breakfast for everyone in the house. I sat down to eat my own, and as I always do, I checked my email, Twitter, and Facebook. I did miss the moment when my daughter spilled milk all over the table. I’m sure it was ironically adorable, as her sloppiness usually is. But I had taken the time to make a special breakfast, so being absent mentally for a few minutes to clear out my emails and notifications seemed fair. No one’s life is entirely defined as being a parent.

As I scrolled through my email and Facebook, though, I came upon a letter, titled “Dear Mom On the iPhone.” I’ve seen this before. Many, many times before. There are many versions of it, as there always are of Internet memes and cyber-urban legends. (The best cyber-urban legend is the one about the black man on the airplane being moved to First Class…if I had a dollar for every time that one was retold…)

This one – Dear Mom On the iPhone – talked about a mom at the park with her kids. The kids were having a great time and the mom was missing it, because she was on her iPhone. The daughter spun around and her dress twirled; Mom on the iPhone missed that, or just smiled. The son was teetering on something and yelled “Mom look at me!!” and we were to take this as a sign that mom doesn’t care. There were a few paragraphs indicting Mom On the iPhone for using her phone and teaching her children that they are unimportant. Then in the end it seemed like we were all supposed to join forces to judge Mom On the iPhone as a shitty parent, and remind ourselves how much our self-righteous superiority has validated our own choices.

To the writer of Mom On the iPhone, I say: here we go again.

Here we go again, judging people at face value. Do parents often display an addiction to technology – both at home and in public? Yes. Is it an ever-growing problem in our society? Sure it is. But do we know everything about their lives that gives us the right to judge what they are doing on their iPhones, or whether or not ignorance of their child(ren) swinging gleefully in the sunlight is justified? Absolutely not.

Here we go again, telling others how to parent. Ignoring your kid all the time is shitty, yeah. So is feeding your child McDonald’s for a steady three meals a day. But who is the one that has to pay the price in the end? Is it us? Or is it them? Well, sure – it’s actually their kids. But are those our kids? No. They aren’t. Therefore, it’s none of our goddamned business, now is it?

And again, do we know everything about their lives? Maybe the kids are being ignored sometimes because Mom On the iPhone was only given the afternoon off if she stayed in constant contact with work. It’s surely better that she be there on her phone, than not be there at all. Maybe Mom On the iPhone would lose her job if she didn’t respond to emails. Or maybe Mom At McDonald’s only has $5 a day to feed her kids, and the only way to stretch that is to eat fast food. I don’t want to hear any bullshit about how Mom On the iPhone could just ignore her boss’s demand, or how Mom At McDonald’s can cook at home for cheaper. Both are just categorically false.

Here we go again, dictating how others should live their lives. Maybe Mom On the iPhone is a stay at home mom. Her job is that of a housewife. She cleans, cooks, shuttles, cooks some more … does laundry, gets the homework taken care of, chairs the PTA, and supervises the soccer clinic. She has few friends, and virtually no escape. Her every waking moment is spent on her kids. Except that 30 minutes of downtime at the park, when she can put the kids on autopilot and take a breather.

Everyone needs a breather.

Here we go again, demanding that we cease to exist the moment we have children. Sure, people chose to have children and often don’t realize the gravity of that choice. Your kids are there all the time, so you should be too and all that jazz. But having kids is not the end of you. Having kids did not make me love books less. Having kids did not make me want to stop traveling less. The decision to drop one out the vag does not mean that suddenly we have to surrender everything we know and love.

Here we go again, worrying about others instead of ourselves. And this is the real kicker, and why I think the “Dear Mom On the iPhone” urban legend is just another piece in the puzzle that is the Mommy Wars. Rather than worrying about what we are doing as parents, we spend all of our time telling others what they are doing wrong. I can only assume to justify our own decisions. For every version of “Dear Mom On the iPhone,” there is another “Dear Mom…” that does nothing more than tell others how to live their lives as parents. “Dear Mom That Doesn’t Breastfeed;” “Dear Mom That Had a Home Birth;” “Dear Mom At McDonald’s;” “Dear Mom In A Short Skirt;” “Dear Mom That Works Too Much;” “Dear Mom That Had an Elective C-Section” … it could go on forever.

I’m tired of it. I’m tired of hearing (or in this case, reading) people telling others how to live. I’m tired of knowing that people are this judgmental and lacking of compassion. I’m sick of being reminded that we all seem to expect everyone’s lives and situations to be just like ours. To the writer of “Dear Mom On the iPhone,” and all of the other “Dear Moms…” there are out there, perhaps you should start worrying about your own parenting. If I were to write a letter to you, it would be all about how you are raising your kids to be judgmental assholes. It would include a little paragraph about how while you are out attacking other people’s values, your kids are learning the quality of self-righteous superiority. That kind of indignation sticks. You are just contributing to the next generation of jerk-offs.

But then I would never write such a letter. I mean I know I just did, but you faithful blog followers know what I mean. Rather than always worrying about others, and expecting everyone to live by the standards we have set up for ourselves, why don’t we just focus on raising our own good kids, that will hopefully become really good adults? Maybe instead of writing letters to others, we should worry only about inscribing letters to ourselves.