Our summer vacation was another trip East to visit and stay with very patient and accepting family members.
In order to relieve the crush of the Bailey family’s daily activity and energy level, we planned several day trips and one overnight jaunt up to Niagara Falls in order to relieve our patient hosts of, well – us.
There we were motoring along, taking our time, stopping where it seemed interesting to stop. The air was cool. The road was pleasantly winding and the four of us were happy.
As we passed lush, fragrant fields of ripening grapes in upstate New York, I was contemplating our well-behaved Prima and Secondo. At that moment giggling over a game they were playing quietly and peacefully in the backseat. I was reveling in the fact that, all things considered, they were good, respectful children. My hand doing dolphin dives out the window, I took a moment to mentally pat Mr. Bailey and me on the back for our dedication to our role as parents.
Several moments later, the lull of the summer air making us dozy and comfortable, sharing sideways smiles, we listened as our girls, forgetting our presence and our ability to hear conversations going on two feet behind us in a closed space, began chatting amiably with one another.
The conversation went very nearly like this:
Prima: I kind of get upset sometimes because I never get to do what I want to do.
[This, of course, is an abject lie. We sometimes say our entire lives are exactly what our children want to do.]
Secondo: Well, Prima, you know, that’s easy. Do you know what I do?
[Mr. Bailey and I exchange dubious glances.]
Prima (genuinely stymied): What?
Secondo: All you have to do to get something you want is to start crying. That’s what I do. And it always works. I start crying and my parents give me exactly what I want.
[Mr. Bailey and I, slightly aghast, exchange discouraged shakes of the head.]
Prima: (sounding uncertain) Oh.
Now, would my guard have not been so precipitously low at that moment, I would have argued Secondo’s point until blue. I would have pointed out our use of time out. I would have extolled our willingness to correct bad manners and to insist on things like good eye contact and apologies. I would have discussed our dedication to empowering our children to be self-reliant problem solvers.
But at that moment, we were on vacation. Similar to a warzone, vacation parenting was in full effect. In vacation parenting combat zones, we tend to go with a we-will-give-you-what-you-want-if-you-will-please-stop-your-continuous-whining/crying-before-we-get-kicked-out-of-this-hotel/house/restaurant/pool/airplane-for-beating-our-children approach, regardless of the cost to us as parents.
Therefore, I could not argue. I could only acknowledge, grit my teeth, narrow my eyes, and realize our darling Secondo had us, sagely, over a barrel. And, worse still, she knew it.
Later on as Mr. Bailey and I laughed a little and fretted a lot about all the battles to come with Secondo, I recalibrated. No, I don’t have perfect kids. That is clear. But they have gumption, they have spunk and they are smart.