A couple of weeks ago, my family went on a Disney cruise to the Caribbean. Basically, it was a kid’s version of heaven…and a parent’s version of hell. Okay, not really. It was actually really fun, but it was also loud and chaotic, with lots of characters and activities and music and sugar. Lots of sugar.
The entire week, my 3-year-old twins were basically like drunk teenagers on spring break — overtired, overstimulated, high on ice cream. They were running a lot, screaming a lot, singing and talking to themselves, and hugging enthusiastically and excessively. One of them also fell asleep at the dinner table a couple of times, a roll smeared with butter hanging out of his mouth. It was kind of like, “Who invited these guys?” They were having a blast, such a good time, but they were acting like wild animals — not at their best. Actually, kind of like the worst version of themselves.
But the really refreshing thing was that every kid was acting like this. Every single kid. They were all hyped-up and excited and riding the buzz, which made my kids’ behavior seem much more normal.
What I really loved though was that all of the other parents were equally as frustrated and exhausted. We’d be walking down the hall and a couple of kids would whiz past, a dad far behind them screaming, “Slow down! Wait for me! Watch out for those people!” We’d be eating dinner when I’d hear a mom from the other table shouting, “Get down from that chair! Stop climbing that! Don’t crawl under the table!” There was the woman by the pool, yelling at her son, “Stop splashing! How many times do I have to tell you?! Do you want to go back to the room? That’s it, COME HERE RIGHT NOW! RIGHT NOW!”
I’m telling you, it was like music to my ears. Not only was it reassurance that we weren’t the only ones with cuckoo banana vacation kids, but it was good to know we weren’t the only ones getting frustrated. It was actually kind of a relief, a confirmation that all of this wildness was just part of the deal. Acceptable even. And a confirmation that all of us parents were kind of going, “WTF? Calm down!”
I’ll admit that I always find it a little reassuring when I hear other parents yelling at their kids. Obviously not when they’re being verbally abusive and mean, but when they’re just expressing the typical frustrations that we all feel. It’s kind of like, “Phew, so I’m not the only one?” I mean, we all yell at our kids, to varying degrees, and we always feel terrible and horrible when we do. But it’s normal! It happens. And sometimes, we just need to know that we’re not the only ones.
And what made our vacation so great, in spite of all the craziness, is that we could just let go of all of our self-conscious parenting and do our thing. (Also, there was a kid’s club we could drop them off at so that helped.) It was refreshing to just let them be kids, without worrying that some curmudgeonly lady at the next table would reprimand us. I didn’t feel as embarrassed when they were pushing all of the elevator buttons or spilling their apple juice or having a meltdown at the water slide or loudly insisting on a Mickey bar. We parents (and the grandparents) would all just give each other knowing looks, roll our eyes together, smile sympathetically. It’s like this was one of those safe places where we all understood each other, accepted wild behavior, and no one had to apologize.
So, yes, maybe I had a headache for five days straight. Maybe my throat was sore from my own “Slow down! Wait for Mommy!” yelling. But it was such a good feeling to let loose, knowing we were all in it together.