By Hannah Reich Berman
Last week, just before my daughter and son-in-law and their young children left for a week of skiing, I stopped by their house to say goodbye and to wish them a good trip. My little visit was a true eye-opener. Everyone knows that the care of young children is best left to young parents, but if I had any doubts about that, I no longer do.
To begin with, packing for a large family is always a bit of a challenge. But packing for kids that will be skiing as well as doing indoor swimming in the lodge’s pool comes under the heading of daunting. As this crew made ready to leave, the scene resembled a regular Yetziyas Mitzrayim (the exodus of the Jewish people from Egypt). Actually that may be incorrect. Clearly this family took a lot more with them than the Jews did when they fled Egypt.
The packing that my daughter complained about, however, was only a small part of the challenge that she and her husband faced. The real test of courage arrived when it was time for everyone to pile into the family van and begin the journey to a ski resort some five hours distant. I was there to witness their departure, and I can say with certainty that never have children argued with such intensity about something as simple as seating arrangements.
When I was growing up, there were no SUVs, RVs, or campers. And I never knew a single family that had more than one vehicle. People owned one car only, and most of the time that car was a sedan. Some larger families had a station wagon. As we were a family of four, we had a sedan. My parents sat in the front and my sister and I sat in the back. But who am I kidding? Except for day trips to the beach during July and August, we didn’t venture far.
We never went on a ski trip. Our idea of a winter vacation was when my mother told us that, because there was no school, we didn’t have to get up early. We would stay in our pajamas a little later than usual, eat a more leisurely breakfast, dress in our warmest clothing, and then dash outdoors to play with our neighbor friends. That was the whole vacation! Today it’s a new ballgame. If G‑d forbid a family doesn’t head for a week or ten days in Florida, Israel, or some island somewhere, the kids are bereft.
I’m not sure if, when the children return to school, teachers still ask them to write about what they did during their vacation time. If that is still the case, what is a youngster going to write about if he had the misfortune of belonging to a family that elected to stay home that week? There is just so much a kid can say about going for pizza every day or being dropped off at an ice-cream parlor after bowling or seeing a movie. None of that makes for a scintillating story.
Regarding the families today who do travel, from what I witnessed, there isn’t much that can compare to a car trip. An airplane is an airplane. No one but the pilot, copilot, and navigator gets to ride in the cockpit. Passengers sit in a cabin, and children, like adults, get an aisle seat, window seat, or, heaven forbid, a middle seat. Three choices about which to argue and no more! But that’s not the case in a large recreational vehicle that features several rows of seats. Not only do the kids fight about who gets to sit in which seat, they also argue about who sits next to whom.
No parent knows in advance which child will want to sit next to which sibling, since parents can’t predict which of their children will be in a fight at departure time. The scene that I witnessed when I stopped off that day for goodbyes, hugs, and kisses was a mind-boggling one. It seemed that everyone wanted the exact same seat, so there were naturally some very unhappy campers. To add to the mix, before they ever left the driveway to head out, they were arguing about the seating arrangement for the return trip.
These kids are sharp. They all know that anyone who tends to suffer from motion sickness, or claims to, is entitled to sit as close to the front as possible. As a result, there were shouts of “I can’t sit in back because I get nauseous.” No one said that he or she gets nauseated or suffers from nausea. I was there and I heard it. Each one said that he or she gets nauseous (pronounced nawshuss). The youngest ones took it a step further. “Oh yeah? Well I can’t sit in the back because I get nauseouser than you!” That was when it dawned on me that young parents really are better equipped to deal with young children. Had it been my family, I would have told everyone to get back into the house and unpack. We would have stayed home!
But my daughter and her husband didn’t get rattled. They simply allowed the children to settle matters for themselves. I suppose they figured that whoever ended up being brogus (disgruntled) would eventually get over it. My take on it was that no one looked terribly thrilled. Some were unhappy with where they had to sit, and those that did get the seats of their choice weren’t happy with which sibling was seated next to them. The only smiling faces I saw were on the faces of the parents, who would be sitting up front, chatting, listening to soothing music from the radio, and generally ignoring the kvetching that was bound to come from behind.
The family, thank G‑d, arrived safely at their destination, and hopefully there was less arguing about sleeping arrangements, ski partners, or swim buddies. Keep in mind that this is only an assumption on my part. The likelihood exists that the kids will continue to have their issues. That’s the way it is with kids. For my part I’m delighted that I got to witness the departure. It lightened my mood because all I could think was how thrilled I was that I wasn’t going with them. And, given the fact that I am no longer the mother of young children, I was even happier to realize that I will never need to go through that. My memory of the early years, when my children were that young, is hazy, so if indeed my children kvetched about seating and sibling issues, I no longer remember it. If I had to go through that today it would probably make me very nauseous. That’s the way it is! v
Hannah Berman lives in Woodmere and is a licensed real-estate broker associated with Marjorie Hausman Realty. She can be reached at Savtahannah@aol.com or 516-902-3733.