Vacation, Day 1

Ahhhh. We’ve arrived.

Would you like to hear our tale of exhaustion and woe? Our weariments incurred across four time zones, beginning at 2:30AM EDT? By car, by plane, by train, and on foot? Of course you wouldn’t. Tolstoy was correct when he said that all unhappy families are unhappy in their own way, but I’ve found that unhappy American travelers each have pretty much the same story to tell. So we won’t weary you with ours. My gift to you, dear reader. You’re welcome.

Besides, we’re here, checked into the funky Hotel Five right downtown, and we can already feel ourselves regenerating, the crankiness crusting off. The Knucklehead is bemoaning the US Men’s Soccer team’s consolation loss to Panama (we got in with enough time to catch the second OT), and I’ve found he’s never quite so happy as when he’s grumbling about the state of US soccer. So, we’re all good here. Soon we’ll take a casual stroll around the immediate environs of our neighborhood, take some bearings, grab some dinner.

* * *

I’ve been looking forward to this vacation for quite some time, for reasons we’ll explore this week. Tonight, I am going to sit back and enjoy Treat #1 of this particular vacation, one I’ve never enjoyed before on a vacation with my boy. I have abdicated the role of Dad In Charge. For the duration of the vacation we are leaderless, and I couldn’t be happier.

* * *

I’ve always been in charge on our vacations. Which makes sense, because through most of them, I’ve been the only adult along. When My Bride began joining us on our trips, she was always of the disposition to let someone else do all the recon work. So it fell to me, and I’ve been happy enough to plan out the itineraries. Keep in mind, traditionally, we haven’t enjoyed perfect freedom on our journeys, because we were taking trips against a master 10-year plan to hit every Major League Baseball park. Necessarily, this meant orchestrating usually three games in a week (as many as five in one epic road trip), grouped in nearby cities, so some planning had to be done. Counterintuitively, the downtime so valuable to a child (and his parent) can get away from you if it’s not deliberately factored in. So as a parent, you’ve got to anticipate that as much as you anticipate what time batting practice starts at Petco Field. If you wait for your child to tell you she needs a break, well… you’ll generally get about a nanosecond’s notice that a meltdown is coming.

Being in charge can be exhausting. I’m usually keeping an eye on The Knucklehead, and trying to think at least two moves ahead. Let’s see, we’re at the zoo, and he’s starting to fade. My years as a camp counselor taught me to always end an activity while you’re still having fun, not wait until it gets boring, so maybe it’s time to bail. We have two more days here, and I promised the planetarium and the water park. Should we head to the waterpark to blow off steam? Or is he too beat for that? Maybe the planetarium, where we can sit for a while. Or should we head back to the motel and get in some unstructured pool chill-time? But it’s supposed to rain tomorrow, so if we don’t get to the waterpark today, we might not get there at all….

What’s that? You’re getting a whiff of control issues? Well, OK, yes, I’ll cop to a bit of that. Some. At least I’m aware of that, so I usually watch my boy for signs of my… anality we’ll call it, reflected in his expressions and behavior. And since we’re on the topic of Daddy Childishness, let’s throw this in as well, just to keep us all honest:

He was on vacation with his mom a few weeks ago, and he told me about some really cool stuff they did. That’s means I’m behind. I’m LOSING the vacation battle, and I’m pretty sure I lost Christmas last year when she gave him the racing set! The pressure is ON! His mom is WINNING! If I lose Christmas and the vacation, that’s it, game over, she wins this year! Gotta bear down! Gotta focus!

Yes, that’s a childish way to think, but any divorced parent is lying if they tell you it never enters their minds. You dismiss it. Mostly. But the thought it still there.

My point is, all through The Knucklehead’s childhood, I’ve looked forward to the day when I could just drop all that responsibility and enjoy myself. And today, that day is here.

* * *

My son is 20 years old. Old enough to travel to Europe on his own this fall, so a domestic American city is a piece of cake. He doesn’t need me to show him around. In fact, he needs me not to show him around. I’m shelling out bigger bucks than we’re used to spending for our lodging to put us right in the heart of everything we want to see. Anything we want to do is a walk, a monorail, a Light Rail, taxi, or Uber ride away. And The Knucklehead doesn’t need me for any of that. We’re both free to plan out or improvise whatever itineraries we want.

I think it’s hilarious that my son probably thinks this is liberating for him. He has no idea.

Here’s my prediction at the dawn of our vacation: there will be at least two, probably three or four days that we don’t even see each other until we trade notes at the end of the day. That’s going to make the stuff we do enjoy together (I’m predicting that will be a Mariners game, the Sci Fi Museum, a Diamonds game, and a few places from Diners and Dives) twice as much fun. I think at some point this week, my son is going to take me to some “great discovery” he’s found. When that happens, I have a feeling I need wait no longer for the highlight of the week.

You just don’t get joys like that by staying in charge.

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