From Left to Write asks reviewers to connect the book of the month with their personal experiences. Accordingly, this is not a traditional book review, but rather, my response to this month’s selection. Find out more here.
I received an advance copy of Dad Is Fat for free, but I was not compensated in any way for my review. My comments are my own. This book is available for purchase here.
My parents made a good team when we traveled. My dad liked to pile us into the car in the middle of the night (well, before dawn) to avoid the morning rush hour. His way of making sure we were present and accounted for was to say, "We're leaving at 5. If you're not in the car, you're not coming."
Then he would scare us kids, buckled up in the back, by backing out of the garage while my mother was still in the house throwing together some snacks for the road. He'll do it, Mom! - we tried to ESP-message her - You're going to miss Disney World!
My brother, sister, and I might sleep for a little while, but soon three bodies in the backseat invited first conversation, then a silly game inspired by being deliriously tired, and then, of course, a fight.
You have to remember, this was before the days of being able to watch a movie in the car. My siblings and I settled for reading, coloring, or bugging the crap out of each other.
No talking, one of the parents would rule from the front.
That would work for about 5 minutes, an eternal stretch of time in Kid World. Then one of us would complain, "I'm hungry."
Without fail my father would feign incredulous disbelief and say, "What? I just fed you yesterday!"
This incited a small amount of panic among my siblings and I in the back - did Dad not realize kids have to be fed every day??
But Mom was already on it, passing back baggies of pre-packed trail mix.
Eating kept us quiet for a bit, but then somebody had to go the bathroom. Then, by power of suggestion, everyone had to go to the bathroom. Except for Dad, who would say, "Can't you hold it until dinner?"
WHAAAT? No, we insisted, we really can't!
When we finally stopped for a meal, it was usually at a fast food hamburger place. We divided up the tasks. Dad and two of the siblings would find and sit at a table. The kids had to get napkins, straws, and ketchup for everyone. The other kid accompanied Mom to order.
Usually that kid was me, so Dad gave me his order to pass on: "Two hamburgers, NO PICKLES."
Except sometimes they put the pickles on anyway, so when Dad conducted his Sandwich Inspection prior to taking a bite, he'd say, "Oh, no! I got pickled!"
Finally, we arrived. We never stayed in the park itself ("We're poor," Dad explained), instead taking shelter at a nearby Marriott or Embassy Suites. Still, one of Dad's destinations at Disney World was going to look at the park hotels.
He convinced us it was part of the Disney experience, so we toured through the grounds of the Contemporary Resort, with the monorail running overhead, the Polynesian, and The Grand Floridian.
Then we had to hit Splash Mountain, the Haunted House, and Space Mountain.
He saved Hall of Presidents for when we needed a rest, which isn't exactly a ride, but rather, consists of sitting for in a quiet, dark theater and watching audio-animatronic figures talk about old stuff.
Epcot was always last on the list, but Dad loved the Viking ride in the Norway section that scared the bejeezus out of me.
The real struggle of any of our family vacations was keeping us all from getting horribly sunburned. My father was obsessed with regular sunscreening. Part of the game was making sure you anticipated his exhaustive list of checks.
"Did you get your neck?"
"Did you get the tips of your ears?"
"Yep." [And we would be really proud of ourselves for remembering to hit this obscure spot.]
"The tops of your feet?"
"Oh. Um, I forgot."
Even more, though, what I remember is how fun it was to see our parents having fun. Somehow, despite paying out the nose for Disney World lunches, waiting in long lines in the relentless Florida humidity, and the chase to keep their little pale ghost children from turning into boiled lobsters, we still liked being together.
As I am getting closer to becoming a parent, I want to emulate three main behaviors I saw my parents model during these road trips:
- Parents need to stick together.
- Planning ahead actually ensures a better time in the moment.
- Remember to have fun, and let your kids see that you think spending time with them is fun.