by Sue LeBreton
We all start our family vacation with visions of great bonding experiences, fun for grownups and kids alike and the opportunity to create lasting memories. However, at times it seems as if life conspires against us, denying us that perfect Norman Rockwell moment. When this happens, a sense of humor can be your best friend. No matter what your summer vacation brings, the memories will last and sometimes the worst situations turn out to make the best stories in the end.
Following is the story of one of our worst family incidents while on vacation. To date, it is the benchmark against which we measure all other less than perfect moments.
My husband and I and our two children, ages four and six have driven for two days to visit friends and family. As part of our vacation, one day we go to a family friend`s to play in their pool. Our hosts are the parents of one of my husband`s lifelong buddies and this is a welcome opportunity for my husband to reconnect with his friend and family.
Visiting new places can be challenging for my four-year-old who has autism and we pack snacks and activities to entertain him and have a backup plan in case one of us has to take him home. Although he generally likes the water, he quickly tires of it today as he finds the water too cold. He seems to have his own unique temperature gauge. We give him some toys and he is happily playing on the deck while my husband and daughter are splashing in the pool with the other dad and children. I am chatting with our hostess and I look up to see that my son has moved- he moves at the speed of quick silver. I spot him, sitting in the midst of her immaculately raked Zen garden, his swim pull ups bursting with water and he is merrily swirling the pattern away in the Zen garden. I grab him and apologize, starting to stress about the visit as our hostess is not known for her patience with grownups, let alone children.
But today she is calm and gracious. She suggests maybe he would enjoy watching TV, which of course he adores. So we situate him in the family room on the lower level. I scan the room and it seems safe enough. I know he will not climb if he`s sucked into his favorite show. I return to the deck and my conversation with the hostess, one ear listening for my son. She kindly asks about the recent autism diagnosis so I share stories of our journey this past year.
Sometime later I go to check on my son and I sense something odd about him and the room he is in. At first glance I cannot identify it, then I see him digging in his diaper and oh my, he is pulling poop out and examining it. Gross. I race to him. Then I see, this is not his first exploration, he has smeared poop in several places on the carpet and on the television.
I grab my son and run to get my husband, clutching at him to tell him inside, privately. How are we going to tell his friends that our child has redecorated their family room with poop? The host quickly gathers that we have a problem and all I can do is blurt out the scoop on the poop. He does not balk, he chuckles and says, “with the age of that carpet I suspect it is not the worst it has seen.” We go down together and we clean together. My embarrassment is only overshadowed by the kindness of this couple. We laugh together as the host tells stories of some of the messes he has had to clean up for his own three children, normalizing our awful experience.
When we depart my husband and I chuckle, as that seems more productive than crying. This will make a great family story we agree and then my husband comments, “surely it can only get better from here.”
Sue LeBreton is a freelance writer with two children. She loves the adventure of family vacations.