By Trent Rentsch
On a childless weekend away from home, my wife and I enjoyed one of our favorite sports, Armchair Parenting. The place: the breakfast buffet in the hotel restaurant. The players: an extremely haggard looking young man and two extremely young children. The time: by our best guess, just minutes from disaster.
For those of you unfamiliar with Armchair Parenting, the rules are simple. Runaway to some kid-filled tourist spot without your own children, spot another couple who really thought that bringing 2 to 5 children, all under the age of 4 to this particular tourist spot looked good on paper, then smile and nod knowingly as the comedy of infants unfolds. While this may seem cruel on the surface, keep in mind that between the two of us we have 5 children. 5 children, I might add, who have all at one time or another decided that orange juice makes a wonderful hair conditioner, or felt that the best time to remind an entire amusement park that they “had to make a Doopee” was at the front of an hour-long line. Trust me, the pay-off for surviving toddlers is making fun of any other parent who thinks that their little Prince or Princess wouldn’t dream of disrupting a 4 star dinner with a diversion like projectile vomiting.
We knew that we were in for a special treat that morning. Not only was the conflict a single parent vs. two tiny tots, but a FATHER vs. two already squirming as they sat down little Darlings. This is not to say that Fathers aren’t good parents; they are exceptionally good at big picture, fun activities like fishing or hiking. The trouble begins when small details pop up, like removing a fishhook from a tiny earlobe, or changing a diaper in the woods (Fathers tend to forget that children are not like bears). Yes, dear old Dad thinks big. So when Mom got “lost” (probably by the pool) on the way to the car for juice boxes, and Dad was faced with two hungry babes, where else should he march his brood but to the all-you-can-eat-and/or-spill-all-over-yourself-and-others buffet.
The trip to the restaurant was mistake number one. Number two was assuming that the munchkins really did want the grits and hash and scrambled eggs and biscuits with gravy and yogurt just because they said yes when he asked them about each item on the line. Mistake number three was supplying each child with a heaping (even for an adult) plate of said items, along with tall glasses filled to the brim with both juice and chocolate milk. Then there was our personal favorite, mistake number four. Just imagine seating the tykes in front of mountains of food and drink, then leaving them alone to fill a plate for himself. I won’t describe what happened after he built his house of cards and walked away. Let’s just say that Mom probably put him on permanent juice box detail from that morning on, and my wife and I were supremely smug the rest of the day.
I suppose we were in the wrong. No, not about the Father; he was begging to be made fun of. I’m talking about taking our first trip alone as a couple in nearly a year, and spending it looking at other families and talking about our own. Here we were, using up what little adult time we had, reminiscing about every spilled bowl of pea soup and streaking through the neighborhood incident our own toddlers had put us through.
Of course, I’m just as bad about work. My ears were drawn to every radio we were near during the trip, and I found myself picking apart commercials, wondering why the Creative had used THAT piece of music on THIS spot. Instead of sitting back and enjoying the tornado drawing near us, I’m busy trying to hear what sounds they mixed together to get the roar for the simulation, and wondering if it was a surround mix. Heck, it’s been over a year since I had a job in video, and I’m still trying to pick out what lens they did a wide shot with, or how many hours it must have taken to generate 3D images for a monster-sized screen.
Like many professionals, a Creative’s job tends to follow them home at the end of the day. Ironically, to be constantly new and fresh, a Creative needs a break from the routine, a chance to experience the new, and the unique. In a perfect world that would mean 2 day work weeks and generous travel allowances from employers. But since most of our worlds consist of 1 or 2 weeks off a year, and hopefully a paycheck with enough left over after bills to put away for one real getaway a year, it’s important to really get away when we do.
If it really is an adults-only weekend, know that the kids are safe at Grandma’s and go do some adult howling at the moon. If it’s a vacation from work, enjoy radio or any other Creative medium you’re involved with the same as people on the outside do… as an entertaining diversion, nothing more. There are few things more frustrating than returning from a vacation more tired than before you left. Chances are the biggest reason you’re a mental wreck is that, while your body may have been surfing the waves off the coast, your mind was surfing through the piles on your desk back at the station.
Why? This is time off, a benefit your company offers and you definitely earned! You took care of the issues that needed attention before you left, and Lord knows the piles will still be there when you return, probably taller than ever. So, forget it! Soak up the sun, or your favorite beverage, or some really cheesy late night TV, or whatever you want to do… EXCEPT think about work! If you really care about your work, know that it needs the vacation as much as you do, so you can come back and attack it rested and with a fresh perspective.
And remember this: any plate of food within arm’s reach of unattended, tiny hands can and will become a flying disc of goo in the next booth.