By Frank Lowe
Originally published on Advocate.com April 15 2014 5:00 AM ET
I absolutely love to travel. Everything about it appeals to me. My day-to-day life is extremely routine, and truthfully it drives me crazy. Nothing is better than packing up for a week and getting the hell out of Dodge. I will plan a trip ahead of time down to the fucking second, so when we get there, I don’t have to think about anything. This includes making very detailed itineraries and lists of outfits we are going to wear. Wes Anderson would be so proud. The only thing I can’t plan is everything going apeshit, which happened on our very first vacation with our little man.
Our son, Briggs, was 18 months old when we decided to do our first real vacation as a family. We chose Puerto Rico as our destination and booked the trip at a luxurious resort on the beach. Our logic was that he was too young to appreciate a true “children’s vacation” but old enough to appreciate hanging out at the beach all day. Fuck, were we wrong. This would be Briggs’s first flight, so I did ample reading on the subject and spoke to my doctor. He advised us to try Benadryl so he would slumber peacefully for the duration of the flight. In my head, I imagined him passing out nicely in his seat while his daddies sipped champagne. What the doctor didn’t mention is that Benadryl will have the reverse effect on some babies and cause them to become wired and overly cranky. That was what happened to our baby.
About an hour into our four-hour flight, it became obvious that he was really pissed off and was going to stay wide the fuck awake. He was screaming at the top of his lungs, and we didn’t know what to do. There was no consoling him, and the stares from the other passengers were borderline hateful. I wondered how many of them thought, Oh, look at the two dads who don’t know how to take care of their baby? We were so desperate to keep him quiet, we tried every trick in the book. At a certain point, we just bit it and realized it would be a hellish journey. I kissed the ground when we landed in Puerto Rico.
The resort itself was beautiful, it had an enormous pool that was oddly empty, so I staked it out as the place where we would spend the most time. My parents arrived a few hours in, and they offered to help us with watching Briggs for the week. We enjoyed nice dinners and lots of rum drinks, and Briggs seemed to be enjoying things. The first day wasn’t too bad, if you didn’t count the worst flight of our entire lives.
On the second day, we were anxious to get in the pool. We rented a cabana, and the resort provided a little playpen for Briggs, so he was happy for a minute. Then when he wanted to get in the pool, we all got in and realized the water was freezing (which explained the emptiness). It was January in Puerto Rico and well over 80 degrees, but the hotel didn’t heat the pool because the management wanted to keep electricity costs down. Yeah. So of course this made Briggs very mad, and he was an all-around crab ass. All day. Every day.
The only thing we discovered he liked was taking naps at the beach. The resort actually wheeled that playpen out to our area, and he had a nice shady spot. He would nap there, and we had moments of bliss. When he wasn’t asleep, he wanted to run around, but of course he was petrified of the sand and ocean, so it couldn’t be anywhere near the beach. My parents offered some relief, but in my memories, it feels as though we were solo the whole time. There was never a moment’s relaxation, as I was constantly fearful of what would happen next.
On our last day, we realized our many mistakes (never take a baby who has just mastered walking on a “lazy vacation”) but it was too late. And we were dreading the flight back home because we knew what was in store. This time I nixed the Benadryl and we did our best to keep him happy. The best part was when the plane was boarding, passengers recognized us from the flight down. They must have all thought, Oh great, these fuckers with the loud baby again. Hell, I would have thought that. Believe it or not, he only cried for an hour this time. We landed safely back home and didn’t want to talk to each other for a few days. Vacations are supposed to relieve your stress, not cause it. I would advise anyone traveling with a baby to stay somewhat close to home, and have a backup plan. Fortunately, that was the last vacation of its kind, and now we get to endure stressful weeks in Disney World.
FRANK LOWE is The Advocate’s parenting writer. Follow Frank on Twitter @GayAtHomeDad and on Instagram at gayathomedad.