We went on a short vacation earlier last week. My little family spent 3 days just 2 hours west of home, in Harrisburg, PA. We had a tour of the state capitol, visited Gettysburg, and went to Hershey Park which is a huge amusement park in the town where Hershey's Chocolate was born. I guess they traded factory jobs for hospitality jobs in Hershey. Which is better, I wonder?
We had a nice time. My kids are a pleasure to travel with, and have been (mostly) all their lives. They don't nag us to buy stupid stuff. They don't ask to play the games so they can win a giant, ugly stuffed animal. Now that they are teens, they don't try to look as if they are not with parents. You know what I'm talking about. I remember trying to cultivate that look of boredom and detachment when out with my folks. Now I wish they would have slapped that out of me. But they did not. And I probably wouldn't either. I'm happy I don't have to! (Yet?)
It's easy (and fun!) to watch other people and criticize what they do. I'm sure I've had my share of public parenting failures. I remember a couple quite clearly. But now that my kids are somewhat grown, I can step back and view others. I do have to wonder what parents are thinking sometimes.
When we went to the State Capitol for our tour, we dressed up just a little bit. Not church or party dressed up, but not shorts and t-shirts dressed down. We were not too surprised (but dismayed nonetheless) to see kids dressed sloppily (as opposed to more casually) there. But the real stunner was the kid hooked up to his mp3 player, obviously listening to it and looking at the screen during the tour. What an insult to the tour guide, not to mention the surroundings. The tour was interesting, the building beautiful. Everyone isn't interested in art, I know. But a person can zone out on a tour without appliances. The few minutes we spent listening to House business was not terribly exciting, though we did learn why the Piper Cub should be our state aircraft. But at least my kids listened respectfully to that, rather than their playlists.
I had to wonder why a parent would even allow a teen to do that. I'd like to ask the parents: "is it that hard to ask your child to be polite and put away his ipod?"
The next day we visited Gettysburg battlefield. We may have had a bit of a parenting failure of our own there: we didn't arrive early enough and nearly ran out of time. My husband and I have a way of doing that. We knew we needed a couple of hours for the visitor's center and Cyclorama, and James wanted to show us a specific part of the battlefield he'd seen on a Boy Scout hike there. We should have known that, once there, we'd want to spend more time and see more. But it worked out.
The visitor's center there is wonderful, and the video presentation well done and interesting. But it is about a war. So it was a little disconcerting to hear a little voice, like that of a 4 or 5-year-old, saying "Daddy, this is scary!" I'm not complaining about hearing the voice at all - I know little kids can't help but speak up sometimes, and normally it wouldn't be distracting. But the film was so obviously not for such a small child. I couldn't see the family configuration so I don't know if there were two parents or one; several children or just the unhappy little girl. I would have loved to ask the daddy: "what were you thinking, bringing this little one in here?"
Hershey Park is a nice, clean, wholesome amusement park. There are a lot of roller coasters. I limit myself to coasters that don't do anything extreme, such as go upside down. If I have to go on one, my preference is for the old wooden coasters, but I don't really like those anymore either. James wanted to go on them all, but Eleanor was hesitant. He didn't want to ride alone. Finally we forced/shamed/begged her to go on one of the looping ones, and she came out all smiles. She said "I'm so glad I went on that! Now I can go on any roller coaster!" Yea! The two of them took off, leaving Dad and me to wander. I was left happy in the knowledge that I never have to go on another roller coaster again.
Hershey is so nice and the crowd so civilized that I didn't see much to criticize. There were the usual screams for candy or toys. The clothing wasn't bad, even at the water park; apparently the dress-code rules posted outside the park are enforced. So I am limited to just one question to a young mom:
"If you didn't want people staring at your legs, why did you have big skulls tattooed on them?"
Maybe they were temporary tattooes, and she was conducting a sociology experiment with her preschoolers. Yeah, I think I'll go with that.