Survival: Spring Break Edition

by Christy Heitger-Ewing

My son came barreling through the front door, dropped his backpack to the floor, threw his hands into the air, and announced, “I’m on vacation!”

I remember bursting with excitement to get a break from boring homework, cranky teachers, chaotic classrooms, and sticky cafeteria floors. Those were glorious days because I was a kid.

Now that I’m an adult, spring break looks a whole lot different. I’ve removed the rose-colored glasses and replaced them with lenses smeared in caked-on mud and dipped in slime.

Now, before you label me as a kill-joy mom, let me remind you of the winter we just had. Much of the country endured bitter temps and massive snowfall, which meant school was cancelled a lot. In the words of Taylor Swift, I thought, “We are never, ever, ever getting back to school…Like, ever.” But we did. It’s just that as soon as the snow days ended, spring break started—a two-week break, no less.

Although my fourth-grader was stoked to not have to go to school for 16 days, he was feeling mildly sorry for himself since he had deduced, through various bus chats, that most of our neighborhood was headed to Orlando. A cursory glance at Facebook confirmed his deduction.

“So, what do you have planned, Mom?” my son asked. (Translation: “How will you entertain me?”)

“Well, you and your brother will have to go with me to Wednesday’s dermatology appointment,” I said. “I also scheduled your annual check-up for Friday. Oh, and I’m long overdue for an oil change.”

My son shot me a look that suggested he was none too thrilled with the week’s itinerary. The prospect of banking and grocery shopping didn’t excite him, either. I suggested going to the mall to find pants that actually fit him since his growth spurt has turned his slacks into waders. The mere mention of the word “mall,” however, made him gag.

“Wow,” I thought. “The female mind is vastly different from that of the male.”

This concept was driven home this week every time I drove my sons somewhere. The gross, bizarre backseat boy humor was completely lost on me. The noises, looks, phrases, and howls left me shaking my head and turning up the volume on the radio.

Spring break, as it turns out, wasn’t very “spring-y.” We had a bit of snow, a ton of rain, and mostly brisk temperatures. Such foul weather translated into more iPad and XBox time than I care to admit. The moment the sun peeked out, however, the boys were yard-bound. Those few glorious moments of peace and quiet were the best part of break. But the serenity never lasted long because invariably the garage door would fly open and I’d be greeted either with a stream of tears, a series of screams, or a cry for help.

One day following a request for assistance, I found a rope severely wrapped around the gears of my younger son’s bicycle tires. Apparently the plan was to attach the rope to a sled and pull each other around by bike. Epic fail. You know when you pack your dainty necklaces for travel? And upon reaching your destination, you find your chains in such a tangled mess that you consider tossing the whole lot of jewelry? Well, that’s what this rope/bicycle gear situation was like. I fiddled with it for awhile, but once my fingers were covered in grease and my patience had grown thin, I uttered the words every frazzled mommy eventually blurts out: “Daddy will have to fix it.”

I threw in the towel and packed up the boys to head to the grocery because although the kids were adamant that they didn’t want to shop, they were equally as adamant that they did want to eat.

No sooner did we reach the produce section and the bickering began. Who was going to push the cart? Who was going to pick the snack? Who was going to greet the fishies first?

Then came the check-out line. This is the point in which kids’ hands turn into octopus tentacles as they grab for anything within their reach—even stuff they don’t want or need. Gum, candy, magazines, beef jerky. It all looks appetizing, apparently. Nail clippers, gift cards, batteries, feline breath mints. WTF?

“Put it back.”

Eye roll.

“Put it back.”

Deep sigh.

“Put it back.”

Head shake.

“Put it back.”

Eye roll. Deep sigh. Head shake. Repeat.

This irritating behavior is not as big of a deal if no one is in line behind you. It’s just that almost always someone is in line behind you. And sure enough, there was an older couple waiting to load their items onto the belt. Therefore, I felt the need to explain why my offspring were behaving like zoo animals (only worse because zoo animals don’t scream, “I poop on your face!” to elicit a reaction from their sibling).

“We’ve been on spring break for nearly two weeks now,” I said as I slid the gift cards back into their proper slots.

The woman nodded knowingly and said, “We understand. We just had our two grandchildren here for ten days and we were counting down to the release date.”

Upon closer inspection, this couple did look worn out, withered, and weary. Mostly, though, they looked relieved.

I returned the smile and congratulated them on their survival skills.

Three days later, I loaded my older son onto the bus, then deposited my three-year-old at preschool. When I got home, I dropped my purse to the floor, threw my hands into the air, and announced to the cat, “I survived vacation!”

Read Christy Heitger-Ewing’s new book “Cabin Glory: Amusing Tales of Time Spent at the Family Retreat” (

 Note: This piece was first published on the Huffington Post on April 23, 2014.

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