Last month we finally caved: we took the kids to Great Wolf Lodge.
When I say “we caved,” however, I don’t mean that my husband and I gave in to the kids’ pleading. Our boys are 16, 14 and 10 years old. Only the youngest has interest in a wilderness-themed hotel with an indoor water park. No, my husband and I caved to the relentless advertisements served up by Great Wolf Lodge.
We also caved to my hormones.
For months I’ve seen advertisements for Great Wolf Lodge on Facebook. This is likely because of my hormonally-fueled web searches for “great family vacations.” Every once in awhile, especially after Facebook serves me “On This Day” images of my boys as babies (see the vicious circle here?), I panic about our older sons nearing adulthood and independence.
When I sense an end to the days of packing everyone into the car for a family weekend, the days when no one had the idea nor the means to fight us on it, I regret all the trips we haven’t taken.
This time last year, I had a meltdown over the fact that we had never taken our kids to see Martha’s Vineyard.
“We haven’t done it,” I cried to my husband. “We haven’t done that ferry, or taken them to see all the knickknacks and touristy ice cream shops.”
“And?” Dustin said.
“And if we don’t do it now, they’ll be grown,” I said.
So we drove to Massachusetts, rode the ferry and spent a day on Martha’s Vineyard. That’s when I remembered why we hadn’t done it before: Traveling with kids sometimes stinks.
Everyone fought about where to eat. We forgot towels for the beach. And we paid what amounted to a week’s worth of groceries for a couple of ice cream cones.
On the return ferry, Dustin said, “There, you can’t say we didn’t do Martha’s Vineyard.”
But a few months later, panic set in again: “We haven’t done Disney in years!”
“Our boys don’t even want to go to Disney,” Dustin said.
And then I started seeing the Great Wolf Lodge ads. It was as if Facebook could read my thoughts … or at least my web searches.
“We need to go to Great Wolf Lodge,” I told Dustin at 11 o’clock one night.
“Do they boys even want to go?” he asked. And then: “Isn’t it kind of expensive?”
In our marriage, I worry about memories, and my husband worries about money. It all balances out somewhere, but until then, it drives me crazy.
One time, when the kids were little and Dustin realized we had to exit through the gift shop at the National Zoo in Washington, D.C., I thought he might abandon us and live in the zoo rather than go through the gift shop and risk someone begging for a plastic, jointed snake that would fall apart on the car ride home.
“It’s all part of the experience,” I said to him, angrily, I’m sure.
But Dustin stood there on the sidewalk and refused to walk.
“It’s like they have us trapped,” he said.
At the time, the boys were too young to know what was going on. These days, however, they are a little more clued in. A common refrain is, “Don’t tell Dad how much we spent on this.”
Anyway, after much pleading (by me), we went to Great Wolf Lodge last month. And just as Dustin expected, it was expensive and a little too young for our oldest boys. Lindell, 10, was thrilled by the bunk beds set in a “cave” in the middle of our hotel room, and Ford and Owen were temporarily interested in the water slides. Mostly, though, everyone wanted to know where, when and what we’d eat.
Like the zoo, Great Wolf Lodge has you trapped. You’re cold and wet from the water slides, and you don’t want to get back in your car, so you eat at the pizza joint in the massive arcade, and $70 later, you think maybe family vacations are overrated.
But we never say this to Dustin. It just ruins his time. If the cost does not match the level of experience, he acts — well, he acts like a man trapped in a zoo that won’t let him out unless he goes through the gift shop.
At Great Wolf Lodge, I was sure Dustin had calculated how much each ride on a slide cost based on our admission. I knew this because he was running back and forth trying to ride each ride once (some more than once) before the water park closed.
While Dustin “got the most out” of the slides, long after we had lost interest, the rest of us went to the indoor recreation room where we spent more money for wrist bands to play games and go on rides.
But no one told Dustin how much that cost. Because no one could bear to see him run around even more like he was currently doing at the water slides.
And, yeah, this is why we don’t go to Disney.