For those of you unfamiliar with the unique pleasures and fulfillment that only life with two small children can bring, you may not be aware that last week was FEBRUARY SCHOOL VACATION WEEK here in Massachusetts. And right around the corner (before you know it, really) is APRIL SCHOOL VACATION WEEK. Yes, that’s right; two weeks when schools close for… just the heck of it, really.
Can I just take a minute, here? Is life really so hard for grade schoolers across the state and beyond that they need not one, but three weeks throughout the school year (in December, February, and April) to reflect, relax, and fully integrate all the new concepts and skills they’re otherwise mastering between 8:30 and 2:10 five days a week? Are their mental faculties so entirely stressed by all that learning, that they badly need this respite in the reassuring presence of their parents’ company? On three separate weeks, no less – in addition to summer vacation? Really? Really??
Well pull up a short stool and pop a straw in your juice box, kid, because I know a thing or two about stress. For starters, is there any thought or consideration being paid to the working parents of school age children, and how disruptive and expensive it is to either take time off for these weeks or secure additional childcare? Childless parents do not even want to know what it costs to pay a babysitter for the day. $65 / day for the potty-trained is a bargain, if you can get it. For this price your child will be reasonably looked after, probably spend a little time at a recc center or playground, eat processed snack food, and do a craft project of some sort. When you pick them up at the end of a long day in (cruddy) February you are very likely to find them plopped in front of an animated Disney movie rolled in on a cart. No judgment, here. I’m just saying this isn’t exactly enrichment you’re child is getting in return for your hard earned money. Double that rate if you have two kids, times it by 5, and you get yourself the tidy sum of $650. Do it again in April and you’ve got what amounts to a mortgage payment in many places.
So. Maybe you reconsider and decide to save a few bucks and stay home from work to spend some quality time together. It’s a nice idea. You start warming to it. Sure, you’ll have to use up those precious vacation days in cruddy February instead of July or August as hoped. It’s ok, you tell yourself. The family doesn’t really need to take an awesome summer vacation, anyway. Just a couple days at the beach will do. Maybe a long weekend (fighting the traffic). There’s always next year. Or, that summer after you win the lottery and quit your job. Yeah. That summer.
Where was I? Oh, right. You now have a whole week in February (or April. Or both.) to spend with your kids. Time to get planning. What better way to spend the school vacation week than up in North Conway, New Hampshire or at Sunday River Resort in Maine? A ski week would be fantastic! Remember ski weeks? You wonder,”Why don’t we go on ski weeks anymore?” My parents would rent a place up at Killington, VT. I wore my cousin’s old skis. I remember the J bar. Good times! A quick Google search reveals just how much recreating those memories will set you back in 2017. To use Sunday River as an example:
adult lift ticket (5 day) =$339
adult equipment rental (5 day) = $225 (because who owns skis anymore?)
junior lift ticket (ages 6-12) (5 days) = $239
beginner terrain park ticket = $39 /day
kids equipment rental (5 days) = $150 (because you don’t know anyone rich enough to borrow kids skis from anymore.)
kids ski school (half day/ full day lesson) = $83/$99 (w/ per-registration) (because let’s be real… You’ll want a break, too.)
You remember why you don’t go on ski weeks.
Why not a stay-cation, then? There’s plenty to do around Boston and on the north shore, right? Many of the museums are free (and extremely crowded), and there are day trips to… I’m sure there are day trip destinations, right?? Please tell me there are seasonally appropriate day trip destinations. Anyone? Anyone?? Crickets.
So in case you haven’t figured it out by now, let me tell you what a typical school vacation week looks like for a middle class Massachusetts family in the year 2017.
Moms and dads in sweatpants scurrying into bedrooms and bathrooms to hide from kids and sit with lap tops and cell phones, trying to get some work done, trying desperately to “work from home” as they say, hoping their kids don’t start fighting, hoping their kids, also in sweatpants, on the fifth Netflix cartoon of the day, or glued to some video game, don’t ask for something, anything, for at least 30 minutes. A 30 minute stretch to get some stuff done, because what’s the point of taking vacation days when there’s no where to go, no affordable options, no reason to be on vacation at all, really – other than that’s just the way it’s always been?
We cobble together some makeshift arrangements: a work from home day, a day or two at the child care center, a couple hours with a babysitter, maybe a play date, a trip into Boston. Maybe something fun. Disney on Ice, anyone? Tickets are about $65 a pop, not including the price of the wicked cool souvenirs we all remember and love. Just an FYI.
Why do we have these school vacation weeks, again? I ask, through bleary eyes, under a furrowed brow. Oh, right; I almost forgot. We’re all too tired to do anything about it, and it’s just the way it is.