I am starting off 2019 with my dream job. It is the unexpected-but-always-hoped-for whipped-cream-and-cherry-on-top gig, granted after 14 years of my paying my screenwriting dues. The workload is intense, the accelerated timeline nearly impossible, but the experience is a gift.
One of the more challenging aspects of this job is the quantity of hours it keeps me from my children. So, like any well-adjusted parent with a few surprise extra bucks in her pocket, I am buying their love back with a guilt purchase — in this case, a cruise.
It was a whim purchase, charged to a credit card without nearly the sufficient amount of thought one should put in prior to planning a vacation for four. In my urgency, a cruise seemed the perfect remedy to reunite a family that has been under the stresses of a missing-in-action mama. It'll be 24 hours a day of family togetherness! No meal cooking to pull me away, no errands or car pools to stress over. Just the four of us sleeping in until 10 a.m., catching a late brunch and drinking pina coladas by the pool. Just the four of us playing bingo and a few hands of blackjack and getting all fancy for a formal dinner. Just the four of us watching a raunchy comedy skit, dancing at the disco and catching the midnight buffet.
But then, well after purchasing my nonrefundable cruise, I remembered that one of the four of us is under 4. The other is just 6. The cruise experience in my head crashed into the cruise experience of our reality. Even in international waters, I'm guessing that giving the kids pina coladas by the pool is a no-no. Though the kids' dance moves are indisputably better than mine, I'm guessing our fellow seafarers wouldn't appreciate overtired tantrums in the midnight buffet line after disco-fever munchies take hold. And if you can't have barbecue chicken salad served to you on the back of an ice sculpture swan at 12:13 a.m., why even bother cruising at all?
Midnight buffet or bust.
I have cruised before, but never with children. I am very familiar with mom guilt and have been a chronic sufferer of the absent-minded mom brain for a long time now, but I didn't know that mom brain can be a symptom of mom guilt until I booked a cruise without a moment's thought.
How does one cruise with children at night? The rooms are tiny, and my kids go to bed at 8 p.m. Do we then go to bed at 8 p.m., too? Does one parent get to sneak out to watch the newlywed game and "A Rockin' Revisiting of Music and Dance of the '70s — Stage Edition" alone? Do we fall asleep with the kids and set an alarm for the midnight buffet and take turns waking up, gorging our faces and going back to bed?
How does one cruise with children in the morning? My kids are up by 6:30 a.m. at the latest. Undoubtedly, there is an early-riser buffet, but other than that, it appears that only the gym will be open. And just like the case with pina coladas, folks tend to frown on parents throwing their 3-year-olds onto treadmills. What will we do all morning before the pools open and the entertainment begins?
Do people cruise with little ones?
In the film "Titanic," the only children I saw on the ship were sharing a bunk bed with their mom as the water rose around them. Granted, this may not be the best example, but it's the only film I've ever seen about a cruise ship.
All in all, I'm drowning in my sinking feeling long before our ship is to set sail.
I'm thinking about the shows we'll miss, the food we'll miss, the activities we'll miss, the dancing we'll miss, the lack of Leonardo DiCaprio. How does one cruise with children?
I asked my children this question. They didn't seem concerned. Play "dinosaur," my son suggested, a game he made up in which we each pretend to be a prehistoric lizard. "You said the boat will be big. So we'll have lots of room to run around and attack one another."
He's not wrong.
The spur-of-the-moment booking will fulfill my desire to spend 24 hours a day with the people I love without the stresses of cooking, cleaning and to-do lists. Anything else will be the unexpected whipped cream and cherry on top.
Let the SS Mommy Guilt set sail.
Katiedid Langrock is author of the book "Stop Farting in the Pyramids," available at http://www.creators.com/books/stop-farting-in-the-pyramids. Like Katiedid Langrock on Facebook, at http://www.facebook.com/katiedidhumor. To find out more about her and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate webpage at www.creators.com.