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Parenting styles on vacation

Over the course of any given day, I get many glimpses into how other people parent their children. But those moments in time, those little peeks, are nothing compared with being in an all-inclusive child-friendly resort for a week with a ton of other families. We recently returned from a week-long vacation in Cuba. It provided both well-needed respite from snow and work, as well as an opportunity to observe different vacation parenting styles under a microscope.

The parenting styles I observed, with some creative license on the descriptions, are (note: the pics are not intended to be related to the descriptions - I'm just sharing a few of our photos with you):

  • Helicopter parents: These parents hover over their children and their every experience on vacation. They are always armed with hand sanitizer, life jackets and sun block, even while holding their child's hand in the just-been-cleaned ankle-deep shaded part of the baby pool. Some keep their kids securely on a harness, in a stroller, or in a high chair at all times. They take the burgers from the buffet and bring them to the grill for extra grilling. They bring bottled water, juice boxes and bed sheets from home because the ones at the resort are not good enough.


  • Don't bug me: Parents on vacation want a vacation too. I observed a number of different tactics used to get this while in the presence of your child. Some parents simply turn their back and ignore. They don't hear the screaming, don't notice the 2 metre high waves and red flag at the beach as their children wade in, don't notice their children pushing other kids into the pool. Some parents turn to technology to allow them a quiet lunch, peaceful plane ride, or romantic drink at the bar. This ranges from occasional strategic use of technology to pulling out personal DVD players for both children at each meal.


  • Helicopter parenting from the comfort of your lounge chair: One of the parenting styles I observed the most frequently was a combination of the first two. The children were on a short leash, but instead of hovering over the children, the parents screeched incessantly at them from the comfort of their lounge chairs. Get down from there. Don't go so far. Stop splashing your sister. If that didn't work, they might send a sibling over with threats of no dessert.


  • I'm a kid again: Many parents carry beautiful nostalgic memories of childhood vacations filled with ice cream, sand castles, and jumping in the waves. A vacation with their kids gives them the opportunity to do it all over again. They build monstrous sand castles at the beach, get in line with the kids for treats at the snack bar, have fun playing with the clown, and eat nothing but burgers and fries all week. They are so exhausted by the end of the day that they collapse into bed at the same time as their kids and then wake up the next day to start it all over again.


  • Vacationing without your child: Most all inclusive resorts also have a baby club or kids club where you can leave your child for an hour or two or for the day. For older kids who want to join in and enjoy the activities, they seem like a great idea. But for the babies that get kept in a back room with a stranger, it seems to be all about what the parents want to get out of the vacation. The alternative to that is people who choose to leave their kids at home. I haven't done either myself and if I did feel the need to vacation alone with my husband, I would probably be more likely to opt for leaving them at home (not for a newborn who is physically dependent obviously) with a trusted caregiver that they know than to leave them all day with a stranger that the child doesn't know. But at such a young age, neither of the alternatives appeals to me yet. For what it is worth, I think people who are vacationing without their kids should choose a child-free resort if they don't want to be around kids at all. Don't give me a dirty look about my kids laughing and having fun just because you're paying for a babysitter at home.

Not so much a full parenting style (more of a tactic), but as a bonus I bring you:

  • Cry it out on vacation? I don't know if parents who routinely use cry it out do not know how to soothe their children's cries or are just choosing to be consistent while on vacation, but on both this vacation and others I have seen (and heard) parents who seemed to be using the cry it out technique on an airplane or in a hotel. I wanted to scream "give the baby a boob, pacifier, bottle, whatever..." but I didn't and wouldn't. I just hope these parents were truly at a loss and couldn't figure out how to calm their baby down and were not choosing to subject their child and the rest of us to this on vacation.

Vacationing with your kids can be hard and it can be rewarding. Parents are out of their comfort zone and kids are outside of their regular routine. All of this can make tensions high and parents uncertain what to do or how to act. I offer these up not so much as a criticism, but as an eye-opener and thought provoker. In fact, there may be some of me in some of these descriptions, but I'm not admitting which one(s)!

If you are heading off on vacation, what type of parent do you want to be? What type of parenting will allow both you and your children to have a nice vacation? What can you do to prepare to help you and your kids relax and have fun?

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Reader Comments (57)

I will admit to being a little helicopter-ish, but I think every parent ends up finding their vacation style and their vacation routine once they get into the swing of things. I don't think there's anything wrong with loosening up a little when you're away. On vacation, I indulge in a few cocktails - certainly more than I do at home - and my daughter gets ice cream for dessert every night.

I've never been comfortable leaving my kids at the clubs, but might feel differently if they had experience with daycare at home. We've often utilized the children's facilities with our daughter. I did say I was on the helicopter-ish side ;)

Are you certain that the parents weren't attempting to soothe their child on the plane? I've often experienced crying babies on flights but never parents who weren't trying to calm them. It could have been their ears...

@Corinne: The ones on the plane weren't doing anything more than saying "shhhh.....". Maybe they know that is the best way to calm their baby, but I kept thinking "isn't there anything else you could try? breast? bottle? pacifier? toy? something?".

December 27, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterphdinparenting

I think I parent similarly on vacation as I do in regular life. Well, at least I try to ;-) Obviously being in a new locations might cause me to be more acutely aware than in a very familiar environment.

We keep an eagle eye, are ready to help, but let kids live their own lives. Don't care if my kids eat something off the ground unless I suspect someone's been washing the floor with toxic chemicals. I'm quite relaxed and trusting and try to stay insightful of when I can best interact to help keep a situation flowing smoothly.

December 27, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterhillary

Luckily I've only had one experience on a plane when my daughter couldn't be soothed and I think it must've been her ears. She refused both bottle and pacifier and was long finished nursing by that point. The offer of a toy enraged her further. Shhh was all I had.

I was surprised (and relieved) by the sympathetic looks we received. I guess my fellow passengers acknowledged that we were doing our best.

I've flown a few times solo with a young child and I was also very surprised at the moral support I received from everyone. My son did pretty well every time, but whenever it got a little hairy I got some well meant looks of encouragement which really helped.

The craziest thing that ever happened was taking an airport shuttle home. 9 month old was strapped in 45 minutes stuck in airport traffic and started screaming his head off on the 30 minute ride home. I tried everything and finally started nursing in the shuttle and a woman sitting in the cramped row behind me was just appalled and kept making all these comments. It was very awkward.

December 27, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterhillary


It is tough parenting under a microscope on a plane when your baby won't settle down. The looks of sympathy and encouragement are definitely helpful. I certainly tried to offer that on the plane (even if I was thinking perhaps there was something else they could have done).

December 27, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterphdinparenting

Funny you should mention this - I was just on a plane two days ago ('tis the season), and on one of my flights, a couple seated behind Lily and me had a baby that couldn't have been more than 2, *maybe* three months old. Lots of fussing, and while I couldn't make out every word, I could swear they were discussing when the last feeding was, and deciding it was too early to offer food again (I wasn't about to crane my neck and try to find out whether it was boob or bottle).

I cannot relate to scheduled feedings ANYWAY, but especially in a situation like that. As with you, I heard "shhhh"ing, and it seems like they might have tried some other things, but whatever they were doing was not working. I'm sure they must have fed him eventually, but wow, is it ever odd to me that they seemed to be not wanting to "give in" in the first place.

(Let me just also say that believe me, I know that sometimes you have done absolutely everything you can possibly think of, and sometimes there will still be fussy times. BELIEVE ME, I have been there! All parents with unhappy kids have my sympathy even if I might make different choices in parenting style, as long as they're at least trying. <--- I hope that comes across as I intended - it's not about 'trying' in order to defer to my comfort as a bystander, it's about trying to respond to their child's needs.)

Corinne, it's true that it could have been their ears - for which the best thing is nursing! I think even a bottle would help a bit with the pressure due to swallowing, though not as well as the stronger sucking and jaw action of breastfeeding. P.S. Corinne is my middle name! :^)

December 27, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterDou-la-la

It's an excellent name!

The ear issue is usually relieved by swallowing - so eating or drinking is ideal. In this particular situation my daughter refused both bottle and pacifier.

It should be interesting now with the new crazy restrictions (no access to/use of personal items on laps for last 60min of flights) to figure out how to soothe unhappy babies/toddlers during landing.


I was thinking along those lines too - had they decided it wasn't feeding time yet? The plane was a bit late taking off - were they not prepared to offer a feeding until later and were caught off guard with a hungry baby? Was it nap time and the baby cannot sleep anywhere but its own crib?

As someone who does not do feeding schedules and whose babies http://www.phdinparenting.com/2009/02/01/sleep-associations-the-good-the-bad-the-ugly/" rel="nofollow">sleep associations were with me and not with a crib/specific routine, I can be quite flexible when traveling. But I can imagine how difficult the sometimes unpredictable circumstances of travel must be to people whose babies' comfort is entirely dependent on a specific schedule/routine being followed.

December 27, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterphdinparenting

gee .....

i've travelled solo with my wee guy quite a few times and been so jetlagged/sleep deprived that all i could do was stare blankly at him while he upped the decibels. i've also travelled with him while i was so sick/nauseous with vertigo and newly deaf that my parenting skills were sadly lacking so i guess i must have been trying the 'crying it out' method of travel as described above.

he's a singleton so, while we've never used exclusive kids clubs/resorts, i do actively seek out situations where he can interact with other kids (i believe they are called his peers) so he can have some running around with little people time, often without me too. i've done this since he was old enough to express a preference so i guess that puts me in the vacationing without my kids sector ...... and after some terrible displays of appalling behaviour i am considering vacationing without him for reals occasionally too ....

frequently i travel solo with him for extended holidays back to the country of my birth which places me in a 24/7 single parenting situation. i oscillate between helicoptering cos i'm unsure and using the 'don't bug me' approach when i'm at my wit's end thru having no downtime at all with him.

usually i'm in bed at the same time as him too - jetlag, sharing the same room or just exhaustion thru keeping up with all his activities revisiting fave haunts of my own (yes, i did dig a monstrous sandcastle for the village summer festival this year - it was bloody good fun).

we usually return from our trips with memories of experiences shared, a new-found respect of one another's personal space and needs, plus greater appreciation of each others company

yes, i think i can safely admit to all the listed parenting-on-vacation styles without any shred of guilt.

December 27, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterebbandflo aka pomomama

I think the parenting type depends on the child. When it comes to our three year old, *right now* he would need more helicopter parents. He pushes every limit possible with a knowing twinkle in his eye. It is a phase, and it will be different next month! Our two Disney trips (at 15 and 27 months respectively) required different parenting. He needed the stroller but also time to explore, although differently based on the age. Our next trip (again Disney) will require different parenting. He will go to the on-ship kids activities if he wants. He will hang with us if he wants. But it will be fun for all!

I do remember the first plane trip. He REFUSED to nurse for the entire time from leaving the house till arrival at the hotel. I was severely engorged, couldn't seem to relax enough to even hand express into a sippy, and completely frazzled. It was a very difficult flight. Sometimes it just happens. We tried everything and eventually he calmed, but it was chaotic and a hungry baby is still a hungry baby.

My thought is that you can't go wrong if you play to the child's needs. YOU know your child best and what boundaries and parenting they need in order to make a vacation good for everyone. But, I don't think fully ignoring them makes a "family vacation" either.

December 27, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterCoco

We've only had the two family vacays so far, one with kids aged 3 1/2 and 22 months, and one a year later when they were 4 1/2 and not quite 3. (Haven't yet gone anywhere with all three, but we will be next March when the kids will be 6 1/2, almost 5 and 1). We did travel interstate with our eldest when she was 13 months old but that was a 5-day family funeral trip, not a holiday :-(

Both our vacations were beach trips. We hired a holiday house within our own state (Victoria, Australia), drove to the house, and spent our time for the subsequent 10 days just relaxing together. Hubs & I slept in the same room with the kids (the houses we hired had multiple beds) and tag-teamed each other for sleep-ins, taking it in turns to get up with the kids. We did stuff together - played on the beach, swam, visited wildlife reserves, went out for meals, went on boat trips, nature walks, and to a strawberry farm in one instance!

I'm not really sure where our vacays fit in your taxonomy above. We just called them "family holidays" - time for us to be together, relax & have fun. I don't think we were particularly helicoptery - no more than at home and I'm not much of a hanger-over-shoulder mama at home. That said, we also didn't leave the kids to their own devices at any point; they were really too young for that to be feasible or safe. It definitely wasn't a "don't bug me" situation.

We haven't had, or contemplated, a holiday without the children yet. We have been away twice for a single night (anniversaries, when kids were 4 & 2 1/2 and 5 & 3 1/2 respectively) and my parents have had the kids overnight. Other than that, we like the idea of vacationing together as a whole unit.

That said, horses for courses ... I take the view that you never know someone else's story from the outside and it's best to err on the side of charity when observing the tiny stretch of parenting time you see in such scenarios.

December 27, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterKathy

So did you have any fun on your vacation, or were you too busy judging others?

This is perfect: "That said, horses for courses … I take the view that you never know someone else’s story from the outside and it’s best to err on the side of charity when observing the tiny stretch of parenting time you see in such scenarios."

December 27, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterAnna

@Anna: I wasn't http://www.phdinparenting.com/2009/09/26/dont-judge-me/" rel="nofollow">judging, I was merely observing. And yes, we had a great time.

December 27, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterphdinparenting

@ebbandflo aka pomomama: Great.

December 27, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterphdinparenting

I think this is key here. We went on a weekend away with a family who feeds on schedule and sleeps with a specific schedule in specific places. They had such a hard time. Their kids wouldn't nap and were overtired and stimulated and the parents didn't have a good time.

In those moments I am really grateful for our laid back, whatever works style, but I will tell you I've been in there home on an average day and I have been a teensy jealous of how smooth their day goes at home. (ie lay toddler in bed at 12:05 and he waves good-by and is asleep 6 minutes later.) I can see why parents rely on schedules.

December 27, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterhillary

I am a little helicopterish around some things or people. We aren't on vacation right now but we are away from home staying with family. Their house is simply not 3 year old proof. I scan the place as we enter and put scissors up, permanent markers out of reach, bathroom cleaners, medications... I don't make a big deal about it but I do it and look for it the whole time we are here. They also have a pool , with no safety measures, although they did add a door alarm upon our request. So I am adament about knowing where my 3 year old is at ALL times. I think it's justified though.

When on vacation I generally parent the same way I do all the time, my son is as much a part of our family as I or my husband is. We include him, take his needs into account and plan our days accordingly. We base restaurant choice on his and our enjoyment, and others present. I find no pleasure in eating out at a wonderful place while my son drives other diners batty. I would rather eat at a more kid friendly place and not have excatly what I want. In the end we will all enjoy it more.

I never thought of changing how I parent depending on where I am , I think I am pretty much the same no matter what. Except when my sister is entertaining him and then I do check out a little ;)

December 27, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterAllie

@Allie: I know exactly what you mean! I wrote about that in one of my first posts here while I was visiting my in-laws: http://www.phdinparenting.com/2008/05/28/im-a-horrible-houseguest/" rel="nofollow">I'm a horrible houseguest.

December 27, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterphdinparenting

I know a few people who took vacations away from their infants within months of their births. I felt really uncomfortable with their choices. Neither were breastfeeding, so, I guess that had something to do with it. I was able to pump pretty successfully by the time my kids were a few months old, but I still wouldn't want to willingly leave them for a few days.

You know, I reread your poston judgment, and reread the comments here, and I have to say I am not seeing you being judgmental. Even when talking about crying it out, you said the parents may have been at a loss and not subjecting their children to crying it out on purpose.

December 27, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterMomTFH

I think one of the reasons it seems you are judging in this case is that as a reader of this blog, I know how you feel about cry-it-out.

Sometimes we have trouble consoling my daughter on an airplane. I do offer my breast, different toys, singing her favorite songs, but sometimes what she wants I can't offer. Walking around, nursing lying down, etc. Planes are situations with many restrictions on what parents can do to calm babies.

December 27, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterFia

We went to Disney last year with an 8 month old, and it was not a vacation for me - at that age, my general view is that I have to do all the same work I do at home, only it's harder! (Teething which brought on night pooping and daytime diarrhea did not help.) And everyone seemed to think I was mental for wanting to let her take naps on her normal schedule, because it interfered with our plans, and wanted to take care of her overnight so I could sleep through and not nurse her. All in all, it just added a lot of stress.

Anyway, I do have a tip for the babysitting conundrum: bring a caregiver with you. In my case it was my MIL, but I remember my parents bringing my aunt with us on a trip, and I bet many people have someone in their family who would be willing to spend some time babysitting in exchange for room & board at a nice destination. That way your child has someone familiar dedicated to them, but you don't have to leave them hundreds of miles away.

December 27, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterCogito

Perhaps the parent armed with sanitizer and grilling the burgers extra is a germaphobe...or perhaps they have a child with an immune disorder or a food allergy and they have to be careful about what goes into their child's body. Last summer, another mother at the pool made a snide comment to me about wiping down a bench. But when I told her my daughter had just had eye surgery 3 weeks ago and the doctor recommended I sanitize all public surfaces she might touch, to prevent her from getting any funky infections while she healed, she looked embarassed. And apologized for making an assumption. You just never know.

December 27, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterKayris

I think one of the family vacation "styles" I have seen a lot of -- that always makes me sad -- boils down to an intense desire/need/demand to have the Best Time Ever because the family is finally away, on vacation, and probably spending a significant amount of money and energy to be on vacation. I think it's important to keep in mind (for everyone, not just the kids) that it's hard to set high expectations for energy level, good behavior, etc. just because you're on vacation. You're still the same family, just with a different backdrop.

My approach to vacation is to ease up on everything: I don't have inflated expectations of what the vacation will be, I ease up on myself in terms of work and responsibilities (remove me from my office and give me some trashy magazines, and I'm remarkably fast to get there), I ease up on our typical home routines with Laurel (e.g., bedtime, treats) in a way where there's still some structure but it feels deliciously vacation-y, etc. In a nutshell, I just try to kick things down several notches from our usual pace, be in the moment, enjoy the time with my family, and not worry about too much else.

December 27, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterBoston Mamas

My daughter is 27 months and we have not gone on vacation yet. We drive to the in-laws' or to see our friends, each 2 hours away. I admit to being somewhat helicopterish. For example, I am not a germophobe, but I do make sure she gets her naps when she needs them, keep an eye on the amount of junk food grandma is handing out, etc. I feel that I know her best and it is my job to meet her needs. Other people love her to pieces, but are not with her day in and day out. Her language delay and the fact we are a bilingual home create a bit of a communication barrier at times. So there are various things to balance. One thing (which just came up last weekend) I am very big about is my daughter is not to be left with people she does not know well, even if they are people I love, trust and respect. I do not mean to be rude, but this is my decision, what works for my daughter, and, frankly, it is not up for debate. Secure attachment is vital to me. I believe it is what my daughter deserves. She does not deserve to be left with someone she doesn't know well. There is absolutely no need for her to feel uneasy, uncomfortable, to feel fear, to wonder why she was left at x strange place. Bottom line: we have fun. She has fun. We relax. But we are parents 24/7, even when we are on vacation. When she is older, she will feel comfortable spending a night or two at grandma's and it will be great for her, grandma, and for my husband and I.

December 27, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterJohanna S

@Cogito: We did exactly that. My mom came with us.

December 27, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterphdinparenting


You may be right. I wasn't making any assumptions about people's motivations. I was just noting what I observed.

We have friends whose two boys were both born early. They sanitize everything and their kids always seem to be sick. We sanitize nothing and our kids are rarely sick. I don't know if theirs are always sick because they were preemies or if they are always sick because their environment is super-sanitized. I don't know if my kids are rarely sick due to pure luck or if it is because of exclusive breastfeeding, extended breastfeeding, and not worrying too much about germs.

There are no clear answers.

December 27, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterphdinparenting

@Boston Mamas:

Those are very good points and that is excellent advice!

December 27, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterphdinparenting


Thank you. I think sometimes people only read the parts that allow them to get upset and ignore the parts that might calm them down again. I don't know if it is because people scan things quickly and don't read it all, even if it is in bold.

December 27, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterphdinparenting

I'm not convinced that phrases like "screeched incessantly from the comfort of their lounge chairs" or "they bring bottled water, juice boxes, and bedsheets from home because the ones at the resort aren't good enough" are mere observations. You don't need to explicitly say that you think something is bad in order to come off as judgmental. There's a good thoughtful post in here somewhere, but it's somewhat obscured by all the snide comments about other parents.

December 28, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterChanna

A few thoughts in reply:

1) I can think something is bad/annoying/unnecessary without judging the other person
2) Would you feel differently if I was describing myself?

December 28, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterphdinparenting

1. You're right - judgmental probably isn't the right word, it's more just being critical, I guess. Though I still think the word "snide" does apply to those phrases. Look, if you were merely being an objective observer (e.g. "they called out instructions while sitting in their chairs" or "they brought their own water bottles, juiceboxes, and bedsheets instead of using the ones at the resort"), the writing wouldn't be as entertaining to read. But your post, while well-written, came off as meaner than what I usually enjoy reading here.
2. Hm. I certainly wouldn't talk about myself that way, and would be hurt if someone talked about me that way, especially if they had only seen me for 10 minutes. I suppose if you were totally clear on the fact that you were describing only yourself, it would not necessarily be hurting anyone. But why would you want to do that?

December 28, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterChanna

I wasn't only describing myself, but I did include myself in some of those descriptions. Why would I want to do that? Why would I want to describe myself or others? I think that by looking retrospectively at some of the things that I do or that others do when parenting our children, I can make better choices in the future. I think it is useful to laugh at ourselves.

Certainly I could have stripped the post of all adjectives, but you are right. It would have been boring (and useless, IMO). Sorry if it came off as mean. It wasn't intended that way. It was intended to be funny (perhaps dry humour, but humour nonetheless).

December 28, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterphdinparenting

Apologies to anyone who felt hurt by this post. I'm still trying out different writing styles and evidently this one was a fail.

December 28, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterphdinparenting

I think there is a fat line between http://momstinfoilhat.wordpress.com/2009/02/03/new-improved-mommy-wars-bingo/" rel="nofollow">mommy judgment and deciding which parenting tactics aren't for you.

I hate it when I see parents yelling at their kids, repeatedly, for doing something when they could get up and do more effective disciplining up close, but are too busy with their own texting or book or conversation that they don't want to bother. Know where it's worse? On a school playground. With both of my kids, I observed the playground first before choosing a preschool. If the adults huddled in a corner and yelled at the kids from afar, and missed acts of aggression, you betcha my kid didn't go to preschool there.

But, I am not condemning parents who I see do that once as "bad parents". I am not condemning the adults (teachers, teacher's assistants, whatever) at the preschool who I saw this as awful teachers. In fact, I use this "judgment call" "opinion" or whatever you want to call it to catch myself, too. If I am doing something similar, like yelling at my kids repeatedly from my keyboard (who me? never...), I will think "You're doing that thing you hate" and hopefully get off my tuchus and discipline more kindly AND effectively.

Are we really defending screeching at children from afar? Of course, a parent may have a hurt foot or a disability. Of course, a child may have an immune disorder, and may need stuff wiped down. I am the type of person to travel with snacks, but mostly because 1. the food at resort style places is obnoxiously expensive and 2. it's usually pure crap. Do I judge parents who let their kids eat it? No, when I can afford it, I splurge a little and relax my standards for my kids. Are we talking about kids with severe allergies here who need their own food? No. And, again, I would never use that as some sort of end-all-be-all judgment of the quality of parenting.

We aren't talking about exceptions, we're talking about parenting choices, here. Screeching from afar = poor discipline, and I don't feel overly judgmental saying that.

I was stuck in a long line at DisneyWorld once next to a mom who had just gotten out of a tour in Iraq. She was with her young son, who was the same age as my older son at the time. I still remember to this day the nasty and sarcastic way she talked to her son the whole time we stood next to each other, and it was the good part of an hour.

I have no idea what it is like to leave your child for a tour of duty in a war. Just thinking about it, and I do often, because I am a ruminating bleeding heart like that, makes me want to weep for our society. I cannot imagine what it would be like coming home and having to reconnect with a child, while dealing with all of the complex feelings and guilt. I am not judging this woman as a parent. What I do know is that the experience in the line for a mere 45 minutes of their life was excruciating to me, and it broke my heart for the boy.

She could be a great parent. I am not saying I am a better parent. I am not saying that I haven't been bitingly sarcastic or nasty to my children, or that you couldn't play back a recording of some things I've said that would make me cringe. Or that could easily be torn apart on a blog.

There may have been some problematic points in the original post in which she seemed to be guessing at motivations for the behavior, and I can see how that could rub someone the wrong way. But, criticizing screeching, or valuing a scheduled feeding for an infant who is howling on an airplane over just feeding the poor thing, is just looking at a snapshot of an action and reacting. It's not mommy wars, in my book, and leaves room for a defense of such choices without name calling.

December 28, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterMomTFH

[...] On PhD in Parenting, this conversation comes up every once and again, and it did onthis post on parenting styles on vacation. [...]

Although it is really hard work, one upside of travelling so much with the Wee Guy by myself is that it really teaches me what the two of us can do together away from the home. At home there's always washing, housework, laundry, etc which needs to be done but on holiday there's a minimal amount of house upkeep to interfere. As a totally SAHM I find it easy to be distracted by my 'day job' away from spending time with my son. On holiday and without other parental support/interference Wee Guy and I make up the rules ourselves, returning home with new ways to play and new plans for where to travel next.
memo to self: stay young and healthy since our travel plans stretch way into the next couple of decades!

December 28, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterebbandflo aka pomomama

That is really smart. This is why we always buy No Expiration tickets when we hit Disney. The last thing I want is to be feeling like, "You're going to go have fun today WHETHER YOU LIKE IT OR NOT!" so we can get our money's worth on a ticket that's only good for that trip.

December 28, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterCogito

Honestly, I rarely vacation anymore since we had kids. My first screamed in cars non-stop, so the idea of traveling anywhere with her was highly unappealing. And when we have attempted it I've found that it's just not the same. The vacation becomes about the kids, which is fine, but at least at home I have access to a well-constructed parenting support system, you know? Plus, it's expensive to travel and I would rather not spend that kind of money if I'm not really going to enjoy it.

Anyways, my point is that there is an alternative to leaving the child at home or using the on-site daycare. Many parents I know travel with other family members. Even young toddlers can enjoy an hour or two playing in the sand with grandma while Mom and Dad have some much-needed downtime. Because the time apart is shorter and you're nearby if you're needed, you can do this with much younger kids than I would be comfortable leaving in childcare or at home. It requires family that is willing to travel with you, but it seems like a great option if you can swing it.

December 28, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterAmber

We haven't really vacationed since the kids were born. We aren't comfortable leaving them home, or in a childcare at the hotel either.
We have moved several times though, but our parenting has stayed the same no matter where we are.
I don't think people change their parenting on vacation. If that's how they are during vacation, that's ow they are at home.

December 28, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterDarcel

I adore this blog. I admire your ability to give your opinions in a straight forward way, with confidence, grace and humor. You don't placate and you don't waffle. You are a teacher and a student. I LOVE that about this blog. That being said, I was kind of thrown off by the tone of this one too-BUT I am doing my best to chalk it up to the fact that perhaps I saw a little too much of myself in the descriptions. I do absolutely see the value in these observations though. I guess it's just I see these labels and boxes that moms get put in all the time. The urge to start swinging naturally follows

I am a total helicopter mom and I admit it. I'm not proud of it, but there it is. I'm working on it. I wipe down grocery carts although I am not a germophobe, really...I actually don't use or really even "believe in" Purell. ;) But I wipe things down, perhaps because the browbeating I get for not letting my son have ALL his shots has gotten into my head. I also try to keep a hint of the "routine" going during vacation...(not really a schedule) just because I figure if he is feeling at all anxious about not being at home, there are some small familar things he does with us that he can latch on to and I feel like that frees him up to be comfortable on the trip. He is a happy little traveller and I'm not taking credit for that-he would probably be fine either way. But it makes ME feel better, and that makes for happier travels too. Not that I base my parenting choices on what makes me feel better, but as you said yourself, sometimes vacation puts us out of our comfort zone and I find I function best when I have a little control over some things. Not ALL things, not even most things. Just some things.

I do think it is a great idea to look at these caricatures we sometimes become and ask ourselves WHY we do this stuff. I try to re-examine it all the time and laugh at myself a bit if I can (not always easy). I try to keep what lines up with my values and makes sense and the stuff that doesn't, I try to throw it out.

Would this all be easier to swallow if you had said which of these things are describing you?? Yes. Of course, I would rather read about you criticizing (for lack of a better word) yourself than to interpret it as a critique of me ;)

December 28, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterMichelleH

Thanks for your comment Michelle and for your positive feedback on my blog.

Would it really help to know which things are describing me? Or only if there are the same things that you do? I guess that is why I hesitated to say which ones are me. I wanted to describe all the styles I saw and be able to laugh at them all, without saying this one is okay because it is me and this one is not okay because it is someone else.

December 28, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterphdinparenting

Best baby on a plane story EVER: (wait it might have been a greyhound...) My mom tells the story of a completely unsoothable child on a long journey. Making everyone crazy. Finally an old grandma lady comes up and says "give me the baby for five minutes, this will work I promise". Desperate mom does so. Grandma lady takes baby who screams even louder and more impressively for the entire five minutes it is held by this stranger. At the end of five minutes baby is returned to mother, quiets as soon as s/he is in her arms and goes to sleep. But this was decades ago. I am willing to bet that if I ever tried to offer help in a similar situation I would just embarrass the mom who would politely decline.

December 28, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterwrysuitor

I will admit I was expecting you to place yourself somewhere in there. An admission of your strengths and weaknesses. I walked away curious which parent you were ;-)

December 28, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterhillary

Glad you and your family had the chance to catch some sun for the holidays! Nothing better than a bit of sun and some ocean on the face!

I'll take a stab at your questions:

If I have to choose from the parenting styles listed in this post, I wouldn't wanted to be described as being any one of them. I think it comes down to the use of language. All of the options sound like the parents in question are doing something "wrong."

We're a mix of parenting styles, but our styles don't really seem to change on vacation; we're like this all the time. For instance, my hubby is very playful and energetic but is really big on ensuring sun protection. I'm more laid back than playful, but I'll tend to be the one who ensures that all food groups are met and everyone is hydrated.

We travel a lot and some things that we've tried and found helpful are: (a) adjust your expectations about what you'll actually be able to do and see when travelling with very young children, or if your children are old enough, explain that everyone will have a turn to do the activity of their choice, (b) find ways to let your child(ren) have some playtime with other children whether it is for a visit to the kids club or just by introducing yourself to another family sitting beside you on the beach, (c) bring some familiarity with you, so for example if your babe always sleeps in a crib but will not have his/her crib on vacation, ensure that a particular blanket or gro-bag gets introduced and used every night well in advance of the trip and then used on the trip too; this kind of familiarity can even apply to food such a bringing a bag of favourite snacks from home and having one each day as a source of comfort, (d) and as a follow-on to the previous point, although it can be helpful (and often comforting for children) to keep some routines from home going, do relax them a bit so that everyone feels like they've "let loose" a bit!

December 28, 2009 | Unregistered Commentercoffeewithjulie

Well, truthfully I don't know. I suppose saying which one you were would invite some scrutiny into how you described that parenting style. Do you think it had an effect on how you presented it?

In terms of being able to laugh at it, really I have to confess, I found the ones that were me more easy to laugh at than those that were not. I guess I have degrees of acceptance. For instance, I know I am helicopter-ish, so as far as my own parenting philosophy goes, I am more comfortable with this than I would be if I were using CIO. That is not to say, that I don't want to be conscious of this way of thinking and change it, but definitely there were things on the list I found less funny than others.

I don't know, just in the writing of this comment I am changing my stance about whether you should tell or not. I would love to hear what it is you are doing that's on this list and what if anything you are thinking of doing to change it. On the other hand, it really does make it more provocative for you NOT to tell, since doing so could be interpreted as tacit endorsement of that parenting type and would sort of give the readers who fall into that same category a "pass".

December 28, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterMichelleH

Well, okay...here goes.

I'm probably a bit of most of them. I don't expect anyone to fit into any one category perfectly all the time and I certainly don't.

Which parts are me?
- Did sunblock in the morning before heading to the beach, but rarely a second application
- Brought some juice boxes from home because the syrupy drinks they have by the kids pool are disgusting and while my kids drink water most of the time (not water I brought with me), they did want something else sometimes. I had forgotten that there were apple juice boxes that I could buy at the store at the resort. Next time I'd leave them at home.
- I also brought some snacks from home because my kids tend to snack a lot during the day and while we certainly had our share of ice cream, I wanted some somewhat healthy snacks as an option too.
- I did sometimes invoke the "don't bug me", but rather than ignoring them I left them in the care of their father or grandmother.
- We brought Leapster games with us for the kids to use in some situations, but didn't bring them along to meals.
- I probably screeched more than my fair share, but definitely not incessantly. If my kids didn't hear me or ignored me the first time, I went over and parented up close (or sent a delegate!).
- I built some sand castles and enjoyed it, but generally preferred swimming or reading my book.
- We didn't use the Kids Club as a babysitter, but did use the facilities and participate in some of their activities along with our kids. We did offer to our son several times that if he didn't want to come to the beach with us (which was the opinion he expressed several times), that he could stay at the Kids Club instead.
- My daughter cried out of complete exhaustion and ear pain while we were landing in Cuba. She wanted to be on my lap, but needed her seat belt on. I held her hand and did everything I could to comfort her that didn't involve her getting out of her seat. After whimpering for 5 minutes, she fell asleep.

December 28, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterphdinparenting

Annie, I'm glad that you posted this because your previous post sounded incredibly self righteous and that isn't like you to be that condemning of others' parenting. You always share your opinions without sounding like you are holier-than-thou but that post was not like the others! So THANK YOU for clarifying! You are a great blogger and I respect you and your writing even if I don't always agree with your stance. I'm glad you guys had a good vacation!

December 28, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterLauren

@MichelleH: I was fessing up as you wrote that comment! But I hope it won't be interpreted as a tacit endorsement of any of my failings. I also don't want my strengths to be interpreted as a bar I think everyone else has to meet. http://www.phdinparenting.com/2009/03/24/you-are-not-a-perfect-parent/" rel="nofollow">No one is a perfect parent and that is fine. But personally while accepting my lack of perfection, I do also strive to improve and that is what this blog is about!

December 28, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterphdinparenting

Rather, I'm glad that you posted a comment because this post sounded incredibly self righteous....

Sorry. I didn't realize that your posting on your style as a parent on vacation was in the comments and not a separate post.

December 28, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterLauren

Why? It's what you think and this is your blog. You have a right to your opinions. I've said it before, here, I think: we do all judge. Even when we say we're not judging :) And judgment isn't always bad. Though yes, I think we all need to remember now and then that there is another side to the story, that "bad behaviour" (for lack of a better term) doesn't always equal bad parenting across the board. I personally am uncomfortable going on vacation without my kids (2 and 5), and would not be comfortable leaving them with a hotel babysitter either. That said, there may be a time in the future where this will change. Right now, we'd just be happy with a family vacation, haven't had one in over 3 years :)

But then, I am NOT an advocate of CIO for any reason, and yet, I've been "that parent" with the hysterical 18 mos old on a plane. After it was delayed for several hours. After it then sat, loaded, on the runway, for several more, well past regular bedtime. Without offer of food or water, and we'd run out of snacks. The dirty looks we got from other people did NOT help (hey, at that point, "I* wanted to cry too!) And thank goodness, I was nursing, so I did that, but frankly, as someone who had never liked nursing in public and had no idea I'd nurse past 6 mos, let alone to (eventually) 2.5 years, it was actually a big deal for me. Shouldn't have been, but was.

Oh yeah, and we're probably helicopter-ish parents ;)

December 30, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterAndrea

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