One vacation that won’t be lampooned

Welcome back, vacation. You look as stunning as ever.

For the first couple of years of our son’s life, vacation had a different meaning. It was a time to dump the kid at Grandma and Grandpa’s house for a night or two, barely stopping in the driveway before bolting for some cheap but quiet bed-and-breakfast where my wife and I would collapse.

Rest can be a treat for worn-out parents who somehow have cries of “MOMMYYYYYY! DADDYYYYYY!” ringing in their ears even when the little voice is 100 miles away. Still, it felt wrong.

I’ve never been the chill-on-the-beach type. Vacation is a time to accelerate onto the straightaway, not to slow down for a pit stop. To me, those tourist booklets aren’t guides to skim for ideas; they’re mandatory checklists to complete or die trying.

This month, we finally initiated a new vacationer. Having deemed our 3-year-old mature enough to travel, we took our first family trip: 21⁄2 days in Chicago – short enough and close enough to home that we could abort the mission without wasting thousands of dollars if Sean had a meltdown.

The journey proved he has expensive taste. The Shedd Aquarium, where free admission provided the timing of our trip, held his interest for less than an hour. He oohed and ahhed over a few exotic fish, then began to whine as school groups streamed in by the busload.

“Can we go back to the hotel now? Pleeeeaaaase?” he said.

Clearly I have more work to do. That’s not how Moore vacations work, son.

To him our four-star joint, outrageously priced for the real world but a bargain by big-city standards, was the ultimate destination. And not just because he had a double bed to himself.

Deputized to push the up and down buttons – a privilege we temporarily suspended after he hit the alarm button to alert security – he re-created the elevator ride over and over in our room. Hopefully the maintenance staff can get the sliding closet door back on track.

The train ride, another main focus of the trip, captivated him on the way down but lost its luster on the return trip. Taxis were the boy’s favored mode of transit. When the meter hit $6 before the cab ever left one museum parking lot, I had to look away but the little guy stared with fascination at the glowing red numbers.

Money, though, couldn’t buy his stomach’s happiness. We ordered him a $13 hamburger, which was $13 for each bite he took. He preferred to devour the supply of granola bars we packed.

Eventually the newbie traveler did have an ugly public meltdown. It was the kind brought on by exhaustion after an overdose of thrilling new experiences.

That’s my boy.

• Reporter Mike Moore writes Daddy Talk. Mommy Talk is written by reporter Marci Laehr Tenuta. Their columns run on alternate weeks and can be found online at www.journaltimes.com/mom. Laehr Tenuta has three children, two boys and a girl. Moore has one son.

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