School Vacation Week: notes from the front

To most of us, most of the world even, this week is the festive week between Christmas and the New Year.  Most Universities are in Intercession, some non-profits are closed, and many people choose to go on vacation.  To those of us who work in education, this is School Vacation Week.  To those of us who work in the Service Industry, this is Hell Week.

To those of us who do both, this is a tsunami of bad behavior, worse parenting, and unbelievable entitlement.

I recall this time from my childhood as a time of playing with friends, playing with toys from Christmas, and generally running around the neighborhood and entertaining ourselves.  I do not remember this as a time when the adults in our lives stopped everything they were doing to take us on vacation, entertain us, or take us on day trips to museums, duck tours, and shopping at the mall.

This may have been because I grew up in a solidly working class neighborhood.  We were pretty much the only family on the block with middle class aspirations.  This was also when kids were allowed to hang out together unsupervised, it was before play dates, and when kids were expected to be out playing and getting exercise without twelve kinds of protective gear and a layer of bubble wrap.  I’m not that old, though I am certainly a curmudgeon, but times were different then.

So it gets weirder for me every year to work in situations where I see parents drag their kids all over creation during this week.  Worse, is that the kids are expecting to be entertained.  It isn’t enough that they have 4 gaming systems at home with 100 different games and the quite endless distraction provided by the internet on their phones.  Their tiny attention spans want everything and they want it NOW.

Dealing with this from behind a desk when you’re trying to help the parents with a reservation, sale, problem, etc. is amazing.  This is absolutely the busiest time of year for the places where I am currently working and I see the behavior get worse every year.  The part that shocks me is not that this happens though, it’s that the parents continually look at me, year after year and say, “Wow, I really didn’t think it would be this busy.”

Huh, who’d a thunk that every other parent who won’t let their kid out to play with the neighborhood kids, can’t stand them screaming at the TV/gaming console/internet/etc anymore, and is regretting taking time off to spend with their kid is now doing the exact same thing you’re doing?  Shocking.  A mystery for the ages.

I’m fully aware that I’m jaded.  So’s anyone else who has worked in the Service Industry for more than 5 minutes.  Dealing with the public is horrible.  I had a woman on Saturday tell me, quite casually, that all of my coworkers were thieves. This statement included me.  I wasn’t even offended, I’ve been called much worse.  I’ve been screamed at, punched, hit in the face, shoved, sneezed and coughed on, flipped off, and cursed at.  (The physical stuff was all from children, only two of whom were in any way reprimanded by their parents/caregivers.)

It’s Monday.  Most kids don’t go back to school till a week from today.  So, if you’re reading this and contemplating taking your kids somewhere and setting them loose on the world, please don’t.

Make them play with each other.  Give them a board game.  Let them outside.  Yes, even in the cold.  Learn the names of the neighborhood kids.  Encourage the kids to learn problem solving.  Teach them the value of quiet.  Let them learn the value of your presence is for more than what you’ll buy them in a gift shop.  Give them a book to read, an actual paper book.

And, please, for the love of all that is good and holy, teach them to cover their mouthes when they sneeze or cough.


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