Occasionally Craig and I are just motivated enough at the end of the day, once the circus of putting our children to bed has been completed, to flip on the television. Sunken into the couch with a remote control in hand, we are absorbed into the happy wasteland that is reality television: The Amazing Race, Love in the Wild, Survivor and other adventure reality series’ show us, in theatrical detail, the perils of “real” life as contestants rush to board airplanes, struggle to read maps, and race through obstacle courses… and other such feats.
We inevitably spend most of this television time scoffing at the reality stars on our screen, specifically when doe-eyed women look solemnly into the camera and say things like, “These adventures are, like, real life, and if we can get though this, we can get through anything back home.”
OK, honey, let’s make this a real “adventure” and throw a few kids into the mix – and see how you fare!
This is Craig and my idea of “real life” entertainment: Take a family with multiple kids under the age of 4, and follow them with a camera as they attempt something as crazy as, say, taking a week-long vacation to see family in Cape Cod.
The scene starts with two parents glaring at each other from the front seats of a steamy car, a line of traffic as far as the eye can see stretching out in front of and behind them. A narrator explains that this is hour six of a seven-hour drive, from this family’s home in a remote corner of Colorado to Denver (unlike other reality shows, in this one, the contestants are limited by a normal family’s financial constraints – hence this family of four needing to drive to an airport seven hours away in an effort to get the best deal on airfare possible.)
“Well, I guess I didn’t factor in traffic,” the mother says, defeated, after the father comments that this team is well behind schedule.
In the backseat, amid a mountain of coloring books, pillows and brightly colored kids’ sand-buckets reserved for the always-untimely episodes of carsickness, two little girls sit listlessly swinging their legs.
“Out! Out!” the little one begins wailing.
“When are we going to be there?” the older one whines, for the fifteenth time in that five-mile span of traffic-packed Interstate.
“Here, have a Tic-Tac,” the father says, thrusting a few orange breath mints into the back seat in a desperate attempt to keep his children occupied for a few minutes longer.
The kids are quiet for approximately one minute. The little one begins sneezing uncontrollably. The older one laughs incessantly with each a-choo.
“Is she allergic to something?” the mother wonders aloud, looking back at the two sneezing/laughing girls.
The mother notices orange snot running out of the littlest girl’s right nostril.
“DID YOU PUT THE TIC-TAC UP YOUR NOSE?”
Both girls laugh harder, between sneezes.
“Did she put the Tic-Tac up her nose?” the father looks sideways at the mother.
“Yes, she put the Tic-Tac up her nose!” the mother snaps.
“Do we need to pull over?” the father asks.
“No, keep driving,” the mother answers. “It will dissolve… I think.”
Next, the scene flashes to the father looking at a text message on his cell phone, just as the family is rushing towards the check-in line at the airport, pushing a doublewide stroller and pulling two unwieldy suitcases on wheels.
“The flight is delayed until 2:40 a.m.,” the father says, dejectedly.
The mother buries her head in her hands.
“So much for the red-eye being a good idea,” she says.
Next, our viewers join the family in a darkened airplane. The screen flashes the time: 4:31 a.m. Every passenger is sleeping, except the mother, who is whispering into the camera: “I cannot feel my legs. And look at these people!” she says, scanning her plane-mates, sleeping peacefully in various positions that would seem uncomfortable to anyone who doesn’t have a 33-pound child sprawled across their lap. “But I can’t move. To wake her would be worse. But I really can’t feel my legs.”
The next scene shows the family and their pile of luggage, standing outside of a train station in Boston, the father waving his hands wildly in an attempt to hail a cab. The screen reads: “8:22 a.m. local time. Time until ferry leaves: 38 minutes. Distance to ferry: 4 miles.”
A cab pulls over. As the on-screen stopwatch ticks, the mother and father toss the children into the taxi, and use Ninja-like moves to fold the doublewide stroller and load their luggage into the trunk. “Time to load taxi: 1 minute 23 seconds,” the screen reads.
“Long Wharf!” the father shouts to the driver, slamming the door closed.
“We need to catch the ferry to Cape Cod. Do you know where that is?” he asks.
“Yes, yes,” the back of the driver’s head nods.
8:35 a.m.: The family unloads their gear on the sidewalk, using Ninja-like moves to resurrect the doublewide stroller and strap their various accoutrements, including children, onto their traveling caravan.
“Plenty of time,” the father smiles back to the mother he sets off towards the dock in the distance, yanking at the two suitcases behind him.
“Then why are we running?” she yells, pushing the stroller at a fast clip on the father’s heels.
“I don’t know,” he yells back to her, and they keep running towards the water.
They reach the dock. There are no signs, no crowds, no boat emblazoned with the message, “Fast Ferry to Cape Cod.”
The family walks in circles around this area of the dock, wasting precious minutes looking for the ferry that clearly isn’t there.
They finally get directions. “Other side of the Aquarium!” the father yells, and they set off running again.
They round a corner and can see the Ferry in the distance. Time to departure: 8 minutes.
“Goldfish!” the 2-year-old demands from her seat in the stroller.
“I need to pee,” the 4-year-old whines.
“No!” the mother says.
“Hold it!” the father begs.
The dock is carnival-like, packed wall-to-wall with slow-moving tourists. The family blazes onwards, creating a disturbance in their midst as they push their traveling circus through the crowd. The father unknowingly runs over the toes of an unsuspecting bystander with one of their suitcases; the mother smiles sweetly at the man, mouthing “Sorry!” as she zooms past.
“Do you have the tickets?” the father shouts over his shoulder as they approach the gate leading down to the ferry.
“Tickets? I thought you had them!” she says, breathless.
The father stops dead in his tracks.
“Just kidding!” the mother laughs.
The family loads the ferry, stows their luggage, and sinks into their seats. With two minutes to spare, mother and father high-five. This family has won this round of the adventure known as life with kids.