Yes, I Judge Parents Who Dump Kids At Hotel 'Kids Clubs' During Family Vacations

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I'm giving you the stink eye.
Family

Who goes on a family vacation and leaves their kids for hours and hours with complete strangers?

Our days started at 8 AM — we'd hit up miles and miles of a breakfast buffet that served fresh fruit, fluffy pancakes, cheese plates, an omelet station, pastry bar and anything else you might want for breakfast/brunch. My son loved art directing his own plate with pink watermelon wedges, crisp bacon, salami, cubes of cheese, and a mound of scrambled eggs — and I loved watching him, remembering all the other times we traveled together when he was much younger. I had bottles on the ready in my diaper bag!

After breakfast, we'd meander around the patio that was lined with palm trees and plants that grew purple, yellow and white flowers all in one. My son suggested the bud I often plucked from the plant and slid into my hair looked like "a bowl of sherbet."

Little moments like that make vacationing with my son so special — and so was watching him dash into the crystal clear aqua ocean that was 80 degrees with no aggressive waves. We floated on our backs in the salt water and discussed what the clouds looked like: "A pineapple!" "Duck, but with cat ears!" "A marshmallow!" 

Before I knew it, it was lunchtime and we were sitting under an umbrella with our feet sunk into the silky, soft sand. I enjoyed salmon kabobs and quinoa bean salad. He chose flank steak with a pile of shoestring french fries. We both had neon drinks with pineapple and tiny umbrellas, mine blue and his lime green. (He collected 17 umbrellas on the trip and brought them home. I found one in my coffee one morning. Sweet, right?) After our bellies were full, we'd either hit up a pool and engage in DJ dance party games or head to the waterpark. 

The second day we were there, my tan child led me to the waterpark. I'll just put it out there: I don't love waterparks, but I wanted to embrace the vacation and spend every second with my kid.

I work full-time and he goes to an aftercare program and plays sports. Weekdays are a blur of unknotting, unforgiving baseball cleat shoestrings, finding lost library books due now, frozen (but organic) pizza for dinner and homework, and sometimes back to work for me. There's never any time to play a board game, watch a show or just relax together. Vacation is about unplugging and relaxing, so that's what we did. 

At the waterpark, he dared me to go down a steep tunnel slide. I obliged and found myself speeding down a pitch black tube; my stomach flip-flopping. In seconds I burst into the pool. Splash! I waited for my son in the pool and we high-fived and agreed the slide was "super-scary." We needed an ice cream break stat. I needed a cocktail!

That's when I spotted the camp counselors and their hoard of children that parents had deposited in the "hotel kid club." 

The children wore plastic bracelets, some had multiple colors ringed up their arms — indicating they'd been to hotel kid clubs several times. 

"I don't wanna go on the slides again," a spirited little girl whined to her counselor.

"The group is doing slides for now. Go play," she said matter of factly. 

The little girl in the tutu bathing suit sat on the pool stairs with her arms folded. Other kids had fun, dashing around in the splash pad and shooting down the water tubes. There were so many kids in the hotel kid club; I couldn't count them all. I wondered what their parents were doing: A quiet lunch? Massage? Parasailing? Afternoon delight? Getting drunk? 

Whatever they were doing, I decided they sucked immediately. 

Who goes on a family vacation and leaves their kids for hours and hours with complete strangers?

And it was hours and hours because I heard the counselor say, "Since we went to breakfast at the Chillers buffet, we're headed to Kiko Grill for lunch." She asked all the allergy kids to line up and quizzed them: "Peanut, right? Gluten, for you. No dairy. No chickpeas and seeds."

She seemed mostly on top of her game, but when she questioned if the child was the peanut allergy kid my stomach knotted up. Kids with peanut allergies can die. Did mom leave an EPI pen? Does the counselor know how to use it? Probably, but who knows?

As they headed off in two single file lines, dripping with pool water, I looked back at my son, wrapped in a towel, with his vanilla ice cream mustache, and smiled. He knew nothing of this camp — and there's a bunch of reasons why.

I have trust issues and will not leave my son with strangers in a different country near large bodies of water. But I don't even count that as a trust issue. I see it as completely normal to spend family vacation with... my family. Also, what if my son wandered off and no one noticed? What if a stranger eyeballed him as a soft target and snatched him — child trafficked him to a land far away like in the movie Taken and Taken 2 and Taken 3!?

I realize these are extreme what-ifs, but I own them. I also own the fact that as a mother, I act unselfishly when it comes to my son. I've been on one solo vacation since becoming a mom and left my son with trusted family at home. When I'm not with him, sure I let my hair down and drink and flirt with men, but when we're together, I want him to know it's all about him.

So yes, a day at the resort's luxe spa sounds amazing. An adult wine tasting, even better. The opportunity to curl up in bed for a nap, glorious. But my son has his fair share of sitters when I have work events or can't drive him to baseball practice because I'm stuck at the office. To leave him in a hotel kid clubs on an island so beautiful it could have been a dream, is incredulous and absurd to me.

Parents: Before you know it, your child is going to be a teenager who no longer thinks your the coolest person they ever met. We will leave our kids in dorm rooms, throw them a spare hundred bucks when they have their "romp around Europe" experience we are NOT invited to (hey, I went! and nope mom and dad were not included). 

Girlfriends and boyfriends will become their priority and we'll simply be people that provide shelter and food and money at times. We will be the bad guy. The good guy. The therapist. The person who hears the words "I hate you!" because NO, you're not wearing that outfit to school and HELLO NO, you are not going to Cancun, Mexico for highschool spring break, you teenage lunatic. 

To see unhappy kids in vacation camp not having fun is bothersome to me. To see children of all ages lumped into one group also seems odd. By fifth grade, kids know about stuff. They know about curse words and getting their periods and maybe even what sex is. I wouldn't want my little second grader around an older child. Seeing brother and sister duos hold hands, sticking together, with happy faces, nonetheless meant they wanted to be together — as a somewhat family. 

Back in our room, while my tween showered, belting out a Twenty One Pilots song, I thumbed through the camp brochure. "We are pleased to accept your children as early as 7 AM." Other areas noted that counselors and onsite babysitters were around to take kids to their meals, change diapers or babysit in the room. "We are here so you can relax." 

Pffffffff.

I don't know about you, but I'd rather save date night for when we're back home and grandma is on duty. As for date night on vacation, I was totally fine with my little boy and a plate of grilled calamari center table. Afterward, we took in a show — about dinosaurs. 

.......

Laine White is a pen name because the author promised her child she wouldn't write about him. In real life she likes to eat cheese and watch Netflix.

Note from author, July 11, 2017: 

I wrote this op-ed piece to share my viewpoint because that is the point of blogging. I work full-time for a publishing company — and went on a vacation with my son — and wanted to experience the entire time with him. I feel strongly about not leaving my child in a kid camp, or with a babysitter out of the country — and he wanted to be with me. 

I didn't mean to offend anyone. Trust me, people have suggested I'm missing my kid's childhood because he attends aftercare, soccer camp and summer camp  but I work. And it's because I work that I want to spend as much time with him as I can when I am on vacation. 

I originally penned the article under the name Laine White because my son is nearly 10 and he doesn't want me writing about him. I'm no longer a "mommy blogger" despite the fact I launched glamour.com's first ever parenting blog Storked! in 2007 and earned a book deal [Rattled! from Random House] in 2009.

I am not shocked by the reaction to this article at all. Parenting blogs spark all kinds of reactions all the time. I said parents who leave their kids in camps "suck" — yes, shock value, let's get the Internet talking and bashing and going nuts. I've been in this game for a long time. Bloggers wrote horrendous things about me when I was a soon-to-be single mom blogging for Glamour — I almost quit the first week! 

But here's the thing, I'm almost 37. I beat cancer. I don't care if commenters come at me. I've been there and done that when I was 26, single and (as a popular website once said) "big as a house" and should be "sterilized." Commenters suggested I abort my baby. So let's get one thing straight: We all get an opinion. 

 

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