Last summer was difficult to put it mildly. Everyone seemed to be either at a difficult age or at least a difficult combination of ages so that time with all five kids was nearly unbearable. We are not a family of 7 all the time or even half the time but we are together most of the summer and every winter break. Last year, as summer approached, I changed my work to part-time to help face this change. We travel to Kansas to have extra adult support to cope with all the kids. I am happy to say that, for now, we finally got the hang of it. But last summer was different.
As we muddled through our time with all five kids, I imagined the next time we would have them all in December and I booked a cruise.
Carnival was the cheapest cruise line and the only one with childcare for kids under 3. They have a fairly bad reputation, so with low expectations, I booked the Carnival Miracle for a 7 night cruise to Mexico from Los Angeles. The thought of this cruise got me through every day for the four months leading up to it.
No matter what the cruise was like, I knew for certain that each one of the kids would love it beyond anything they had ever experienced.
As an adult, I'd rather vacation in almost any other way than a cruise. Even my son, who was 13 at the time, was able to identify the moral problems with taking a cruise. Isn't this terrible for the oceans and the environment in multiple ways? Isn't this just wasting an excess of money that we could have given to charity? Isn't this just a waste of food and a series of incredible indulgences? What are we doing in Mexico where everyone is so poor compared to us? Couldn't we come down here and use this much money to really help a lot of people? He had a blast on the cruise but asked that we never do such a thing again because it's just so blatantly wrong.
I booked the cruise because I knew this would be the perfect thing to do with all our kids to avoid having 5 people asking me for something all at once all day long every day for a week.
I hope that most parents reading that are shaking their head and thinking, "um, why don't you just teach your kids not to do that?" Yes, we finally figured that out. It took us 4 1/2 years.
We finally figured out that we can make rules like:
You may not ask us a question a second time after we have been answered or you will get a consequence.
Don't ask us when a meal is or what a meal is. We will feed you enough every day.
Don't ask the other parent what you have already asked one parent.
Don't interrupt a conversation to ask a question.
Help clean up after meals.
Get yourself a healthy breakfast every morning when you wake up.
Etc. We have a list and there are consequences for not following the rules. Yes, we finally figured out parenting (by the time our oldest was 14).
Anyway, back to the cruise.
No cooking for a week. No cleaning for a week. No asking the kids to do anything for a week. Just the seven of us, on a boat where we could each eat what we wanted all day long, all night long and do anything we wanted on a little safe space.
Cruise basics: 24 hours a day you can eat something. 24 hours a day you can order free room service. On this cruise there was always pizza, burgers, fries, nachos and ice cream. At meal times there was a lot of other food choices. Another cruise basic: you can't get lost on a cruise. The ship may be big but there are always one of 5 or 6 places that a person will likely be at any given time and that's if you have had zero communication. There is always an activity happening on a cruise. And there is always a movie playing on your tv.
By day 3, the pizza place knew our girls and exactly what they would order for breakfast, mid-morning snack and a few other times throughout the day. I think they were sick of the pizza by day 4.
They could not actually grasp the fact that they didn't have to ask us before getting themselves as much ice cream as they wanted. Or any other dessert.
I don't know if the kids ate any vegetables or fruits during that week. I'm pretty sure they did because one day there was fondue. There was a lot of fruit dipped in chocolate that day.
The plan for the cruise was for my husband and I to have time together. No work, no work phone, no computer. Just the two of us enjoying a lot of meals and entertainment and spending time with kids if they were being nice or letting them hang out in kids club if they were not.
We spent most of our time with the kids.
I think everyone's favorite activity was going to the fancy dinners, ordering whatever they wanted without fear that they wouldn't like it, knowing they could go to the buffet after if it didn't work out.
It was really just about the most fun we have ever had all together.
We had pretty good weather but didn't spend too much time in the pools. We loved all the shows. The comedy club was fantastic.
One night after dinner we were so exhausted that we told the four big kids to go to the family show while we put Jacob to bed. We told them we would meet them there shortly. We lay down on our bed, fully dressed to have a short nap. When we woke up it was 1 in the morning. In a panic, we ran next door and found all four kids sound asleep. The next day we discovered that they had waited a short while before heading to the front row where they watched the family show and stayed for two 18-and-up shows until our oldest made them go to bed because he didn't want to stay up anymore. I'm fairly sure that was their favorite night.