As you read this, I want you to picture me by the pool, sunglasses (and, of course, shirt) on, soaking up the sun in Florida.
OK, now for those of you still reading — the hardcore readers who weren’t instantly turned off by that boastful first sentence — please understand I need this vacation right now.
You see, my wife and I are the parents of a 3-year-old boy with the energy of a marathon runner on performance-enhancing drugs and a 10-month-old girl. Winter has not been kind to us.
The March trip to Tampa has become a Parpan family staple. It started when my wife, Vera, was on maternity leave in 2014, just a few months after giving birth to our oldest, Jack. Vera’s parents had purchased a condo the year before, providing us with the perfect getaway to soak up some sun in the winter. We’ve returned on roughly the same date each year since.
Not much of a pool guy, I quickly took to the vacation for other reasons. One is that we always time it around the first weekend of the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament, which drives Times Review editor Joe Werkmeister, an even bigger basketball fan than myself, nuts as he covers me so I can watch four straight days of wall-to-wall college hoops.
It’s also an ideal time because it allows me to take in a Mets spring training game each season. And the trip falls around my birthday, although on Thursday I’ll be spending a portion of my 38th at various airports, lugging around car seats and the kids who fill them.
It’s those children, however, who make this trip absolutely necessary. There’s only so much you can do around here with kids in the winter before you all start to go a little mad. In our house, all winter and no play makes Jack far from a dull boy. There’s only so much memberships to Safari Adventure and the Long Island Aquarium can do about that.
Of course, we were teased along with everyone else last month when we experienced that one 70-degree weekend. The summer clothes came out of the dresser for a day as we went outside for a few hours of fresh air. It’s been all indoors ever since and we’re running out of activities.
Being cooped up has taught me a few things I didn’t already know. For starters, I’ve come to realize there are only six spots in our three-bedroom ranch suitable for playing hide and seek with a 3-year-old. None are capable of producing more than two minutes of quiet time.
I also learned that “The Secret Life of Pets” is only watchable four times, and by the 21st viewing it could prove fatal. Don’t even get me started on “Fantasia,” “Peppa Pig” and “Caillou,” who really needs to explain why he doesn’t have hair.
I’ve also figured out that the “Star Wars” toys where the heads pop off are the most frustrating pieces of plastic ever manufactured. Somewhere out there, one Rey’s head is yearning for a little boy to find her before the vacuum does.
My son has also begun playing a game he calls “Donald Trump” in which he takes on an evil villain voice and says, “I’m Donald Trump and I want to fight you.” What can I say? The kid’s a patriot.
I know that for some parents snow provides relief in the winter, as they get a day off from work and break out the snow suits and sleds for some outdoor fun. In three years, Jack has amassed a grand total of 39 minutes in the snow, most of it spent eating misshapen snowballs and saying “I’m cold” on repeat. The time he takes to get dressed is actually longer than the time he spends outside.
So for us, snow days mostly consist of assembling and reassembling the same four puzzles and playing superhero picnic on a yoga mat as PBS Kids plays in the background.
Things didn’t get any better this final week of winter, with snow falling on both Friday and Tuesday and below-freezing temperatures on the days in between. Adding to our need to stay indoors were reports that a coyote was spotted near our block Friday. I kid you not.
So before you get jealous of the week my family will be spending by the pool and at Disney and various other warm-weather locales, keep in mind that we earned it. And if you still don’t feel bad for us, please take solace in the forecast for the weekend we return. It’s still early, but snow is possible for four straight days.
Top photo credit: Ricky Brigante/flickr.com
The author is the executive editor of Times Review Media Group. You can lodge a complaint with his vacation via auto reply at firstname.lastname@example.org