Life with Liz: Packing problems
I’ve been doing a lot of packing lately. Rather, the kids should have been doing a lot of packing lately, but have proved completely inept at the task. For a family that is on the road as much as we are, I have not developed a system that works for us, and I am afraid it has trickled down to our kids.
The most notorious example of our packing system breaking down wasn’t about poorly packing the duffel bag, it was about not putting the packed bag in the car when we headed to the beach for a long weekend. A spent a long weekend in the same swimsuit that we paid an outrageous sum for on the boardwalk and his brother’s extra set of clothes, which were only a little bit too tight. You’d think we’d have learned our lesson after that, but you’d be wrong.
The first battle was trying to get the boys off to Scout camp. Their Scout troop is very organized and provided an extensive packing list which I printed out and gave to the boys a week ahead of time and advised them to start assembling all of their necessary items. After a few days, I asked them to give me a list of the items that they needed me to pick up to restock their first aid kids, or their shower bags. So, naturally, no one followed directions, and the Saturday night before they were to ship out found me at Walmart grateful for the 24-hour service and fuming at my ill-prepared children.
The next debacle arose when I discovered that G only packed himself two pairs of underwear. I considered this woeful under-packing; he considered it being realistic. At that point, I proceeded to dig through his entire trunk and fold shirt/shorts/underwear/sock combinations for each day that he’d be at camp. Then I proceeded to watch him wear the same outfit every single day of camp, as the troop’s photo journal unfolded daily.
He came home with a case of neatly packed clothes and one bag of clothes that I was tempted to burn. Little did I know that not changing his clothes all week and keeping his trunk locked was the smart thing to do. A took the opposite approach. His trunk got opened and dumped out on the first day of camp, and the various items in it spread to the far corners of the site over the course of the week. Despite my attempts to wrangle everything back into his box on the last day of camp, the other Scout moms and I are still exchanging text messages about whose stuff has shown up in someone else’s footlocker.
The Wonderful Husband also went to Scout camp, but after getting the other two packed and unpacked, he was on his own.
No sooner was everything unpacked, deodorized, sanitized, washed and put away when it was time to pack up for our annual family vacation. We were returning to the shores of Cranberry Lake for another adventure with our friends, the J family. I learned my lesson from Scout camp. It was every man and child for themselves. Spending five days in the wild with good friends meant that I didn’t care if they wore underwear at all, much less the same pair every day.
I sent all three kids to their rooms with their duffels and proceeded to stand in the hallway and yell out directions.
“Pack your underwear. Pack your shorts. Pack at least one pair of long pants.” Then I repeated myself. “Do you have underwear in your bag?” After everyone confirmed, we went down to the shoe rack. “Flip-flops, sneakers, hiking boots?” And, then I sent them right out to the car with their bags. I thought my plan was foolproof.
As usual, I was wrong. In the past, I’ve always taken responsibility for the kids’ toiletries. However, this year, with both boys going out to camp and with A getting contact lenses, we invested in shower bags for both. They haven’t quite caught on to being responsible for their own items, and I was only too happy to shove that responsibility onto them and then forget that I did. So, we arrived, unpacked, and sent the kids to brush their teeth after their road trip snack and nap, at which point we discovered that they didn’t have the tools to get the job done. I usually have a few extra travel/sample size brushes in my bag, but since this wasn’t the first time they’d been forgotten, I was running low.
It was a few days until we made it 6 miles across the lake to the general store to restock, and I didn’t stress about it. They told me that they either shared toothbrushes or used their fingers or just swished some toothpaste around in their mouth. Since we were on vacation, I rolled with it. Everyone seems to have come home with all their teeth and a whole lot of good memories, so it was a good vacation all around.
Through all our packing mishaps, we’ve always managed to improvise or do without, and what we always manage to remember to bring home are the great memories of all our adventures.
Liz Pinkey is a contributing writer to the Times News. Her column appears weekly in our Saturday feature section.