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Challenge: Traveling with Kids

Spring Break FOMO: Parenting Lessons From Bass Pro Shop

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bf546e36de9099dfe24cfeb80d8f9eabec305843.jpgYou only get twelve Spring Breaks in your lifetime as a kid.

So I get a little itch when the kids get out of school, and we…

Don’t. Have. Plans.

Because I want to make magical memories with my children.

All three of them.

Every chance I get.

Somehow I allowed the season to sneak up on me this year and I'm not sure if it was the Mom Guilt or the FOMO (Fear of Missing Out) or another acronym later to be determined, but I found myself in great distress, sitting on my bed surrounded by family discussing our options.

You know, there is something about planning a family trip that makes parents delusional. As if their child's bad behavior will magically disappear when they cross state lines. Their impolite, dirty little blame shifters will positively transform into the sweet cherubic children they see on all of the destination brochures to Orlando.

Um, No.

This year we didn’t have five days for Disney world.

We had forty-eight hours. Like the crime show on CBS starring Erin Moriarty…

So… What could we do with two girls, ages sixteen and nine, and a five-year-old hyperactive boy with autism?

My teenager suggested the mall. Any mall.

My nine year old suggested a million things. In under thirty seconds.

I was asking my friend google about children’s museums when my husband, who’s usually mum on such matters, became uncharacteristically excited.

Bass Pro Shop in Memphis!!! Bass Pro Shop!!!

After he had explained multiple features and benefits of the venue, I thought about how much he reminded me of Ralphie Parker from A Christmas Story, and then I dialed up Big Cypress Lodge, the hotel inside of the outdoor recreation retailer.

Now, I have to tell you that as a city girl I’m not at all into duck calls, guns or camouflage, but I decided to take one for the team. Besides, Clarissa at Big Cypress promised that the balcony suite I was charging to my Visa was fabulous and nowhere close to camping.

I scheduled our arrival to coincide with the 2 o'clock alligator feeding, but I forgot to allow for time to board the dog, gas the car, and return home for something I forgot. This resulted in a severe case of FOBL (Fear of Being Late), which is something that affects only my husband in our family. From what I have observed, this condition changes a happy go lucky guy into a road raging speed monster that sucks all of the fun out of things in the name of prompt arrival for…fun.

I believe it only affects men as it is stupid.

The Burnett’s made "good time" and arrived at our destination early with a just touch of motion sickness. Each member of our party of five had just enough time to audit the dimly lit water closet in our suite before it was time to…

GO!!! GO!!! GO!!!!

Daddy’s FOBL had brought out his inner drill sergeant, and he stood holding the door open commanding us to leave.

Thankfully, the 84,000-gallon alligator habitat was near the entrance of the massive store, and when we reached it, one minute early, we breathed a sigh of relief… and confusion.

No one else was around.

Perhaps we were the only savvy patrons at Bass Pro?

As the clock rolled past 2, my nerves kicked in, and I started to realize we were having a very Griswold moment. I heard a voice in my head telling me to watch out for John Candy. When I start to panic, I picture the worst case scenario even if it’s ridiculous.

Oh Dear God, they are going to shut the store down. The moose out front should have told us.

I asked an associate about the gators.

“Nah-they feed them at different times. Already fed em today.”D-A-M-N! I mouthed, silently, at no one in particular.

I relayed the news to my husband who was walking the kids through the ladies sportswear section beside the cypress swamp.

D-A-M-N! He said loudly, directly at me.

We were going to need a moment.

As parents we understood continuing without a plan with our autistic child was akin to running with scissors while drunk.

Confused and surprised by our ignorance, both of us thought the other had instructed the sixteen-year-old to watch our son, who was getting into the theme of things.

See, H2O is his passion, and Bass Pro sounded like such a good idea with 600,000 gallons of water features, a swamp, and 1,800 fish. How could we go wrong!

There is something about planning a trip that makes parents delusional…

Kudos to the designers of Bass Pro for creating an environment that was so inviting that my son was ready to dolphin dive off the slight edge into the crystal clear waters and swim alongside the thirty-pound catfish and sturgeon he had been eyeballing during the wait.

I was in the middle of my "creating magical memories speech" when my husband started screaming.


I have heard that my husband was a great athlete in high school.

Well, he’s still got it.

I bore witness to his agility as he powerfully leaped over a clearance rack of ladies flannel shirts and vests and then vaulted himself over a display of rubber boots to grab our unclothed son before he swam with the fishes.

Or urinated on them we're not sure what he was planning on doing.

We did know it was time to press pause and retreat to our luxury suite. We needed to regroup and rethink our plan.

The room was pure perfection, and the balcony that looked over the superstore afforded my son a safe view of the swamp and cypress trees.

They had me at Room Service.

They had my teenager at free WiFi.

They had my nine-year-old begging for a fishing pole.

She was looking for adventure, and I was looking a hairbrush because as we were regrouping, I had noticed the matted tangles she was hiding in her long brown hair.

These weren’t your average comb through and go kind of twists either.

No, blue jays could have nested in what she had going on, and if I didn’t take care of business, she’d be sporting a bob by the weekend.

Let me tell you, that was not in the plan.

There were tears.

Mostly mine.

So when my husband offered to take her to create a few memories she'd enjoy and look for his Red Ryder BB Gun, I did not argue.


I thought we could relax.

I was wrong.

For the next fifteen minutes, my son cried.

My daughter and I tried… Everything.

We tried, and we failed…together.


Turns out, light up oversized Jacuzzi tubs are also fantastic sensory spas for kids with autism when you add shower gel.


It was a hit.

Then I had an idea.

I brought in two chairs from the balcony so we could sit.

While Nathan merrily played in the bubbles, we sat in the chairs and just… talked.

There was my magic.

What I have come to understand is this.

You don’t have to go to Disney World or the beach to create long lasting memories with your children.

You don’t have to have a Pinterest board full of activities to chart and schedule

And stress over…

Sometimes you can just pull up a chair and its right there waiting for you.

You only get twelve Spring Breaks in your lifetime as a Mom.

Don’t get so caught up in the planning and the acronyms that you lose sight of what its really about.


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