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By John Kuhn

Special to the Index

One thing I know about Texas is that summers here are hard on St. Augustine grass, and even harder on parents.

The grass is withered by 100-degree weather and the parents are whipped by 100-decibel children. Children who, as you know, have been cruelly sent home from school for no good reason. The only adults who really enjoy summer, in fact, are teachers with good air conditioning and no children of their own.

One sure-fire way of extracting some enjoyment from the summertime is to schedule a family vacation. Nothing beats a classic trip to the beach. There are several beaches to choose from in the United States, usually located near bodies of water. They can be found by driving in any direction except north. When you run out of road, you’re probably at the beach. Your GPS will have no idea why the roads all suddenly stop, but it will be curious. It’s a good idea to tell it, “That’s the ocean.” Your GPS will thank you by saying, “Turn left.” If you’ve fiddled with the settings it may say, “Voltea a la izquierda.”

The ideal trip starts with intelligent packing. A husband will typically pack a pair of swimming trunks, one pair of khaki shorts for formal occasions, and three loose-fitting shirts he can alternate throughout the trip. Socks and underwear are optional because, after all, it’s vacation. The wife’s suitcase will include all the contents of her closet and makeup drawer, along with several items that she has purchased just for this trip. The kids will be told to pack their own suitcases; the parents will redo it when they discover bags brimming with Gameboy cartridges and leftover Easter candy.

Deciding when to leave is crucial – you want to leave early enough so that the children doze off, but late enough so that the driver doesn’t. The driver will be the person least likely to stop and ask for directions. This is normally the husband.

To save money, you might consider packing a lunch. This plan will fail miserably as soon as you pass a McDonald’s window boasting a giant poster advertising the latest Shrek Happy Meal toy. The kids won’t be real interested in your stupid steak finger sandwiches when they see a 5-foot-tall ogre smiling at them.

Checking into your hotel is very exciting. The children will scream in the hallway and bang their fists on the hotel room walls to express their delight. A dad’s brain will instinctively imagine people with neck tattoos in the next room. People with neck tattoos are usually tough and are not known to be patient with rambunctious children. The typical dad will employ the “whisper yell” with his offspring and say something to the effect of, “You’re going to get us kicked out of this hotel if you don’t knock it off!” He won’t mean the lamp when he says “knock it off,” but the children won’t understand this detail. The “whisper yell” generally works for three to six minutes. Then the lamp is toast.

Luckily, all this stress will evaporate when the parents get to the beach and realize that they have to take their shirts off. A new kind of stress will emerge then. When the parents look at the other people on the beach, they will realize that most of them probably never eat 12 steak finger sandwiches that the kids won’t touch. The parents will need lots of snow cones to survive this part of the trip.

John Kuhn is principal of Mineral Wells High School and author of the book, “Texas Eccentrics.”


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