There are things no one can tell you about having children. No one can tell you that they'll respond to all the newness with more thrill than fear or that they'll be more physically affectionate than a Thai hooker. And no one thinks to tell you that they'll have horrible taste in vacations.
I totally get that my 3-year-old has limitations: he can't bike across the Alps; he can't taste wines at chteaus in Bordeaux; he can't sleep with hookers on a sex tour of Thailand. But that doesn't excuse his choice of hotels. Now I've never been a connoisseur of hotels: they're just somewhere you sleep for a few hours. I know women find thick mattresses, crisp white sheets and interesting wallpaper an aphrodisiac, but they just make me want to have tea and read. If I'm going to have the kind of sex I want, I'm going to feel much better about messing up a Motel 6.
But I should have put a little more effort into choosing a hotel on our trip last month. Because what I didn't know until my lovely wife Cassandra, Laszlo and I checked into this hotel was that it was an all-inclusive resort. At first this sounded like a good thing. I figured it meant wireless Internet, a minibar and in-room movies. But it was much less like traveling-salesman paradise, much more like house arrest. They snapped a plastic bracelet on our wrists so everyone would know to give us whatever meals and beverages we asked for. I should have had some insight into what the quality of the food and drinks would be, since the only other places they use the bracelet system to dispense free food and drinks are hospitals.
Laszlo, though, loved the place. He loved going to the same place for the same buffet meal three times a day. He loved picking his own food. He loved that pizza and hamburgers were put out between meals. He loved being able to run around the huge lobby. He loved the giant pool with the borrowable inflatable toys and a bar where they'd make him frozen, fruity drinks. He didn't care that we flew 4,000 miles to wind up somewhere that looked just like America. That's because 3-year-olds are stupid. I'd always wondered how places like Sandals exist, and now I know. It's because the majority of our economic decisions are made to appease small children.
Laszlo was so empowered by the ease, repetition and manufactured jolliness that he never wanted to leave to walk around in the humid, squalid city we went to visit. Eventually, though, we forced him out. I thought it went pretty well. I, apparently, was wrong. "When we were walking around that messed-up neighborhood and it felt a little sketchy, I was like, Forget all this stuff," Cassandra said to me in slightly more colorful language. "I'd feel like an uncouth person if we'd got mugged there and Laszlo was with us. People would be like, 'What the forget were you thinking?'" I don't know if worrying about how other people would judge you for endangering your child is maternal, but it's at least maternal adjacent. Then she added something definitively maternal: "Maybe having a kid made me less snobby. All kids love cheap ice cream and Mickey Mouse, and watching them enjoy it feels good."