The funny thing about a vacation is that you don’t know you need one until you are actually on one.

By the time you realize that, it’s time to come home. Thankfully, my little family stretched our resources and our wings to fly south for some quality time. The forced stop gave us time to realize just how much we love each other and being together.

You might not have thought so on departure day, however. Three minutes into the packing process for our family vacation (which we left to the actual morning we were heading out of town), the Carpenter bellowed at the top of his lungs: “Next year’s vacation is mommy and daddy only.”

While the threat sped up the momentum and cooperation, it did nothing to stop the bickering between the two children who were so amped up on adrenaline and fruit juice they were literally bouncing off furniture in anticipation. I thought about pointing out the obvious flaw in allowing the children to pack their own bags, but the Carpenter thought he was teaching them a lesson. Silly rabbit. Who was teaching whom?

Twelve minutes later, with a louder and somewhat sharper intonation, the Carpenter repeated his statement, adding: “Next year, the vacation will include a beach and a swim-up bar, for mommy and daddy only, in Bermuda. No kids allowed.”

Two hours and 42 minutes later, while driving to the airport, the bickering between our offspring in the backseat of the car had turned to insults. There were repeated pleas for the radio station to be changed, the volume turned up and the persistent parent punishment of the questions, “how much longer?”

The Carpenter lost his composure and with a tone usually reserved for construction workers, he repeated his threat: “It’s mommy and daddy only next time. You two can enjoy a week with grandma and grandpa.”

Under my breath, I reminded him that in order to do that, we would have to notify my parents immediately, as their social calendar in retirement requires a publicity manager. The Carpenter’s silent nod indicated his realization that he hadn’t thought that through. We drove on silently with the realization our vacations were going to be with children for probably another 10 years, which isn’t so bad really, because we’ll be paying for this one for a good three years yet. Our romantic concept disappeared into the Bermuda triangle.

The children saw the silent communication between us and, knowing a week with their grandparents wouldn’t happen unless we let them cut school to go curling too, the kids knew they had us. Our threats for cooperation on this trip were futile.

Somewhere between airports, our children turned into the cooperative, funny children we secretly believed them to be. I think they would say the Carpenter and I became the easy-going, goofy, roller-coaster-screaming parents they always knew were in there too, underneath the bore of chores. We added a healthy dose of public humiliation at almost every turn just for good measure: it’s a parental prerogative.

Sometimes in life you have to step out of your routine, just to keep pace with it. It’s worth it. Life is too short to stay in line.