A friend of mine just returned from a European holiday with this story: Their hotel was a small and charming one tucked away in the countryside. There were only 50 or so guests, including an affluent American family with two young daughters who were about six and seven years old. My friend saw the girls everywhere—at breakfast, in the lobby, in the courtyard—but could never quite figure out who their parents were. One day she saw the little girls at the pool, where they were telling some other guests that their parents had decided to take a nap but had agreed to let them go to the pool unattended because other guests were in the area. Another guest came by and asked the girls, who by this time were in the pool by themselves, where their parents were. When they responded “in the room,” the woman then asked, “Who is babysitting you?” The other guests laughed because they were all thinking the same thing—the parents had just assumed that everyone else would keep an eye on their children for them.
On my friend’s final day at the hotel, she went down to breakfast and again saw the girls by themselves, as their parents had decided to sleep in. Soon the girls started goofing off and “playfully” threw things at a couple they had befriended during their stay, forcing the husband to repeatedly ask them to stop. Finally, another guest stormed off to reception and demanded that the parents be called on to take control of their kids.
My friend and the guests she spoke to were all appalled at the parents’ behavior. She couldn’t help but feel sorry for the girls, who had been abandoned by their folks in favor of, it seems, a few extra hours of sleep. Not only is that dangerous, but it put a greater burden on the hotel staff and the other guests, who wanted to enjoy some peace and quiet without having to feel like an unpaid babysitter.
If you are traveling with children, keep a careful eye on them and don’t assume that other people want to give up their precious vacation time for your sake. It’s understandable to want a moment of personal time without the kids, but it’s better to swap “shifts” with your spouse, arrange for childcare through your hotel, or look into day camps or classes that your children can enjoy.