It sounded like a great idea — a week in the sun with our college-age daughter. We’d get a break from the routine in the city and the biting cold; she’d get a chance to recover from exams and catch up on her sleep. In fact, we’d done it for years with other college-age children as an opportunity to reconnect and have some political, ethical, religious and life discussions during long walks on the beach or wine-enhanced dinners under the palms.
So (putting the underpants bomber in the back of our minds), we set off earlier this month for a favorite Caribbean resort. We arrived to overcast skies and brisk breezes and a temperature of about 70 degrees.
My husband, who loves the beach more than just about anything else (save the Yankees) went down for a nice two-hour stint, huddled under a towel. My daughter and I unpacked, napped and vegged in the room, assuring each other that tomorrow would be better.
Alas, “tomorrow” dawned . . . grey, drizzly, and even windier than the day before. We huddled together in the outdoor breakfast area, wrapped our hands around steaming mugs of coffee and made massage appointments for the afternoon. My husband took a walk on the beach. My daughter went to the gym.
Next day, same. Day after that, no better.
Thankfully, after four days (at an exorbitant daily rate) of magazines, DVDs, Kindles, books, spa, and eating way too much, the sun came out. And it was simply beautiful. Our dark moods lifted, we practically giggled as we actually put swimsuits on, and really reveled in the exquisite weather and setting.
Now, I know that for those of you who are digging out from eighteen inches of snow, or scraping car windshields, or have gone through a rained-out vacation with toddlers who get really restless and cranky, it’s hard for you to muster much sympathy.
What was interesting to me about this experience is how I reacted to it. I somehow felt RESPONSIBLE for the lousy weather. Like I had to keep APOLOGIZING to my husband and daughter. And worried that she would remember this vacation as so miserable that she would pass the next time we offered one to her. What is going on here? Certainly, my husband didn’t feel responsible or apologetic. And actually, my daughter was a much better sport than I would have been at her age. So, it wasn’t outside influences that made me nuts — it was basically me.
Is it the Type-A personality I am? The one that feels if I recommend a restaurant that disappoints that somehow I have fallen down on the job . . . not the restaurant? Is it the perennial “mommy” in me that feels it is somehow my responsibility to keep the kiddies entertained and smiling, even when they’re in their twenties and adults?
Or is it just that I now live in apprehension of the judgments of my adult children — that I assume when they’re texting it’s some criticism of me? When did the power paradigm shift from them wanting my approval to me craving theirs? And is there any going back?
The sun finally did come out. My daughter will get her much-desired tan without resorting to some eerily-colored spray. And I will finally get my pina colada on the beach. And we will get in some of those long beach walks and conversations. And the bonus: a little insight into myself as well.
Ruth Hochberger, a lawyer, former newspaper editor, blogger and journalism professor, is the mother of three children ages 20 to 30.