The Real Vacation: Remembering Why I ‘Like’ My Kids

By Lisa Barr

A few years ago I heard a stint on a radio show that has stuck with me. The deejay asked his listeners: What is the one thing you do every day that no one knows about?

A Mom called in and said, “Every morning when my teenage daughter leaves for high school, and that door slams behind her  — I say, ‘Fuck You, Bitch’ — and flip her off.”

Yeah, I too was shocked and thought it somewhat hilarious until I had THREE teenage daughters – two in junior high and one in high school. Many would say I am knee-deep in Parenting Hell, and many-a-day, I would agree. For those who read my blog, you know my girls are so special to me — our bond is THIS tight, but as the all-too-true cliche goes — when those hormones set in … run for cover! To put it succinctly: I love my daughters deeply, but there have been those moments during which their behaviors are not so likable (okay, I’m being generous).

There are those days when I want to keep driving and … well, just keep driving, as far away from Teenager-ville as possible.

I’m the type of person who 20 minutes after an argument, I have all the best comeback lines. I’m also the type who if someone says something mean to me — a one-liner quip — I’m up all night thinking about it, rolling it around in my head. I’m really sensitive. WAY too sensitive, my husband would insert right here. So when my daughters give me ‘tude, the eye roll, or a slew of Mommy, ohmygod just stop … Leave me alone … Why are you screaming at me? (when my tone is completely even) … I heard you the THIRD time … or the worst:  Stop asking so many questions it’s getting annoying (when I’m simply asking their whereabouts), or God Forbid, I ask a follow-up question to How Was Your Day? (when I actually want more detail than Fine) –it hurts.

I lay in bed at night and think — I’ve tried to do everything right — where did it all go so wrong? Where are those girls who would never leave my side, who would cry their eyes out if I went out on “Date Night”? Damn it, who took MY kids and left me these aliens?

I am the ultimate communicator  — is it too much to ask to just have a good one-on-one, heart-to-heart with my daughters?

Last year, during Winter Break, my husband and I decided to take away the cell phones and all its cousins – the iEVERYTHING crowd (iTouch, iPad, iPod, etc), and have a wireless, webless vacation. At first, as you can imagine, “Le Resistance” was overwhelming — and then acceptance settled in. After two days on the beach, FINE, NOTHING, WHATEVER, morphed into real conversations again, real- time bonding, “playing” and goofing around with one another, word games at the dinner table, and a genuine connection. My husband also put away his phone, just checking business calls at night. I tucked mine away in the hotel safe. We were all FREE. A real vacation. Just us. It was amazing.

We decided this would be our new family vacation THING: Goodbye cell phones/Facebook/Instagram — Hello Humans.

This year was particularly hard in the Sister Bonding Department. Prior to Winter Break, clothes wars were fierce, ‘tude was in high gear, I was working around the clock with the blog and book stuff, and my husband was saddled with work stress. Our family needed a vacation — but truthfully, it almost seemed like we needed a separate vacation from one another.

We planned a tropical trip, and I secretly wondered how it was going to be. Would it be a vacation, or would I need a vacation from the vacation?

The flight was 11 hours plus, plane changes, all the airport anxiety, and the girls and iPhone were one and the same person. Our plan was to collect the phones once we landed and hopefully (maybe), we’d begin to re-connect.

And then something unexpected happened. I swear, it was as though everyone in my crew was hit by a Fred Flintstone Brontosaurus Burger. We stepped off the plane, gathered the kids’ phones, and my girls began to talk to each other. As we grabbed our luggage, behind me, I heard laughter, when just 12 hours earlier, I heard fighting. I heard sharing, when just hours earlier the motto was It’s Mine.

That evening, they asked if they could use their phones merely to take pics on the beach and send their friends Instagram shots — which, FYI, if an image  is “liked” then the memory actually matters, the memory actually happened. If it’s a photo with 10 likes or less — the memory is deemed unworthy and in teen-speak — delete-able. Don’t ask — I don’t pretend to understand this philosophy.

My husband and I looked at each other: Do we give back their phones, or stick to our wireless policy? Are we wimps or warriors? 

But Lord Knows, they were being awesome. Would giving them back their wireless “meth” — become a return to the dreaded Zombie Zone?

“Girls,” I said, “if this kind of behavior continues with each other — the niceness, the sharing, the laughter, then Dad and I can see giving you your phones to take photos and connect with your friends WHEN WE DECIDE periodically during the day. Do we have a deal?”

Did we have a deal? The deal itself earned 100 likes.

My girls kept up their end of The Deal the entire trip, not a single slip. Truthfully, I think subconsciously they welcomed the cell phone boundaries. Keeping UP with all of the Facebook chats/groups/likes/texts is a huge teenage pressure — a full-time job — and clearly, they too needed a vacation from social networking demands.

We were in Hawaii. It was gorgeous, the beaches were phenomenal, the helicopter ride over volcanoes was exquisite (this from a woman scared of heights), the waves, the whales, the surfing — all of it — fabulously serene. But truth be told — it didn’t matter if I was in Timbuktu — my girls liked each other. They actually instagrammed photos of  EACH OTHER; they laughed WITH each other, not AT each other.

There was no attitude, no bitchiness. Something magical happened once the cell phones were put away — we were once again a family. And I pinched myself, remembering not why I LOVED my kids, but why I LIKED them. I mean, I REALLY liked them.

My 15 year old told me during one of our precious walks on the beach: “You know, Mommy, my friends make fun of me that I still call you Mommy. But I don’t care …”

She doesn’t care …

I just smiled, not wanting to gush and ruin that moment by saying a single word. I bit down on my tongue, and just squeezed her hand. Please, honey, I thought to myself, never stop calling me Mommy and I will get through the teenage years …”

It was a vacation away from the way it has been. Something had to give. It was the best kind of TIME-OUT. I feel rested. I feel full because my kids are “back.” A week has passed since we returned home, and the girls have not yet returned to “normal.”

Is this the New Normal? Who am I kidding? But hey, a girl can pretend.

I’m sure once life gets back on track, the pressure of school kicks in, the endless rushing/carpooling is full-on, the morning craziness returns, with me shouting from the kitchen, “Come Down For Breakfast NOW, and turn off the flat iron! … our vacation fairy dust will surely fade away … but hopefully, just maybe, not forgotten.



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