I went on vacation with Sweet Pea to visit my family. We stayed nearly three weeks, and most of that time was spent at my parents’ beach house, which has no wi-fi and no cable TV. The beach is a short walk from the house. The shower is outside. The kitchen table is on the porch. Also on the porch is my dad’s radio that has sat there ever since I can remember. At night he listens to Sinatra, and during the day it’s tuned to the Red Sox (not baseball- the Red Sox. There’s a difference, apparently). On the porch, we drink Bluesberries (OJ, club soda and Blueberry Schnapps) and Dark and Stormies. There’s an old fashioned high chair my mom found at a flea market. It says “Michael” in cursive on the tray, it has an leather strap that’s supposed to hold the child’s legs in place, and I had a heart attack every time I turned my back on Sweet Pea sitting this deathtrap masquerading as a child’s perch.Our days were filled with swimming, beach walks, dog walks, leisurely cups of coffee on the porch (mine), lots of blueberries (Sweet Pea’s) and outside showers. My mom did the laundry, the grocery shopping, and many of the diapers. I did… not much. I did become an expert at carseat installation. Sweet Pea’s carseat moved between a total of three cars, at least five times.
When I wasn’t having an anxiety attack over the high chair or sweating over the carseat, I read. I enjoyed “Bringing up Bebe,” a book about French parenting. It inspired me to treat certain aspects of parenting more “Frenchly” however I am feeling bad for not doing things “French enough” which can be demoralizing. “Heads in Beds” was a hilarious memoir/expose of the hotel industry, which I tore through in a few days. I got a little stuck on and eventually quit “Murder in Greenwich,” which detailed the botched investigation of the 1975 Martha Moxley murder. It had potential to be a great story but the author had an axe to grind and that was way too obvious.
Also, I weaned, although I suppose that falls into the category of “What I did not do on vacation.” A few days before we left, I nursed Sweet Pea for what I imagined would be one of the last, if not the very last time. But the flight was so awful, I would have filled her sippy cup with vintage single malt scotch if she’d wanted it. Then there was one pretty bad episode of insane middle of the night teething related crying, and one random drive by (don’t ask), but now I think we’re really done. And I feel fine about it, which surprises me. I thought it was going to the worst thing ever, like all the times I freaked out about how I was going to tell some guy I was dating that I didn’t think the relationship was going anywhere and then when I finally broke the terrible news, he’d be like, “That’s cool, whatever.” and I would be so relieved. And not at all like when I would break up with an ex and he would cry and tell me in an ominous way that he didn’t know what he was going to do now and please don’t leave and then I would leave anyway but I would always feel bad for him and occasionally see him again and not just because he wouldn’t stop emailing me and leaving tokens of his love on my car. Not like that kind of break up at all. So Weaning is now #1,454,997 on my List of Things I Stressed Out About But Shouldn’t Have.
Sweet Pea seemed not to be bothered by the weaning. That’s not to say she wasn’t trying to sneak a suck when I wore a bikini, but you can’t blame her for recognizing a potential opportunity. Her vocabulary exploded while we were away. Her favorite verbs are “Eat! Eat! Eat!” (this is always said three times in a row) and “Go!” She’s definitely my girl.
In addition to words for Sweet Pea, vacation brought me new insights about my parents which can best be summarized as, “I don’t recognize either of you.” I’m talking about the time my dad insisted Sweet Pea walk on the grass, not on the pavement, because she would fall. Which, for the record, is what toddlers do. Except my dad was adamant, “Not on my watch!” And the time he went into alert mode because Sweet Pea was biting down on- wait for it- a metal fork. He felt a plastic fork would be safer for her tender mouth. I felt like I was on Planet Opposite. My dad used to ride a Harley. If you don’t think riding a motorcycle is taking your life in your hands, let me put it another way. My dad thinks nothing of eating ten day old steak. When I was six, he took me down the Alpine slide so fast our scooter careened out of control and I sustained a concussion.
Meanwhile, my mother fed Sweet Pea ice cream for breakfast. When I was a child, the sweetest thing we were allowed to have for breakfast was Rice Crispies with cocoa powder mixed into the milk. This is disgusting but I didn’t know any better, so I ate it. Right after I got my tonsils out I was allowed to pick a sugar cereal but it turned out my throat hurt too much to eat it. My brother ate it all before I recovered but we never had a sugar cereal in the house again. Also, when Sweet Pea cried at night, my mom volunteered to check on her. I turned around and Sweet Pea was in her high chair at 9:45pm, my mom asking sweetly, “Do you want cheese?” Do you know what I got when I woke up in the middle of the night as a child? Tap water in a Dixie cup.
I suppose the simple answer to the question of “Who are my parents?” is “Grandparents.” I got to watch them toss a ball around and play hide and seek with my niece and nephew, who are older than Sweet Pea and I was like, “Wow, my parents are fun grandparents.” It occurred to me that I never, ever imagined watching my or my siblings children play with my parents in the same places or with the same toys we played with as kids.
Even if I had, I never would have any inkling of how magical it would feel.