Things began to go sideways when the rain began, and we broke out the Monopoly set. I try to keep it real when I columnize, and this week I am saying that not every family vacation is perfect every day of the stay.
“There are no perfect parents and there are no perfect children, but there are plenty of perfect moments along the way.” — Dave Willis
Four weeks ago, we headed to Maine for a long stay, beginning in Kennebunkport, then to the Portland area and then to Bar Harbor. We rented cabins from the usual popular websites, and we were off. We invited our adult kids to come for any part of the time, with the ulterior motive of getting to see the grandkids, ages 19, 17, 15 and 13.
Everyone showed up for the same week in Portland. Two adults were almost definitely just over Covid. My grandson came down with a stomach virus the second night, and that triggered a global reaction in our germphobic family.
We don’t live near our grandchildren, so our visits are supercharged with expectations of wonderfulness. The kids met and exceeded our expectations with their kindness and enthusiasm and general good nature. We experienced more issues with our adult kids, who somehow don’t think we should tell them what to do anymore. How can that be right?
There was much angst and drama over phones. Your teenagers’ iPhones are now part of vacation planning. Decide when they can use them and when they must be put away. It is the biggest issue of family time.
“You are the bows from which your children as living arrows are sent forth.”
— Khalil Gibran
We were blessed with good weather and nearby fish markets and fresh produce and a grill in the yard. The kids swam in the freezing ocean until a good Samaritan on a surfboard waved everyone out of the surf, miming with his hands that a shark was cruising nearby. Global warming is pushing the sharks closer to shore.
We had one day of serious rain, so we broke out the Monopoly set that came with the house. One of my kids immediately banned her dad from playing because she said he had made her cry when they played Monopoly when she was 4 years old. It’s tough going broke when you’re 4 and the landlord is your dad.
I hadn’t played in decades, and didn’t realize how soul-suckingly endless the game is. And how capitalistic. And white. And mean-spirited. The teenage grandkids suggested a Covid version, with a “Go Directly to the Hospital” card and a “Get a Dose of Paxlovid” card and a place on the game board for a homeless shelter. They have very dark senses of humor, but I think they come by their cynical side honestly, having lived through a pandemic.
The differences among the generations seemed sharper this time around. I asked if we should watch the new HBO miniseries about Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward. They asked if he was “the dude” on the salad dressing bottle.
We had our splendid moments and we had our mini-combustions.
“Your children will become what you are; so be what you want them to be.”
When I read books about highly adaptive, cooperative, non-neurotic families, I can’t completely identify. In this family, we rock, but not necessarily in sync. When I watched the charming, life-affirming story “The Durrells in Corfu,” on HBO, I worried. In the 1930s, Mrs. Durrell hauled her kids off to an island in Greece and gracefully negotiated their teenage outrages, missteps, unwanted pregnancies, and run-ins with the law. What about the mosquitoes? They had no screens! Where did they get money and food?
In our family dynamic, I teach. I’ve always been a teacher, and I find teachable moments all day in every situation. My grandkids humor me. I want these teenagers to get through this rocky time, solid and whole. I want them to refuse the temptations of easy ways out and easy escapes and easy workarounds when the moment demands focus and dedication and a strong moral compass.
I took the opportunity of Maine’s dark night sky to talk to the kids about the Webb telescope, and we looked at the first photos online — the space shots seen around the world. We stood outside our cabin in Cape Elizabeth, under the great black velvet dome, and I wished upon the stars for each of them.
“Don’t tell me the sky’s the limit when there are footsteps on the moon.”
— Paul Brandt
Copyright 2022 Randi Kreiss. Randi can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.