Duff ‘n Stuff, Sept. 4, 2012
Here is a dilemma: Family vacations with teenagers.
The family (two adults, two teenagers and one dog) took a vacation to British Columbia last week.
We stayed one night at the lovely old Sylvia Hotel, which overlooks Vancouver’s huge, waterfront Stanley Park.
We became “city mice” and enjoyed an exciting day walking around the waterfront and then enjoying the nightlife of cosmopolitan Vancouver with its wonderful international quality and storefront after storefront of exquisite foods, each one looking more authentic than the next: Korean, Japanese, Indian, Vietnamese, Chinese, pizza, you name it. Plus we passed lots of authentic gelato shops; one even that served up the sweet stuff by young, handsome Italian people (Impressive).
The next day, we took a walk through Granville Island, a neighborhood of the city similar to Seattle’s Pike Place Market or Boston’s Faneuil Hall. There we strolled around looking at art and all the people. At lunchtime, we sat in a sunny courtyard and ate some delicious market food near a few audacious pigeons, while nearby, artisans crafted gorgeous wooden boats and a band sang sea shanties.
The chocolate and almond croissants from La Baguette & L’Echolate were très délicieux.
We watched a very funny street magician on the pier.
We saw a silent man creating impossible sculptures by balancing small boulders point to point, defying every law of physics. The artist is known locally as “JT.”
A sign hangs along the fence in front of JT’s rock area, which explains his connection to the rocks.
I agree. Balance is the main thing. I made a mental note to remember that.
Later, we took a ferry to Gibsons Landing on the Sunshine Coast.
This was what the 40 minute ferry ride looked like.
We ended up here on Lamb Island.
Lamb Island is very small and has only the landlords’ main house and a small cottage. You have to take a short ride in a row boat or on the owners’ motorized pontoon to get to the house, which is quirky and fun and makes you feel extra special, as if only you and the birds were invited to inhabit the place.
Needless to say it’s beautiful on little Lamb Island, surrounded as it is by mountainous views along the Strait of Georgia and a menagerie of otters, seals, herons, eagles and other birds, plus a crystal clear inlet full of fish, crabs, starfish, sea cucumbers and, at certain times, porpoises! (But not this year. Darn.)
There are two decks at the cottage, one from which to jump into the bracing water, to fish or to push off from in the boat or a kayak.
The other deck is private and sits off the cottage’s back door and has a hot tub on it. It is absolutely one of the main reasons I rented the house; and also because they welcomed pets. This is our dog Punch resting after exploring the island with her nose.
I took this picture of Jim in one of the kayaks from the hot tub.
We were enveloped in beauty and solitude, hearing only the sound of birds calling to each other, or the slap of a seal’s fin on the water. We were feeling the warmth of our vacation.
Jim and I both said in so many words that, wow, this was fantastic.
Moody, self-righteous, embarrassed by anything the OLD people want to suggest.
While Jim and I continued the week by counting our blessings with incredulity and enjoying the sun-drenched mornings kayaking around little Lamb Island and area, sitting in the hot tub, marveling at the sea cucumbers and purple starfish, reading, (Jeffery Eugendies’ novel “The Marriage Plot” is excellent) eating delicious foods and playing backgammon, the teenagers waved from the house and then retreated back to their beds with various electronic devices. (We did require them to go out more than they would have initiated. Insert evil Peter Lorre laugh here.)
At one point Jim said, “Forget ’em.” And he was right. And we did. We continued our excellent vacation behaviors.
Curious, they eventually came out of the teen cave. We were gorillas in their mist.
“Forget ’em” is exactly what teenagers want parents to do, generally.
I’ve learned this from National Geographic Magazine; that it’s biological. The teenaged brain is not quite fully formed and so, apparently, has no tolerance for decidedly dorky, mind-numbing parents.
It requires vast swaths of good-humored patience on the part of the parent. (Did you know I am of Irish/Italian descent? Just sayin.)
Here’s some of what I know: Parenting is harder than remaining at the worst job you’ve ever had for the money; harder than writing your deepest most vulnerable thoughts for others to read; harder than crying from your most vulnerable self in front of an audience onstage; and harder, even, than doing an aerial cartwheel on the balance beam.
Here is another thing I know: A parent must be out-wittingly good at using language carefully, almost creatively, while speaking to one’s teenager.
Also, Jim and I have learned that humor is a tool of unbounded importance when interacting with such an exotic creature that is the teen.
Humor is the thing that both Claudia, 17, and Henry, 15, appreciate and respect, in us, yes, but in themselves particularly. Being funny around other people who get the joke is important to them, and I’m glad about that. It is our commonality, our point of truce.
Both these lovely specimens of the human race can be utterly and relentlessly annoying at times and I’m sure I’m maddeningly annoying to each of them more often than I know.
Here’s a good example of them giving me a reprieve from my absolute annoying position as embarrassing parent to allow me a photo on Granville Island (sort of).
Those who know of what I speak know that none of us have the exact words that could possibly encapsulate the challenge of the thing; the mental muscle and stamina required to raise good adults and do it well. It’s most definitely the hardest thing I’ve ever done, but also the thing I’m most proud of. Claudia and Henry are two of the most interesting and funny people I’ve ever had the pleasure to know.
The conundrum continues.
Anyway, I love vacations.
From the heart,