A few years ago, the Swiss theater troupe Moomenschanz came to Zellerbach Hall in Berkeley. Josh’s mom was really excited about this, and wanted to take all of us to a matinee performance. Although Josh and I weren’t thrilled about the idea (we’re not that into surreal mime), we agreed.
As we sat through the seemingly never-ending show, my daughter kept turning to me and grinning from ear to ear. I grinned back, glad that she was enjoying it, but fervently hoping that it would be over soon. Each time she looked over at me, her grins were wider, until they were almost wolf-life, and a little manic.
Finally the show ended. As we were walking out, I squeezed her hand. “What did you think?” I asked her.
“It was great!” she said simply. “What did you think?”
I paused. “Actually, I wasn’t a big fan,” I told her.
She laughed with relief. “Actually, I wasn’t, either!” she admitted.
“But you kept grinning at me!”
“No! You kept grinning at me!”
We burst out laughing as we realized what had happened. We were both focused on pretending that we liked it for the other person’s sake, when in reality we had loathed it equally.
Have you ever done this? Pretended to like something for a reason? I think we all do it at one time or another. But have you ever pretended to the point where it was painful?
I have. It was about skiing.
I never learned to ski as a kid. We lived in Berkeley, which is several hours away from any possibility of snow in the winter; plus, my family didn’t have a lot of money to spare, and skiing is an expensive sport.
As an adult, I didn’t mind not skiing. There are so many other things to do in the world; plus, I get supernaturally cold so snow is not a good environment for me. (This is a diplomatic way of saying that I #@&#@%! HATE skiing, the cold weather, and the snow).
But then I had kids.
All of a sudden it wasn’t all about me anymore.
I should also mention that my husband Josh is an incredible snowboarder.
So I bit the bullet, and we took our kids to the snow. The first time we went, I think the kids were 1 and 3. There were a lot of steps involved to make it happen, and it was expensive, and I was miserable but trying to pretend that I was having a fantastic time. My kids loved it, and I was SO happy that they did, but the trip was excruciatingly awful for me.
We went on a handful more ski/snow trips over the next few years. We always went with other families, and I always hoped that the allure of apres-ski would be enough to distract me from my abject discomfort, but whiskey and hot tubs just weren’t enough to ease the pain. I truly hated every second, while trying valiantly to pretend that the opposite was true. It was exhausting and horrible.
Finally we went on one ski trip that just broke something inside of me. During the drive home, I was so miserable and sad that I couldn’t stop the tears from falling. I cried silently for at least an hour, trying not to let the kids see. But of course they knew. Finally my daughter said quietly, “Mommy, remember Moomenschanz?”
Of course I did.
From that point forward, Josh has taken the kids to the snow by himself. The three of them couldn’t be happier. The kids have loved learning to ski, then snowboard. They’ve gotten really good. They love it. And me? I love it, too. When their car pulls away from the house, the weekend stretches before me – a glittering expanse of golden time.
During these weekends, it is all about me. I see friends, sleep in, go to movies by myself. Sometimes I have popcorn or cereal for dinner. Sometimes I have wine and cheese. I am on vacation. And so is my family. We’re just not on vacation together.
A wise friend of mine recently pointed out that there is a difference between a family trip and a family vacation. The times we went to the snow together were trips. Now, my family goes on ski vacations. And I eat macarons in bed and binge-watch Scandal. And a great time is had by all.
In fact, sometimes Josh even leaves me an amenity gift. Here is what I found on the table yesterday after they left:
Has your family ever gone on vacation without you? Where did they go, and what did you do?