I learned a valuable lesson a couple years ago, when I booked a 4-day summer vacation at Lake Chelan, in eastern Washington: It’s not very relaxing to spend four days with a 5-year-old, without any other adult contact, even at a decent resort with two pools when the weather is fine.
Don’t get me wrong, we had fun, and nobody could ever accuse me of not spending enough one-on-one time with my daughter. In fact, when I’m feeling guilty about not volunteering in her classroom as much as I’d like, I just have to recall the absolute volume of time my daughter and I spend together over any school vacations, when most of her friends are away, as well as my less expensive babysitters.
Since then, I plan vacations that either include other adults and kids, or I just stop all constructive parenting until vacation is over.
Let me just get this off my chest.
That was no exception during a short trip we just took to San Juan Island. We had a few days of spring break to kill, and having never been there, I figured, why not. Unfortunately, the weather didn’t cooperate, nor did the ferry that broke down and left us waiting five hours for the next one to the island.
Fortunately, a parenting vacation begins the moment we leave the house, so I offered my daughter unlimited time playing Temple Run 2 while I try to finish reading Cheryl Sandberg’s Lean In. I realize the irony of that.
Chase 45-minutes of Temple Run and Temple Run Oz with a chocolate-chip muffin the size of a small pumpkin, and there were just four hours left to kill before our ferry arrived.
Fortunately, I always travel with sandwich-making supplies. I made peanut-butter sandwiches in the trunk of my car, which we ate while sitting on a Dora the Explorer sheet on the small strip of beach near the ferry dock.
We finally made it to the island, where we ate more peanut-butter sandwiches and stayed up past 10 watching Parks & Recreation. My daughter has become such a big fan of the show, she built this Lego replica of Ann Perkin’s house and The Pit just before we left for our trip:
But I digress.
In all, the vacation only cost me a few hours of screen time, a foot-long lollipop, a stuffed Orca keychain, and half a Hershey bar to achieve something close to relaxation.
I call that a bargain.
The few comments I’ve read following this article on the Steubenville rape case demonstrate that the “boys will be boys” and “she was asking for it” attitudes are alive and well when it comes to sexual assaults involving an inebriated young woman. And you can always count on someone blaming the parents, like this comment from Meech-942960:
“What the heck kind of parents do any of them have that they let this go on – why was a 16 year old girl out all night, drinking? Her parents sure failed in her upbringing – where were the parents of the boys that they were out all night? What is going on in that town? A bunch of unfit parents who let their kids run wild and then wonder what happened. Sounds like the girl has a history of drinking – at 16!!!! this girl needs some supervision and to be held responsible for the her actions – One night of stupidity can change lives for ever – kids need to think about this.”
I’m guessing Meech-942960 doesn’t have kids of his own.
I’ve got a few years before my daughter will be attending parties without me, but I’m already wondering about what to tell her, how to prepare her, how to teach her to avoid situations that leave her vulnerable.
I’m not sure how to draw from my own experience. When I look back on my behavior during high school and well into my first year of college–drinking too much, walking around late at night, alone, having had three too many at a party—I consider myself lucky to have graduated without having been sexually assaulted. Even so, my behavior didn’t mean I was “asking for it,” but I also wasn’t doing my best to take care of myself. And yet, as a teenager, it never occurred to me that I needed to.
I was also at the University of New Hampshire the year a controversial rape case made national headlines. A female student was sexually assaulted by two male students while another group of students looked on and did nothing. I read about the case in the UNH student newspaper, but I remember thinking it was something that happened far outside my daily life, even though the rape had happened just a few floors below mine. The girlfriend of one of the accused lived on my floor.
Still, none of this prompted me to behave differently. Fortunately, I had matured enough during my freshman year to understand that getting good grades was slightly more important than partying.
As a parent, I look at this and wonder: What can I tell my daughter that will make her take her potential to be a victim seriously? And how do you warn without creating paranoia?
As we all know from having our consciousness raised over the last decade or so, two-thirds of sexual assault cases involve someone known to the victim, according to Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network statistics. Does this mean I should look at every boyfriend my daughter brings home as a potential rapist, every party she attends as a potential crime scene?
If statistics are any indicator of where the greatest risk lies, would I be negligent if didn’t?
Tomorrow is my birthday, and I’m feeling a little philosophical this year, like I need to take stock of something. And while I really don’t think introspective navel-gazing makes for good reading, I’m going to do it anyway.
So excuse me while I stare lovingly at my navel.
Time is a limited-quantity item, and once it’s gone, it’s gone for good. We hate to “waste” time or “give up” time to things that don’t jibe with what we think we should be doing. When I watch a movie I don’t like or suffer through a meeting that accomplishes nothing, I think: I can’t get that time back. In the wisdom of my advancing age, I’ve become more honest and confident about what I will and won’t spend time on. But I really wish I could get some of that “wasted” time back. For instance, the time I spent …
Trying to figure out what Michael Stipe was saying.
Attending step aerobics.
Not eating when I was hungry. I actually feel a little guilty when I think of the money my parents wasted funding my meal plan at college, a place where fried cheese was an entrée, not an appetizer.
Not using my better body parts for personal gain when I was young enough to pull that off. I really regret that one.
Checking and re-checking to make sure the stove wasn’t on during a short bout of OCD.
Saving myself for a guy I moved to Arizona to be with.
Hating that same guy after I found out he cheated on me the entire time we were together.
Trying to get my 70-year-old mother to understand that offering to hire a housecleaner for her shouldn’t be interpreted as a death wish.
On the balance, that’s not a terribly long list of regrets. And not all of it was a waste, either. I mean, you have to waste time to realize how valuable it is. You just hope that you don’t have to waste too much of it to learn that lesson. So here I am, on the eve of a significant birthday, feeling fully enlightened and ready to eat cake.
If I have any advice to my aging self, it would be to read and apply the trite credos from the poster (above) that’s hanging in my office. I mean, seriously, anyone who says “All emotions are beautiful” has never encountered a starving young woman after her daily step aerobic class.
But there are two that are worth reading and remembering: This is your life.
And life is short.