Wednesday, March 23, 2011

I have finally figured out why spending time with my mother makes me feel like I am losing my mind

I have just taken my parents to the airport.

I am sure it was all they could do to not jump out of the car and run at full speed through the airport to the security checkpoint, leaving me standing in the airport driveway all sweaty and disheveled in my terry cloth shorts, thigh-high poker-themed socks, and cowboy boots, with a tanktop that says 4:20 on the back.


It was the end of our week-long vacation together. We spent 2 days and nights in a hotel room: my parents, my children, and me. Then! We flew back to Maui and spent 5 days together, virtually non-stop except for the day that I left the house to get some groceries and came home three hours later with a takeout box of french fries and no groceries. Because I spent those three hours with my friend Joyce who was helping me do my deep breathing, and offering me cocktails - which I was too afraid to drink lest my mother have further proof that I drink too much. Which I really don't.

I swear.

And here's the thing. I have figured out why my mother and I make each other nuts and inadvertantly hurt each other's feelings. It's because I am my mother's daughter. I hate to admit it, and I would deny it strenuously if someone tried to put forth that theory. But in a moment of  clarity, I have realized that it is true. And all of you who are violently shaking your heads because you are nothing like the woman who raised you....well......Whatever you say, sweetheart.

For example, here are a few of our similarities:

We find the same things incredibly obnoxious.
We find the same things funny.
We get drunk after 1 drink if we haven't had enough to eat first.
We are reticent to go somewhere that we do not know anyone.
We automatically assume that we are imposing if we are a guest in someone's home.
We like to sit around in our bathrobe and drink tea and blow our nose.

And while it was a lovely visit, and did not culminate in my screaming obscenities or her telling me I was just like my father, this week has involved much to little time in our bathrobes, and much too much time in much to little space.
In a perfect world, the vacation would have been planned with lots of togetherness and maybe a little not-together-so-much-ness.

And so I offer you an outline for visits with parents. We began to hammer this out over the past few days, and I know that each subsequent visit we share will be all the better for it.

First day - Yay! Reunited and it feels so good.....everyone is on their best behavior. All meals are shared. Don't get drunk before the others do. Have dessert. Say goodnight and go to bed. In seperate rooms. Suites are a bad idea. Having only one bathroom is also a bad idea. On this vacation we discovered that lobby bathrooms are a blessing, and people sharing hotel rooms should use them more.

Second day - have breakfast together, discuss things that each of you would like to do.
Like whether or not you want to have breakfast together.
Everyone should have some ideas and opinions so that one person does not feel like the designated social planner, and so that the other person can't complain that they didn't get to do anything they wanted to do. For the love of god, during this discussion, no one should utter the words "I don't care, whatever you think/want to do/have planned is fine with me."

Then decide if you are going to spend the rest of the day together or not. Make a general outline of plans, leaving plenty of flex time for last minute adventures, and time spent apart so that people can, you know, poop and have sex and stuff.

Not that I am suggesting that your mother has sex. Of course she doesn't - don't be ridiculous.

All subsequent days shall be planned similarly. Make contact the night before or in the morning via a pre-determined method ("See you at dinner, we can discuss it then." or "Just send a text when you wake up." or "Give me a call - if I am asleep it will go to voicemail and I'll call you back." is a great way to start that conversation.)

Side note: If you want to spend every waking moment together, you should really clear that ahead of time with all parties. Because, that might not be exactly what they had in mind.

And for the love of god, if someone hands you their car keys and says "Go have fun! I have some stuff to do, and then I am picking up the kids and getting ready for the dinner party." and then they don't answer their cellphone - don't take it personally. Take it as an opportunity to do something you really want to do - or to do nothing at all. Just do it somewhere else.

Other fun facts:

If someone gives you their bedroom, they really want you to sleep there. Really.
Because trust me, if there were ANY OTHER VIABLE OPTION it would have been exercised.

If someone goes into their room and closes the door, don't check on them. They're fine. Really.

If someone is sitting on the sofa comfortably reading a book, and you have to go do something, tell them where you are going and leave them be.

If someone says they have to go run an errand and then disappears, they may be doing it on purpose. Fill your time accordingly. Leave a message and carry on.

The biggest advice I think we would have to share is not to sweat the small stuff. Or even the medium-sized stuff. It's not going to be all sunshine and rainbows. Not even in Maui. But it can still be a perfectly lovely visit. Especially if you have enough Xanax and red wine.

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