Three Kids and the Wife in a Hotel Room with a Lone Wolf…

I’m at Cape Cod now, and have been for the last 2 days enjoying a hastily planned 3-night “beach” vacation with my wife and 3 youngest children. The trip came about after repeated protesting from the youngins’ about why we never take them with us when we go to Provincetown. So, here we are, (in S. Yarmouth, not P-Town), all camped out in a hotel room with raindrops and temps in the 70’s. It hasn’t been bad, nor chilly the whole time, but we thought we’d have a last day to spend at the beach today since we elected to hang at the hotel pool yesterday on our first full day. That was not a reality after all, so instead we proceeded to spend a fortune on mini-golf, batting cages, go-carts, and ice cream!

One thing that I have learned about myself since early in this relationship that I began more than 17 years ago, is that I need my alone time. I need time that no one is calling my name, asking anything of me, and needing me to do something for them. I need time to read things that interest me, write emails, catch up on news, exercise, write down my thoughts as they come to me, return phone calls, and be able to think about things without interruption.  The fact that I’m writing this now is an almost impossibility, and as I write, I’m listening to the news of the Denver theater massacre while my kids are huddled in the adjacent bed watching “The Suite Life on Deck,” on a laptop, and my wife is reading next to me. An air mattress for the boy is on the floor at the end of the girls’ bed narrowing that passageway, and clothes are everywhere in various drawers and bags surrounded by ice chests and beach towels.

It’s a slim half-hour break time between the pool swim and dinner. I’m lucky I even get this time, and I’m grateful for any scraps I can get. Can I survive more than three nights in a single room with four other people? I don’t know, but I’d rather not find out. Would I rather not go on vacation than do this again? No, but I desperately hope that next year, if we consider such a plan, that I finally have a job and we can afford two rooms so that all of us are more comfortable!

One of the perks of vacation is getting some reading time in. My read on this trip has been Jodi Picoults new book “Lone Wolf”. I wasn’t sure I’d like it at first since it is predominantly filled with the life of wolves interspersed with a personal family drama. I’ve learned quite a bit about the pecking order of wolves and their pack system, which in many ways has similarities among members of large families without all of the growling and non-verbal communications. Wolves have an amazing sense of smell that can detect the minutest changes in their surroundings and is vital for their survival. As I got deeper into the novel, I felt like I could identify with the different roles that wolves play in their system, yet as a parent, I think that I have to juggle these roles daily depending on the situation.

Today, I feel like a lone wolf. I’m at the end of my tolerance for doing things “together” and I need some space. I don’t mean to harp on the age thing, since it’s a running theme in my posts, but I need to just say that the parallels of getting older and being more set in my ways is a reality that I’ve come to accept. The only problem with that, is that my wife is the opposite- she likes constant company, and my company is often not pleasant if I don’t get my alone time!

I guess that I had hoped that my kids would enjoy playing with each other more like I did with my sisters when I was a kid. I don’t remember begging my parents as constantly as they beg me to play with them. Maybe my parents gave me the message early on in my childhood that we needed to find things to do with each other and we accepted that more readily than my kids do. I remember playing outside all day long on weekends and in the summer, building forts, climbing trees, playing softball, riding on our space trolley, playing in our tree house, and when it was bad weather, acting out theater productions, dances, playing cards, building card houses, playing instruments, recording tracks on our reel-to-reel tape player, and playing records on our record player until being called for dinner. I never remember feeling bored, and if I ever did hang around looking for something to do, all my mother ever had to do was find me a new ball. I don’t know if she kept a supply of them or what, but I always had to have a ball or a pair of drumsticks handy!

I know I’m not a spring chicken for a parent. I’m aware that when my youngest kids graduate from high school, I’ll be 59 years old. I don’t think, though, that that’s the issue. I’m still pretty agile and energetic, and I am always willing to get out and ride my bike with them, throw a ball around, or shoot hoops if they want, but I also want them to be able to entertain themselves. I won’t always be there to motivate them. I want them to be self-motivated like I was as a kid. My mother encouraged me to play an instrument, which I did for many years, but she didn’t have to hound me to practice it. I wanted to be good at it so I was motivated to follow-through on my lessons. No one watched the Celtics games with me when I was a kid, cheering on Larry Bird and John Havlecek to win 2 NBA championships when I was in high school. I taught myself how to play basketball by watching their moves, and practiced in my driveway every day I could, honing my shots. I guess it’s a passion that my kids seem to be missing, and I don’t know what to do about it. I believe that we can only hold our kids hands for so long before they need to either learn to fly or learn to fall gracefully.

We’re all home now, having survived the 6 hour drive, 3 hours in bumper to bumper traffic trying to get off the Cape on a  Saturday. We do know better than to leave when everyone else is leaving, but we were eager to get home.

The summer has flown by so fast, and while there’s a good number of days left of it, I find myself vacillating between wanting school to start NOW, and wanting more days to create special memories with my kids. On the one hand, their being home is driving me crazy. They have little desire to be outside when it’s sweltering heat, they get on each other’s nerves and fight a lot, and getting them to want to do anything besides watch TV and play computer games is exhausting! I don’t remember it being so hot when I was a kid, and if it was, we had a pool to cool off in. I dream of having a pool again and hope that I can make that a reality for my kids so that they will go outside again.

Soon, we’re leaving for New Hampshire, where we rent a week at a lake that was my wife’s family vacation spot as a child. We have gone there since 1999 and enjoyed many wonderful times. What was once our family vacation plus special friends, with occasional visits from her relatives, has turned into their family vacation with 3 surrounding rental houses converging on a shared beach. It’s fun, but also overwhelming for me. Luckily, I have “lone wolf” rights now that I’ve got to share my space with so many others, and my absence is tolerated when I need a break, and also it’s less than an hour from home so I can elect to spend a night recuperating with clean water showers as well if I want!

I’ll leave you with this slice of lightness from my Cape visit:

Watermelon. It’s my new favorite food. It’s sweet, and juicy, and when eaten at the perfect time of day, when you’re hot, and thirsty, and craving something sweet, it’s the most wonderful burst of nectar and juiciness that it’s heaven on earth- the most delicious experience that your taste buds could ever imagine! I just had to throw that in because I toted a whole giant watermelon all the way to the Cape with us and I’m enjoying it fully right now!

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