How a canoe ride in Maui prepared me for 13 candles


We arrived home late lat night after a week of vacationing in Maui. There’s something about being away that brings out the best – and worst – in people. Despite our spending every waking moment together, I was pleasantly surprised that Margaret and I had a lot of fun together this week with relatively little-to-no drama. Part of this may be attributable to her lengthy absence this summer. Right before we left, she returned home from her 6-week stay in LA living with her grandparents.  I wasn’t sure she’d missed me at first but then it was clear that she did.  It was more of what she did than what she said, like coming up and talking to me for no apparent reason or being more attentive when I spoke to her. And based on some of her passing comments, she has a newfound appreciation for me as her Momma – and some of the qualities that come along with parenting that she took for granted. My parenting style is very hands off compared to that of my mom’s. Think thick scarf versus boa constrictor. (Mom, if you’re reading this, I scribe this factoid with love – don’t be mad!)

After a few days, Margaret announced that she wanted to go to a luau. Having been several times in the past, we decided we’d rather spend our money elsewhere. I fully anticipated an argument but one never came. I suspect because I learned this new way of dealing with her. If I don’t say no outright, I don’t have to listen to her argue because there’s no reason to argue about a non-no. And if I don’t say yes, I’m not on the hook to follow through on my word. It’s beautiful really. Whoever invented being passive aggressive was a genius.

Still, I wanted to do something fun with Margaret and since she’s deathly afraid of heights, and the other half of my family gets motion sick (the 7-year old got sick on the plane and threw up right in front of the bell hop station two hours later – embarrassing, but very efficient), I took her out on an outrigger canoe. She sat in front of me and paddled with the bowman in front of her while I paddled opposite side but in synchronicity. Coordinating our strokes was efficient and gave us maximum power. The bowman, who set the pace, would yell “Hut stroke!” and then we’d switch sides; this helped us travel in a straight line.

Canoe ride.JPG

The movement gave me a new perspective on my non-linear relationship with Margaret. She’s ying and I’m yang, but unfortunately, not in a romantic way that attracts people to one another. More like a pull-out-every-hair-on-your-head way that makes you want to bang your bald head against concrete. But maybe my husband is right. Perhaps I make things worse and get us off course when I react to everything she says. Perhaps I can help steer her contrarian disposition in the right direction. Perhaps I can be the Sternman. As with the canoe, though we are on opposite sides of the spectrum, perhaps we can still work together to get to our destination.

Margaret canoe.JPG

In less than 24 hours, I will have a teenager in the house. Tomorrow, Margaret turn 13. I feel like we’ve experienced rough enough waters already. Just this morning our canoe almost capsized after I dropped her off at a Bat Mitzvah. But I am aware enough to know that this long-anticipated adventure has only just begun – and I really don’t have control of the weather and how it will impact the conditions.

So, I’m currently studying the various paddle strokes so that I can more skillfully maneuver our canoe as we traverse the teenage years. For instance, I know now that I could have used the J-stroke to back paddle the turbulent white water we found ourselves struggling through this morning.

I’m also planning to recite the Serenity prayer over and over and over again.

And if that doesn’t work?

I’ll start drinking. Heavily.










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