August 15, 2007
Sightseeing. With teenagers. Sigh.
For years when I was vacationing with little kids, a toddler, and a baby, I'd think about how much easier sightseeing would be when the kids were older. How nice it would be when I no longer had to stop to change diapers, or try to nurse a baby in a sling as I walked along, or keep a watchful eye on a toddler who liked to run close to the edge of a pier.
And yet, during our vacation I found myself missing the little kids who have been replaced, practically overnight it seems, by these tall teenagers. Despite their many demands, small children are fun to travel with because they get excited about anything new. Staking a tent is fun! Seeing a deer is exciting! Boats are cool! I can remember my kids being so thrilled by the automatic flushing toilets at a rest stop that they chatted about them for miles.
Traveling with teenagers is different. Way different. I admit that mine are smart and funny. They have a language of their own, filled with phrases that make no sense to me and so many inside jokes that I rarely know what they are laughing at. Shaggy Hair Boy, for instance, uses the word "hors d'oeuvre" the way most teenagers use the word "whatever." Teenagers can be entertaining if you like sarcasm and double entendres, and they can use public restrooms all by themselves, which is a huge plus, but they simply don't have the happy enthusiasm of small children. Take, for instance, the morning that we drove to a seaport to see some old sailing ships.
Me: It's a whole village, with wooden ships and —
Boy in Black: Colonial times? Historical stuff?
Shaggy Hair: Oh god.
Boy in Black: I hate that shit.
Me: It's nineteenth century. That's after colonial times, isn't it?
Shaggy Hair: Hors d'oeuvre.
Daughter: It'll be like a history lesson.
Boy in Black: Except half of it will be wrong. Tour guides just make stuff up.
Shaggy Hair: I hate stuff that's supposed to be educational.
Boy in Black: Historical re-enactments are depressing.
Boy in Black: Yeah. Depressing.
Boy in Black: Let's see how they lived their sad little lives in the olden days.
Daughter: Remember the time we went to Gettysburg?
Boy in Black: Yeah, all those dead people.
Boy in Black: THAT was a fun thing to do on vacation.
Me: Well, I think this will be fun.
Me: I like to go to places like this and imagine what it would be like to live in those times.
Boy in Black: You want to know what it would be like? It'd be depressing.
Shaggy Hair: I'd be sooooo bored.
Me: What if you went back in a time machine?
Boy in Black: I'd have to invent frisbee or something.
Shaggy Hair: I'd want to kill myself.
With-a-Why said nothing during this whole exchange, but leaned his head against his oldest brother in an obvious gesture of solidarity. My husband's strategy was to avoid the topic and say cheerful things about the weather as we pulled into the parking lot of what the kids were now calling "Another Colonial Village! This Time With Boats!"
Despite their claim that visiting a restored seaport was some form of torture imposed by an evil mother with an unhealthy obsession with sailboats, I think the kids enjoyed the morning. Well, except for the injuries. I always love climbing into old wooden sailing ships and exploring below the decks, but that proved dangerous for the men in the family, who are tall. My husband and Boy in Black are used to ducking when they see a low beam, but Shaggy Hair, who has only recently turned into a tall person, bashed his head several times, with dramatic falls that greatly amused his unsympathetic siblings. Strangely, he did not even once complain about the bumps and bruises to his head, preferring to focus his energy on sarcasm: "Hey! Another boat! We haven't seen enough boats yet!"
In the village square, several college-age kids dressed in "authentic nineteenth century clothing" were performing a corny play with a predictable narrative line and many random facts about whaling, blubber, and wooden sailing ships. The play proved so painful to watch that two of my kids shielded their eyes. With-a-Why went into a shop to buy a wooden toy that made an obnoxious popping noise so that he could annoy people the same way that kids did in the nineteenth century. Boy in Black, in an attempt to make the day more interesting, took off the bandana he usually wears to tie back his hair, blindfolded himself, and had his sister lead him around the village. I don't know if this strategy added to his enjoyment of the village, but it seemed to entertain his sister, who laughed every time he stubbed his toe or tripped on a step.
I tried to amuse myself by taking photographs, even though the harsh noonday sun wasn't really great for photography. Taking out my camera caused another bout of eye rolling from the kids. "Those are barrels, Mom. You're going to stop and take a photo of them? So we can remember how much fun we had looking at wooden barrels from the olden days?"
Posted by jo(e)