August 15, 2007

Sightseeing. With teenagers. Sigh.

Rigging

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.
Me: 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?"

Beneath the deck

30 comments:

Songbird said...

That is exactly when I would have been politely inquiring about their plans for getting home...

jo(e) said...

Songbird: Oh, I was tempted to just put the whole group on one of the ships and send them off to sea.

But luckily, they got most of the complaining out of their system at the seaport and were fine for the rest of the trips. I think the key with teenagers is to be doing something active all the time -- sightseeing leaves too much room for sarcastic comments.

Lorianne said...

Ha! I love the crack about the barrels. I think that's why I don't have kids/teenagers of my own.

Danny said...

Aren't you going to tell us about the barrels?

I was a volunteer tour guide on a historical ship once. And FYI, I didn't make anything up. At least, I don't think I did.

zhoen said...

I know I was utterly negative at that age. Unbearable.

my15minutes said...

HA! Starting with your title, and throughout your entire post, I was chuckling in sympathetic pain with you, sistah. My kids are 20, 19, 15, and 14, and you can bet your conversational exchange mirrors in every detail the same kind of discussion at our house. I backpacked with my children through Europe when they were 11, 9, 6, and 4 ... and though they enjoyed it THEN, to hear them tell about it now ... well... just substitute "pile of rocks" with "boats" and they're speaking identical language.

jo(e) said...

Danny: They were filled with rum. For the parents of teenagers. (See, as a tour guide, I would TOTALLY get bored and start making stuff up.)

Zhoen: Me too. That's why I can laugh and brush it off when my kids are like that.

my15minutes: Oh, you know what it's like then. So many parents with little kids read my blog that I thought it only fair to warn them what's coming ....

YourFireAnt said...

Jo(e), was that ship by any chance the Picton Castle? I know she's on tour this year, and the one you shot sure looked like it. The Picton Castle is usually docked in Two Hundred Fifty Year Old Former Fishing Town in Province that looks like a comma sticking out of Canada near American Pine Tree State, where I go for my vacation every year.

Glad you're back in town.

FA

Artist Friend said...

That is such a cool photo! Is that the Flying Cloud? It's one of those amazing clippers, the fastest sailing ships ever built. When I got to go on the Cutty Sark, I was in heaven, just having a blast even being there. I've been in love with clipper ships all my life. I wish I could have been there too. Teenagers, I remember, aren't as negative as they sound, although they can be a pain. They're young, inexperienced, insecure, and this is an immature, adolescent way of trying to establish some kind of control over things they are afraid of--things they know nothing about, things that threaten their pose of knowing everything. (I wrote all of this for their benefit, by the way. See what they say!) But I do love clipper ships.

Nadine said...

I really like the barrels photo! But then again, I loved Gettysburg. Even when I was in 8th grade visiting with my parents. We had peanut butter soup. And rode horses through the battlefields.

Hannah said...

I'm delurking to say that even if their sarcasm became annoying for you, it made me chortle at my computer screen.

My mother, I think, often wonders at my sarcastic comments on her choice of places to visit. I am entranced by the historic places (being an Early Modernist) but am reduced to sarcasm by twee little villages. Of course, living in the north of England, I am surrounded by twee little villages and they become cloying rather quickly.

jo(e) said...

FA and Artist Friend: It's the Joseph Conrad, docked in Mystic, Conneticut. What's cool is that they still use it as a training ship and go sail it.

Artist Friend: No sense saying anything for the benefit of the teenagers -- they don't read my blog. Only my daughter does. I did think of you when we were climbing around on the ships -- you would have loved it. With-a-Why was having fun pulling on ropes and climbing the rigging until one of the tour guide people told him he couldn't touch anything.

Nadine: I think you would have liked this seaport.

Hannah: Yeah, I end up laughing at their comments even when I'm annoyed. It's what has prevented me from killing them.

justin said...

Sightseeing with teenagers: well we didn't get much of that done when our girls were teenagers. They were happier just sitting around on a beach, sunbathing or reading a book, rather than seeing any sights (except for anywhere that sold food and drink, of course).

Rae said...

Apparently, that's just what you did. And a very nice picture of barrels it is. I'm treasuring the little excited kid part of parenting. It's hard to imagine that it will be anything different, but I guess adolescence comes to everyone. :)

BeachMama said...

I remember when that stuff just wasn't fun to do with parents anymore. And I remember when I wanted to do all that stuff with my parents again. I all goes full circle. It will come back to you again :)

Linda said...

Just imagine what it will be like when you have one more teenager making wisecracks. :)

Phantom Scribbler said...

OK, you know my little kid went completely insane with excitement over the sailing ships at that seaport. But I would still trade him in for a vacation with a sarcastic teenager ANY TIME. Seriously. I bet your sarcastic teenagers didn't crawl under the table at dinner that night and refuse to come out, did they?

Yankee T said...

I nod my head in recognition, dear jo(e).

MJ said...

I just returned from a 6,000-km odyssey to Nova Scotia with my six-year-old twins. On many of our stops we saw old villages with wooden barrels and sailing ships. They were thrilled! They were delighted! They were truly thrilled with the wooden barrels (that is not sarcasm). When asked what they liked about Nova Scotia they would say, "everything!" Thanks for reminding me that I should be thrilled and delighted about "everything" instead of counting the number of restaurant meals left until we get home.

elswhere said...

Hah! I those barrels looked familiar! I visited that seaport when I was 12, and loved it. Just made it under the sarcasm cutoff, I guess.

Still. Your kids crack me up.

argon(one) said...

We have two daughters (20 and 17) and I think we found the key to harmony. We let them choose the vacation destination and we share the detail planning. It really worked well for our Charleston SC vacation a couple of weeks ago. Of course there were several shopping opportunites mixed in but I did get a historical tour on the agenda. We spent one day at Fort Sumter, located in Charleston Harbor. I think this was one of the most harmonious vacations we have ever had. I loved it! I also love hearing about your adventures . . . especially the barrels.

sheepish said...

Hey, I've been to that shipyard, and I do NOT recall seeing those barrels! So your photo is an important bit of enlightenment, and I thank you for it.

codfish said...

This is way too funny, jo(e)! I don't know what else to say, as I have no kids of my own, but I think you captured the funny-sad really well - sad, I suppose, that the kids are growing up, but funny because, well, your children really crack me up. :-)

sam said...

Hmm. I went to Mystic Seaport in high school and thought I enjoyed it, but maybe I supressed the sarcasm because I was with another family and not with my own parents...

BerryBird said...

I love it when you do dialogue, jo(e), because it is always so hysterical. I had to read this one to SodaBoy. Hors d'oeuvre might just enter our lingo.

Psycho Kitty said...

Maybe it's because my kids have got an early start on the smartass, but somehow the teenager stories always make me feel better, not worse. Sort of like, hey, look! Other smartass kids, but they're decent people, too! Whew, we're ok then.

Psycho Kitty said...

Oh--and I love the made-up words. When I was that age, we had "Rhutebega" and "Barbeque", as in "My brain has gone totally blank" and "Whatever/You know it/Hell yes".

KLee said...

So, basically you're letting me know what I have (not) to look forward to in traveling as Offspring hits those cranky teen years. Gee, thanks. Oy.

I couldn't have possibly been this ornery when I was that age, could I? (My mother would probably say, yes -- you were.)

I love "hors d'oeuvre." I had a few of those in my teen years. My favorite one was "spargle." It was used as an all-purpose cuss word. My best friend and I also had the habit of saying things backward. Her mother worked at Memorial Hospital, which we called "Lairomem." And Burger King was "Regrub Gnik." the things we did to amuse ourselves....:)

Lilian said...

(insert deep sigh) -- I better prepare myself then, even though I have some 8 years to do that... and I MUST take them to Europe before it, that's for sure! ;)

Sandra said...

Would you give me permission to use your photo of barrels for the background of one of my slides for my power point presentation that will be given at a naval conference?
S. Patrice