A beach trip really does a body good. Last weekend, I went on a three-night trip to Puerto Peñasco, Mexico (aka Rocky Point), the closest beach to Phoenix—Nine moms chilling out in a beautiful condo in a high rise on the Gulf of California. The weather was gorgeous and the company of women I was with was wonderful.
I was initially nervous to go, although I couldn’t really pinpoint why. Even though it’s rare for me to leave my family for one night (let alone three), I knew my “boys” would survive just fine. My uncertainty was mostly because I didn’t know my fellow travelers all that well. A few I hadn’t met until we piled into 2 cars for the 4-hour drive. We all have special needs kids and we’ve been in the same circles in our local area for years—schools, therapists, social groups, doctors—but I’d never spent any extended time with these ladies.
I’ve been on overnights with my best girlfriends (who I’ve known since grade school), but these new ladies don’t know me like my girls do—that I don’t talk in the morning until I’ve at least had a cup of coffee and some silence, that I have the potential to fall if I combine alcohol with high heels, and that I will probably still dance like no one is watching if the music and mood is right. I can be myself with those girls. They not only know my baggage, they have helped me carry it.
But I was interested to try vacationing with new friends who intimately understand one part of my life—because they are living their own version of it. I do crave those connections with other parents who “get it.” But… I still didn’t want the weekend to be all-autism-all-the-time. If I’m traveling without my kid, it is first and foremost a chance to take a breather from my mom duties, and that means mentally too.
So, I was fully on board when—after we’d checked into our hotel and unpacked enough food and drinks to take us into the next month much less the next 3 days—our group’s organizer announced a little wager.
She placed a bowl on the kitchen counter and challenged us—just for the first 24 hours—to find other things to talk about besides the one thing we all had in common. Anyone who mentioned autism or special needs or IEPs or the latest must-try therapy had to put a quarter in the bowl. Whoever made it past the 24-hour mark without contributing a quarter would win the collection. If no one was immune to the habit of talking about our kids, the money would go to the Mexican Red Cross (who stood with buckets ready at the roadside near the border).
And, of course, quarters dropped into that bowl almost immediately.
That’s not a big surprise. As a group we are hugely passionate about our children and our families. We advocate for them daily and regularly work to educate others and ourselves about autism and disability issues. And, especially since we are parents of teens and young adults, we can collectively say, “Been there, done ALL of that.” Several of these ladies even work in the field.
So it wasn’t always easy to steer clear of the “taboo” topics. It was often too tempting not to give up a quarter or two to compare notes on special needs parenting with these well-versed women.
But overall, I think we did really well with the challenge. Most of us were more than happy to search for other topics of conversation, to give our heads and ears and hearts a break from everything we worry about all the time.
It was nice to learn a few things about these women’s interests beyond what connects me to them. In our real lives, when we pass each other at school drop-off, in 50-minute intervals in therapy center lobbies, or while keeping eagle eyes on our kids during noisy social outings, we don’t have time to talk about those other strands of our lives (or think anyone would be interested). But, these parts of our stories are important too, and I’m really glad we gave ourselves a chance to hear them.
We shared “back in the day” stories of our own teenage or college years—concerts and boyfriends and not a few (mostly mild) run-ins with the authorities. Some of us are related to celebrities or have stories about meeting one; some have survived cancer; some can speak foreign languages; some were born or have lived in other countries; some met their children’s father in college or through work or even back in high school. I found that these ladies have really interesting former or current careers in everything from fashion to engineering, from fitness and health to work for non-profits.
Although we were south of the border—the subject of such controversy in the US right now—we pretty much avoided politics (but now I know there’s at least one other in the group who is also a bit of a political junkie). Instead, we debated the pros and cons of purchasing the handmade jewelry, delicious fruity drinks, hats and other souvenirs from the vendors on the beach.
It was a refreshing trip—the ocean breeze, the fresh, delicious seafood, the relaxation, and the invitation to connect in other ways besides our kids.
Don’t get me wrong. We still got into many “forbidden” discussions that were incredibly valuable to me (always open to new ideas) and to the Red Cross (which received a nice bit of change on our way home).
I’m glad I decided to join these women who are strong and kind mothers, who take good care of their families and are learning to take care of themselves as well, who love to laugh and tell stories, and who aren’t too shy to question a bartender if their drinks seem a little watered down…and to dance a bit, like me.
Gracias, mis amigas!