Before this trip, I was nervous in a way I hadn’t been when I was traveling previously. It wasn’t the jitters I got as I moved to China for the summer without speaking one word of Mandarin. Nor was it the anxiety that came with traveling to villages in India where monkeys were famous for grabbing sunglasses off your face. It was a new sensation: My mom, my 3-month-old daughter, Leah, and I were about to embark on a multi-generational trip to South Florida.
To be clear, it wasn’t the accommodations I was concerned about — we were heading to the Four Seasons Resort Palm Beach and to the Four Seasons Hotel at The Surf Club in Miami Beach. What nagged at me was how we would coexist in one hotel room. I was concerned that my very newly sleep-trained daughter would wake up multiple times a night, driving my mother into having to book another hotel room, which would be expensive and, I feared, put a damper on the whole bonding experience.
Our trip also happened to coincide with a newfound habit of my daughter’s: sucking her thumb. My approach is to take it out of her mouth and let her give Sophie the Giraffe CPR instead. Would my stance on thumb-sucking be a battleground for us? We’d already clashed on another of my parenting philosophies: that you should wake the baby up to eat or finish her bottle. My mom thought it was cruel to wake her up.
Then there was the overall shift in family dynamics. I was no longer “the child,” I was the mother. My mom and I have traveled a lot together, just the two of us, and we had gotten the hang of it. This was the beginning of a new era full of potential minefields as we navigated the logistics of traveling with a baby.
What I didn’t remember, or give enough credence to, is the magical power of travel to bring people together, particularly when you don’t have to think about cooking, laundry or doing the dishes. And then Lady Luck smiled on us: Miraculously, Leah slept through the first night of the trip. Then she did it again, and again and again.
“Do you want to see about a separate room for you?” I asked my mom when we were checking in at the Surf Club.
“No,” my mom responded immediately. By that point, the idea of being separated was anathema to the whole spirit of this vacation. We were, to use my mom’s words, “Team Leah,” and we were not under any circumstances to be separated. All three of us, it seemed, wanted to rise to the occasion. I had underestimated my mom — she was our fearless leader. She even conceded that she agreed with me about the thumb sucking. And to her credit, Leah held it together at key moments, like when we missed our flight home. Her clutch performance included sleeping through dinner in multiple noisy restaurants.
I experienced something I’ve never felt on a trip before — this magnetic force pulled us together. Instead of creating conflict, my baby was actually a source of bonding. My mother and I both wanted to pour our love and time into taking care of this small being. I saw my mom through a new lens: as a real ally to me as a mother, not just as her daughter.
By Hannah Seligson