Sweet child of mine

March 26, 2019

My dad has a framed photograph of my brother and I, aged eight and ten, standing hillside on the island of Serifos. We’re both wearing white shorts and reluctant smiles. We were on one of my father’s many religious expeditions, to see the mosaic dome of a church, catch the tail end of a sunset service, or light candles at the shrine to a local saint. There were outings to ruins, too. So many columns, so many caryatids. Most of the time, we just wanted to be swimming, or eating biscuits and watching Greek cartoons. And that pained my Dad. Today, I have the same struggle with my own children anytime I suggest an art exhibition or a cultural outing. Pasta trumps Pakoras, and Disney wins over anything with subtitles. And I understand that. And try not to take it personally. Or expect to much of them. But sometimes, I just need them to be game. Sometimes, I just need it to to be easy.  Last week in Mexico, the mere suggestion of a day trip to Isla Mujeres sent my son into a meltdown, followed by two hours droning on  about what a terrible idea this was, and how much better a day at our resort (complete with pools, slides and a water park) would be, and how we (Jason and I) always do what we want. I understood; he’s a seven-year-old boy, being pulled away from familiar fun to ferry off to who knows what. “But we have a beach here, why do we have to go to another one?” I tried not to take it personally, but by the time we got to the ferry where he was still drilling, I lost it. “We’re never coming here again,” I said, my eyeballs hot with fire. “I hate this place.” I was loud enough that heads turned and I really didn’t care. Every parent knows that strain of anger, that irrational rage that kicks in when a child has pushed you to your limits. It’s just beyond that limit that we start acting just like them, and thinking thoughts no mother wants to admit to. Thank goodness for the thirty minutes of fresh salty air, and a local singer’s on-board rendition of Sweet Child of Mine, because otherwise I may have hitchhiked to Cancun. By the time we reached Punta Sur, (in a rickety golf cart) Antimo was the first to run wild through the sculpture garden, chasing Iguanas, and climbing to the top of Ixchel’s temple. We found a lovely beach at the opposite end of the island, and it was Antimo who spent the entire afternoon wrestling with the waves. “You know, Jason was just like Antimo when he was young,” said my mother-in-law as we sat watching him on the beach. “He too was inflexible, and he didn’t want to go anywhere.” Today, there isn’t a place in the world that Jason would not travel to. And unlike the little grumpy girl in the picture, I am never not in awe of ruins and relics, especially when drenched in sunset light. I’m pretty sure our son will one day be the same.

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