When I look back at my childhood, it occurs to me that my best memories come from the shared misery my two sisters and I endured at the hands of my parents.
Sharing the back seat of the family Volvo for numerous trips to my uncle’s dairy farm, often with bags of cow manure for my father’s organic garden in the trunk.
The three of us had to figure out different ways to fight the boredom of those five-hour car trips. We had only two scheduled pit stops and nothing more than a few eight-track tapes and each other for entertainment.
At home, we battled over what show we would watch on the family TV and argued over whose turn it was to get up and change the channel. Let’s not forget the battles that three girls could have over one telephone.
Then there were the times one of us dared to ask for a pet hamster, bird, or tropical fish.
Because I was born in the dark ages before the Internet, my dad would send us to the library, and we would have to read all the information we could find on the particular species we were interested in, including how to care for it.
After we completed our research, we would pile back into the Volvo and drive all over Long Island looking for pet stores that carried the animal one of us decided we had to have. Then we would spend hours looking at the different varieties of said pet and have to ask the poor souls who worked at the store the questions we came up with from our research.
Let me say, we never ended up buying any of these animals. My father never even had to use the word no. The man is a genius.
My kids have a pretty cushy life, what with minivans, iPhones, Kindles, DVRs, and a host of other luxuries that weren’t around when my husband and I were growing up in the dark ages. I was starting to fear that perhaps we weren’t providing our kids with enough shared suffering.
Years from now what will they talk about at holiday dinners? What material are we giving them if any one of them wants to become a comic, write their own blog, or mommy-dearest tell-all best seller?
Joe and I decided that in order to give our kids a proper childhood and every possible advantage in life, they too would have to endure a little more pain.
That is why we decided to make all three of them pile into our minivan and tortured them with a family outing to the beach.
I know. I know. We’re horrible, horrible parents. Feel free to inform the authorities now, though I’m pretty sure our teenager beat you to it.
In our defense I will say that after weeks of the worst winter New York has had in years, a strange ball of fire, which I am told is the sun, appeared in the sky. All five of us have been cooped up in our house for weeks, and it seemed like a good idea to celebrate this blessed event with a walk on the boardwalk.
Visions of fresh air, children running free, and a little family-bonding time danced in my head.
To be fair we did get some of this. In fact the kids looked liked sprung inmates as they ran far ahead of us. I even heard some laughter.
We also endured some epic complaining from our eldest offspring. Tom couldn’t believe that we not only had the nerve to think up this diabolical plan to spend time as a family, but we actually were going to carry through with it.
Finally tired of the belly aching we gave him a choice, come with us or go without air, I mean his iPhone, for a month.
He gave his unconditional surrender immediately.
You’ll all be happy to know that all three of our children survived this ordeal and, to a degree, even enjoyed it. Though Tom said he will never admit this in public.
Joe and I were so proud of ourselves for giving our kids something they could complain about for years that we have decided to make it a weekly event.
Never let it be said that we didn’t do everything we could for our children.
*This piece was first published on the Dishwasher March 9, 2014, under the title, The Joy of Family. It’s been slightly edited from the original.