A Difficult Kid Reentry In Monterey

(September 21st – 24th, 2017)

We returned from Home Depot with only a few hours to get the boat ready for the girls.  I was almost in a panic – after a week back home with friends and family, would they even want to come back to boat life?  I wasn’t so sure.  I didn’t realize when we left the girls with the grandparents that we might be inadvertently ending our adventure, that the girls might refuse to continue.  But now, knowing what fun they had during their time there, the chance that our new life might come to a quick end was a real possibility.

Within the hour, the boat was torn apart.  Yikes – this is exactly the OPPOSITE of what we were trying to accomplish!  I was determined to bring the girls back to a nice, homey boat that they’d love enough to make leaving their grandparents and cousins again worth it.  But this disaster?  They’d fly the plane back to Seattle themselves if they saw this!

There was a good reason it was torn apart.  We had a ton of projects we wanted to get done before they got back.  In addition to just getting their rooms back together, we needed to install a new pump on the new electric head to give it enough suction to pull in raw water when we were underway; install a new membrane in the watermaker; fix the cockpit table leaves, because the hinge screws were pulling out from years of use; and check the engine oil and filters.  I also wanted to get the girls’ LED lights installed in their rooms to make them more excited about their rooms when they got back.  We had three hours to finish it all.

By some miracle, we had our projects done and the boat put back together by the time the girls arrived with Grandma and Grandpa.  I was excited to see them, but also so nervous about how they’d react to being back!  I was surprised at how happy they were to see Rich and me – they actually missed us!  Their excitement to be a family again began to quell my fears a little.

Even the first outburst was slightly reassuring.  We were getting ready to go out to dinner with Grandma and Grandpa to thank them for watching the girls, and Morgan refused to budge.  “I just spent all day trying to get home, why do we have to leave?!” and “I’m too tired to leave, I just want to stay in my room!”  I was disappointed she wasn’t cooperating, but hearing her refer to the boat as “home” and wanting to stay in “her room” for the evening told me that maybe our family life could be even more settled going forward than it had been before the stay with the grandparents, not less settled.

We finally got Morgan to join us, and had a nice dinner out.  We said goodbye to Grandma and Grandpa, who were going to drive down to San Diego to visit family, and we started getting the girls ready for bed.  Then the second outburst occurred:

“I don’t wanna go to bed!”

Morgan tends to argue over bedtime when she’s tired.  And, it was no surprise she was tired after a day of travel.  So, I should have expected the girls’ first night back to go exactly how it did.  But no, I had pictured our first bedtime together to be a utopian experience in which we hugged, laughed, and smiled together, cooperating unconditionally, simply because we were all so happy to be together again.  A dumb expectation, I know.  My own disappointment at not having my expectation met was almost more unfortunate than Morgan’s fatigue, because rather than reacting with patience and understanding, I was mostly angry that she’d ruined my should-have-been-perfect evening.  After an hour or so of fighting, everyone finally made it to bed.

The next morning, we awoke rested and refreshed.  Finally, things would go back to normal, right?  Yeah, right.

We started by getting ready for our trip to the Monterey Bay Aquarium.  But, Morgan didn’t want to get ready.  Sure, she wanted to go to the aquarium.  But get ready?  No way.

We finally made it to the aquarium, miraculously only about 15 minutes after we’d planned to arrive.  We had a great day there, but had to argue with Morgan about staying long enough for her to finish her school project, and then again while we were trying to buy her ice cream.  (Seriously? WHILE we’re buying you ice cream? She was upset we were trying to get her to order at the ice cream counter rather than the pizza counter.)

Then, we went back to the boat and argued about what to have for dinner, how much of it Morgan had to eat, and then both girls argued about bedtime.  The next morning, we argued as we got ready for a beach morning, and then again when it was time to leave the beach.  (However, we did have an awesome time at the beach!)

Our first good beach day of the whole trip!

I was nearing my wits’ end.  We couldn’t live on a 45-foot sailboat fighting several times each day – it wasn’t sustainable.  It was exhausting for the parents, for the fighter, and even for Ellie, who was clearly stressed out and would herself start crying each time a fight ensued.  I began to worry if this might be the beginning of the end of our cruising.  And just when I thought we’d gotten over the “I wanna go home!” problem!

The next day was Saturday, September 24, and we planned to leave in the afternoon for Avila Beach.  Morgan and I went grocery shopping, and although helping her find things always makes the shopping take longer, she enjoys spending the time together, and the responsibility of shopping, so we managed to get out of the store without an argument.  Back at the boat, we spent several hours stowing groceries and doing other small tasks (filling water tanks, checking engines) in preparation to leave.  Could it be we’d made it through a whole morning without an argument?  It was too much to hope for.

We left the marina around 2:30PM, and made our way to the gas dock.  Did you know that there is a single diesel pump servicing all of Monterey Bay?  We didn’t, until we tried to get gas, and had to wait over an hour and a half before finally pulling into the gas dock.

By 5PM, a full two hours after we’d planned to leave, we were finally off!  The wind was blowing, so once out in the bay, we put up the sails and started our adventure to Avila Beach.

By bedtime, we still hadn’t had an argument with the girls – in fact, they’d been happy and helpful all day.  Could it be that the fighting was over?  What had changed?

I realized then that the fighting was just a result of the transition.  They’re kids, and they thrive on consistency.   (Especially Morgan!)  While visiting Grandma, they got used to an entirely different set of routines and rules.  Now that they were back with their parents, at the boat, they had to reacclimatize themselves to boat rules, and parent routines.  Sure, for an adult, it would have been easy, because they already know the rules and routines.  But, kids just aren’t like that.  Even when they know what to expect, and what’s expected of them, they’re wired to resist change, and test the system.  So, as resilient as kids are, they still need time to adapt to changing environments, even if the environment it not new.

Since their re-entry, the girls have been very happy on the boat, and we’ve had some of the best family time of our lives. Sure, we’ve had a few fights, but that’s just parenting.  (Mostly about school, a topic which will soon get an entire post to itself!)  We haven’t even heard “I wanna go home!” a single time.  Family life is good on a boat, and we’re thrilled to be all together as a family again.









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