Me and My Girl—by Jamie Levine
When I became pregnant as a single mother by choice, and discovered that I was having a girl, one of my friends declared, “you and your daughter will be just like the Gilmore Girls!”—which was one of our favorite TV shows at the time. Well, as the 41-year-old mom of a four-year-old, I can’t say Jayda and I are as close in age as Rory and Lorelai were, or that Jayda is my closest confidante, but when Jayda tells me that I’m her “best friend,” it does make me smile. And after spending six days together in Florida—our longest solo vacation together—I have to admit that my daughter and I do share a pretty powerful bond, and know how to have a lot of fun together.
Months ago, when I’d discovered that Jayda had two weeks off between nursery school and camp—when most of her friends would still be in school—I made plans to take Jayda down to a lovely hotel in Delray Beach, Florida, for a few days, to meet a single mom friend of mine and her son who live in Atlanta. Then, Jayda and I would continue on to Boyton Beach to spend some time with my college roommate and her family. I knew Jayda would have fun on the beach and in the pool with my friends’ children, but selfishly, I was looking forward to lots of girl-time with my old friends. So when my Atlanta friend’s son came down with a virus and she had to cancel her vacation plans the night before her intended arrival, I was extremely bummed—as well as concerned: How on earth was I going to entertain Jayda by myself for several days? But I soon discovered my worries were unfounded. Not only was Jayda easy to be with and easy to please, but she also turned out to be a great companion for me.
I’d intended to work out at least several times during my hotel visit—expecting to have my Atlanta friend watch Jayda while I hit the gym, and then reciprocating by watching her son while she went for a run. Without my gym-time, I knew I’d be completely stressed out, so I decided to speak to my daughter woman-to-woman about my problem: “Jayda, mommy really needs to go to the gym to feel good and stay healthy. If you help me out and let me do some exercise, I promise the rest of the day will be all about you. Working out will give me the energy to do whatever you want.” “Ok, mommy,” she quickly agreed, and every morning, armed with a ziplock bag of cereal, my ipod, and a tote bag full of coloring books and other toys we’d brought to the hotel, Jayda sat on an exercise bike at the gym while I ran on the treadmill or lifted weights. My workouts were shorter than they are in New York, but we both left the gym with smiles on our faces.
After my daily workout, my mornings with Jayda were spent on the beach, walking, talking, collecting shells, building sand castles, and playing in the ocean. Then we headed back to the hotel pool for some socializing. I managed to call a few friends I had in the area to come and visit us with their kids for lunch and a swim, but when we were alone—which was often—Jayda and I found plenty of people with whom to pass the time. Our first afternoon at the pool, Jayda introduced herself to a large group of adults who were at the hotel on a business trip—unwinding poolside with tropical drinks; after high-fiving my daughter every time she swam through their gathering, they happily included me in their conversations for the rest of the evening. And throughout the rest of our stay, numerous adults with small children floated over to me and my daughter for brief pool-time playdates. Our days—and social lives—were full.
Of course my daughter is only four, so there were still power struggles that occurred between us (mostly over Jayda’s desire to eat too much junk food), a few temper tantrums that were thrown (mostly by Jayda :), and forced early bedtimes for me (I had no one to talk to at night, and nowhere to read or speak on the phone without waking up Jayda). And our trip definitely turned out to be quite unlike the vacation I’d originally planned. It was different. But not disappointing. Jayda came home declaring, “I miss Florida!” so I know she had the time of her life. And I have to admit that I had a pretty great time, too: Just me and my girl.