Do you have a happy place? You know, that place you look forward to visiting, you enjoy the entire time you are there and hate to leave? It could be the location, the people, the activities, the food, OR, if you are as lucky as I am, all of the above. Regardless of why, when you are there you are at ease… comfortable… happy.
My place is called Northern Lake George Resort in Silver Bay, New York. SilverBay is a small town on Lake George, 26 miles north ofLake GeorgeVillage. I have visited almost every summer of my life, as have many members of my extended family. I have such wonderful childhood memories there. It is where I learned how to row a boat, paddle a canoe, fish, water ski, tube, and play ping pong, bocce, shuffleboard and badminton. I look at the rocks I used to dive off of into shallow water and realize I was much more fearless back then. Much. But seriously, look at this picture! This is what I see the minute I walk out my cabin door each morning. Heaven. On. Earth.
Although my mom, dad, brother and I used to go as a family for a week-long vacation, close to 30 years ago a new tradition was started and the family reunion weekend was born. Lead by the most amazing matriarch and patriarch EVER, my dad’s side of the family all converged on the Northern Lake George Resort for four days of festivities. Family members fly in from Texas, Colorado, Oklahoma and Florida to join the rest of us who are within driving distance.
Even though we have sadly had to say good-bye to Nanny Dot, Papa Lou, Aunt Cookie and Uncle Roy over the years, we have also been blessed with the births of the next generation – the generation that Jazmine is now a part of. When she first joined our family, it was if we were holding a space for her. Matt was five, Catherine three, Jonathan two, and Brian was one. It just so happened that we had an opening for a four-year-old, and Catherine was in the market for some girl power.
Jazmine has always adored her cousins and loves spending time with them, but it was always an extension of the rest of our lives. Was she being appropriate? Was she being annoying? Is she safe? Is she truly fitting in, or are the kids just being nice? Suddenly Lake George was changed and I was on high alert at all times. Even though I still considered Silver Bay to be my happy place, I now experienced it as the mom of a special-needs child. It was different.
That all changed for me this summer. I had a “moment” I will not soon forget. My cousin David and I took all the kids out in the boat to go tubing. I witnessed a child I had never seen before. She stopped being the kid who walked up to a group trying to figure out how to fit in, she WAS in. She was giggling and being silly with her cousins in the most unguarded of manners. I see kids behave like this all of the time – I just never saw Jaz do it. She was always too worried about what others would think of her to just be. When Catherine was afraid to go tubing by herself, it was Jaz that she asked to go with her. I sat watching with gratitude-filled tears in my eyes. She deserved this. If you read my June blog, “Onwards and Upwards” , you will know EXACTLY why I say this. Not only did I get to see my girl happy following a tumultuous year, but she was doing it in my happy place.
The rest of the weekend was equally as blissful as that morning of tubing. I watched Jaz make memories with her cousins on the great lawn overlooking the lake, just as I did with my cousins in years past. I laughed as I found the girls taking a late afternoon nap together, and reminisced as I watched the kids retrieve ping pong balls from behind the same set of bushes I crawled behind many times in my youth. When Jazmine wasn’t spending time with the big kids, Jaz was happy to help with her newest cousins, Ryan and Gracie. She made it her job to retrieve them each morning for breakfast in order to help Aunt Kelly since Uncle Rich was out fishing with big boys. It chokes me up to hear Kelly talk about how good “Jazzy Jaz” (as she calls her) is with them and how responsible she is. She sees Jaz through a set of eyes that makes my heart swell with pride. I love that my baby girl can be viewed through loving eyes instead of the judgmental eyes we have come accustomed to.
It’s official: Silver Bay has become Jazmine’s happy place, too!
Suddenly it hit me. The reason Silver Bay has always been so special to me (in addition to the amazing scenery and fabulous food) is because I have always been allowed to be myself around family who accepts me and loves me for exactly who I am. I was positive it was the same for Jazmine. She was comfortable enough to just be herself and for the first time publicly, the real Jazmine came shining through.
You must be wondering why I am droning onnnnnnnn and onnnnnnnn about my family reunion. Well, often in Facebook threads I read about the dread parents face when they have to take their child to an event. It is stressful for everyone, and sometimes, because we are on such high alert with the expectation of failure, we may actually encourage it to happen. I am sure I am guilty of this on MANY occasions. I could never be comfortable because I was always waiting for something to go wrong. Relax? What is that? Although certain events and people are unavoidable, I have made the decision to only surround my daughter and myself with accepting, loving and non-judgmental people. She has spent the last four years of middle school trying to fit in with her former friends. It is time to stop. Let them go — let them all go — and learn a valuable lesson from this. By trying to force relationships, we are surrounding ourselves with people who cause discomfort. When she is not at ease, she tends to overcompensate and say/do all the wrong things which only perpetuates the vicious cycle of social isolation. It is time for the cycle to end, and I am grateful to my family and our wonderful reunion for making me to realize how great she can be when in the right place with the right people.
My wish for all of you is to find your own happy place and amazing people to share it with. For some it may be a place where your child can eat without fear of encountering a “forbidden” food, run around naked, or simply run in circles until she drops from exhaustion. Regardless – find the atmosphere where YOU will not feel judged, and your child can just know how much they are loved. Everyone deserves to watch their child beam like I did. They say that a smile is worth a thousand words – I say it is worth much more <3.
Click here for more blogs by Saint