Nurturing Vacations

By: Janet Fusco

Experiment with a vacation where families can spend time together, and time apart doing activities designed for maximum R & R.

Here's my reality check for those social scientists still embroiled in the discussion of "nature vs. nurture" to determine whether Junior becomes a brain surgeon or a repeat offender: Frankly, I don't think it's all about the kids.

Consider this: So many of us are engaged in the frantic pursuit of life, liberty, music lessons, organized sports, the "right" friends and unending bliss for our children that we forget to factor ourselves into the equation. Put all of that stuff aside and ponder for a moment what relaxed and rested parents could give to the next generation. Without the proper scientific data I can't be certain, but I'm going to go out on a limb here and say that, logically, nurtured parents are just plain better-natured.

What I'm suggesting is that a real vacation - one where the parents get a chance for some R&R, to - just may be the way to bring on that family bonding the experts are always talking about.


We check into our room at the Sanibel Harbour Marriott Resort & Spa late on a warm, breezy afternoon in early December, just as the sun is beginning to set over the harbor. Men are casting nets from weathered fishing boats near small mangrove islands in the river, and small pleasure craft occasionally zip through, their pleasant, distant hum drifting up to us on our balcony. The river is flat calm and inky blue, in stark contrast to an incredible, moveable sky painted with stripes of orange and purple that mute together over time into softer colors and shapes.

My daughter asks if we can sell our house and live in this room instead.


We, of course, haven't come here to scope out relocation. We've come to experiment with a vacation where we can spend time together, and time apart. While Andrew, 10, and Grace, 7, were able to participate in the resort's children's program (available over the holidays), I'll relax at the spa, take a walk, maybe even lounge by the pool with a good book, uninterrupted. If there really is anything to my nature/nurture theory, it's my duty to test it out first-hand.


The path to the spa winds through a mangrove wetland. I sit quietly on a bench and watch a small blue heron stalk its way toward a meal while some white ibis congregate on the bank. After a few minutes of reflection, I'm able to walk over to the spa in a more Zen-like frame of mind.

Once I enter, it's all about me - my knotted-up muscles, my dehydrated skin, my comfort, my relaxation. I'm cocooned in soft cotton, offered fresh fruit and herbal tea, asked what kind of music I'd like to hear and whether the room temperature is comfortable - then rubbed, buffed and polished to a new shine. Two hours later, I pass by a mirror and am startled by the novel expression on my face. It's not that I don't look like me. I look like me on muscle relaxants.


I met back up with Andrew and Grace, and we splash around in the pool together for a couple of hours, emerging pink and wrinkled as newborn babies. Later, I check to see if my new facial expression has held up. It has. We decide to greet sunset on a pontoon boat cruise. The evening is breezy and the three of us sit close, up front, as the boat navigates through a no-wake zone to deeper water.

We approach a mangrove island and the captain explains it is a rookery, a nighttime nesting spot for birds. The captain cuts the motor and our boat rocks in the gentle current. The sun is setting behind us and we turn to watch. Almost in disbelief, we see scores, then hundreds, of birds in flight, heading for the rookery, straight over our boat. Snowy egrets; great blue herons; roseate spoonbills with their unmistakable pink plumes. The evening sky turns orange and pink and finally dark.

Motoring back to the marina, we listen to the slap of the waves against the hull and the slow, misty exhalations of dolphins off our bow. It's pure magic - a moment of togetherness and relaxation that confirms my belief that the world is an amazing and beautiful place. It seems my theory pans out after all.

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