In the spirit of love and unity, Mami, my sister, and I decided to spend quality time and take a vacation—together. And my one-year-old niece, who is attached to her mother’s breast, literally. Three generations. Our destination: Miami, Florida. Our goal: female family bonding and, for my sister and I, a killer beach tan. Mami runs from the sun, as she fears wrinkles, and experiences dizziness when dipping her toes in water.
It’s as if she were raised in Siberia rather than the Dominican Republic.
Needless to say, the trip wasn’t easy. There were often times when I wanted to jump in the ocean and swim back to NYC. Since I can only float for a few seconds, I decided to stay put and work through the highs and lows instead. With each passing day, there was a lesson to learn on surviving a Female Family Bonding Vacation, which I will share with you today.
LESSON #1: PATIENCE, MY CHILD
Mami and I arrived at JFK Airport with an hour to spare. Our hair combed and lips glossed, we waited for my sister, who rushed through security to meet us as she left her home an hour before takeoff. As flight attendants called for final boarding, my sister appeared in the crowd, hair in a messy bun and pale lips. Speedwalking toward us, frazzled and disheveled, Mami and I shook our heads in disapproval, watching her with reproaching eyes. Fortunately, we made it on the flight, but not without lecturing my sister. Mami went first; I followed her lead. Our message went in one ear and out the other, as it often does. And that’s when we, as sisters and mothers, must find the patience to not hit our beloved family members over the head with our carry-on baggage. Instead, we should deal with the stress of waiting for a loved one and being reprimanded by loved ones with patience and understanding, whichever the case may be.
LESSON #2: IT REALLY DOES TAKE A VILLAGE
My niece is attached to my sister’s boobs, and my aunt, who resides in Miami, was convinced that the breastfeeding had to stop. “I’m going to help you,” she said, as my sister popped a boob in Itty Bitty’s mouth. “We are all going to help you,” she finished as if dealing with an addict and having staged an intervention. And intervene we did. With the support of my aunt, Mami, and me, we weaned my niece off breastfeeding. Whenever she wanted boob, we pulled her away from my sister. We even took turns feeding her milk via spoon when she refused to suck. The following day, Itty Bitty was drinking cow milk. So, if ever in need to tackle a family dilemma, seek your primas, hermanas, and even mommas and tias. There is power in numbers.
LESSON #3: ACCEPTANCE
The women in my family are very headstrong, and never was it more evident than when eating dinner at our primos home in Miami. His lovely wife had cooked a delicious and well-seasoned skirt steak, arroz con gandules, and chicken wings. I served my plate and chose to skip the wings. They were slathered in BBQ sauce and, oh, how I loathe BBQ sauce. “Why aren’t you eating wings?” my sister wanted to know. I explained my disdain. “Just try it,” she pushed. I told her again. “I’ve had BBQ sauce before, and I don’t like it.” But she wouldn’t let it go. As if she were Mrs. Hunts herself, she urged me to grab a wing and criticized my limited palate. I found her lack of consideration unacceptable and went on a tirade, which included biting into a chicken wing just to prove that I still hated BBQ sauce! Moral of this story: accept your family as is—and that includes their hate for condiments.
LESSON #4: COMPROMISE IS A STORE CALLED WALMART
In the South, Walmart is all the rage. Mami knows this and demanded to stop at the store before leaving Miami. “Tengo que ir para Walmart!” she’d say every time we passed the superstore. And, boy, did we hear that statement a lot. At first, my sister and I refused. We weren’t wasting a day that could be spent tanning on the beach in a Walmart! But when Mami’s head dropped and eyes drooped, I realized how important Walmart was to her. It wasn’t about the store. It was about compromise. We were on this vacation together and it was important that we all enjoy our time, which begins with respecting one another’s “needs.” I nudged my sister when passing the fifth Walmart and nodded, giving her my blessing. Seconds later, Mami sifted through items like millions of Walmart-loving Americans. She was in discount-store heaven.
So, if you ever consider going on a Female Family Bonding vacation, remember that patience, acceptance, teamwork, and comprise are essential. It’s either that or be taken away by airport security while screaming, “I hate barbecue sauce!”