Family Vacation Part 3: A Downtown Education

Okay, so I need to start this post by saying that I had the honor of spending the last weekend, Friday through Monday, at the annual Positive Discipline conference for facilitators and trainers of the work I am honored to do.  It was an amazingly inspirational weekend and reset my brain for being the parent I want to be.  It was a true gift to spend time with other people who are as passionate about this work as I am….

So, my brother generously offered to let my family stay at his suite at the Hard Rock Hotel in downtown San Diego on Sunday night.  This was much closer to my conference than where we were staying and we thought it would be fun for Ben to take the kids to the pool there and I could meet up with them for dinner.  That was the plan anyways….

At about 3 o’clock in the afternoon I received a text from Ben that read, “We are heading over to the Omni Hotel pool.  There is an MTV dance party going on at the Hard Rock.  Not kid friendly.”  I was able to get a hold of him a while later and he shared that when he and the kids showed up at the Hard Rock pool, they found out that there was a closed party going on that happens every Sunday…  It is called “Intervention” and seems to be an open invitation for young twenty somethings to drink lots of alcohol and bump and grind in teeny bathing suites around the Hard Rock pool.  When Ben and the kids showed up, it was impossible to even see the pool because there were so many bodies packed around it.  Good thing for the Omni Hotel.

By the time I showed up, my family was up in our room.  It was really cool to see all the relics on display at the Hard Rock, old set lists from Bob Dylan shows, original drawings by Jerry Garcia, amazing photos of the Rolling Stones in their youth.  And the room we stayed in was so rockstar – from the cool shower, to the stocked mini fridge - it was clear that people came here to get wild…  Enter the O’Roarty family – HA!!!

Everyone was hungry so we made our way to the Old Spahetti Factory around the block.  Our timing coincided with the end of the “Intervention” party and all those young people, half dressed and drunk, were making their way out on to the sidewalk…  This was pretty humorous – and a great opportunity to teach my six year old son about keeping things on the “DL.”  I let him know that yes, it is so fun to observe people, but it should be done while being respectful, keeping his voice down and not pointing.  Oh man – there sure was a lot to observe.

Now, I don’t know how many of you know this, but bikini styles are evolving.  Those teeny-tiny, brazillion cut bottoms are now worn so low that about 2 inches of butt crack is shown, as well as most of the cheeks.  Yeah, it was a new look to me too.  And my family and I had ample opportunities to see this new fad, mostly because of two young women that weaved their way up and down the street, wearing only their teensy bikinis, with seemingly no where to go...  More about them in a bit.

Okay, so we get to the restaurant and there is a 20 minute wait time.  They give us a beeper thing and we head out to the bench outside.  Again, awesome people watching, as we were in the “Gaslight” district of downtown San Diego.  The teaching opportunities seemed to be endless...

First there was the homeless women who came over to the garbage can/ashtray that was next to our bench and began digging around looking for butts that maigh have more to smoke on them.  Ian was perplexed, “What is she doing???” he asked, loud and clear.  “Don’t worry about me, kid,” she replied in a hoarse voice, full of hard life.  She then proceeded to drink out of two cups that were resting on the top of the garbage before walking away.  I made a point of looking her right in the eyes and smiling, letting her know that I saw her.

The kids had never seen anything like it.  And watched her shuffle away down the sidewalk...

“She is scavenging,” I said, “when you don’t have anything, you look anywhere for what you need.  It's a really hard life.”

“Your life doesn’t have to be like that,” Ben said.  “Right,” I responded, “because you are in control of what happens to you, life doesn’t control you.”

We sat there for a few moments, letting the experience sink in.  Whoa, I thought, where are we right now???

After a while, Ben and Ian headed into the restaurant to use the bathroom.  While Rowan and I sat on the bench, the two bikini girls come walking over, and one of them plops down right next to Rowan.  Like, right down next to her!!!!  Let me note here that these girls don’t carry any of the same hard-life energy that the homeless woman did.  They are young and beautiful, in their bikinis, have clearly been drinking, and are both smoking cigarettes.  And now one of them is right next to Rowan.

“I just need to sit down,” she says.

“Oh honey, “ I start, “you can’t sit right there and smoke a cigarette.  This is a child, you are too close.”  I have a kind voice and a smile on my face.

Bikini girl jumps right up and sticks out her hand with the cigarette in it, and asks Rowan what her name is.

“No, no, no,” I say, continuing with a big smile, “that cigarette is too close to my daughter, step away sweetie.”

The girl moves back, looks at me, takes a big drag off her smoke and says, “You know, I  have a 
lot of friends with kids, and I just want to tell you that I really respect the way you are handling this.”

Seriously, she said that.

I start laughing and ask the girls how old they are.

“Twenty-two,” they tell me.  Oh, how little you know about life at 22, and yet, you think you know it all…  I remember twenty two and the poor decisions I made.  I didn't need to be angry with these girls, I had compassion for them.  And, I thought, who knows what a little mutual respect might do for them?

Right at this moment, a tall, skinny, older homeless man walks over , “Hey ladies,” he slurs and starts to mimick the beats of a hip hop song, all the while doing his own little bump and grind dance at the girls.

Oh my god, I’m thinking, is this really happening right now?

The girls respond with squeals of dismay, “Ew,” they say, “you can’t say that to us…  We’re going to call the cops if you don’t stop!!!”

“Wait a minute,” I interject, still with a kind voice and a genuine smile, “you girls are on a street corner in string bikinis – what behavior might you be inviting?”

Before they answered, a miracle occurred.  The restaurant beeper went off.

Halleluja, I thought, as I headed into the restaurant with my arm held tight around Rowan.

As I reflected on the CRAZINESS I had just witnessed with  my sweet, sheltered, nine year old daughter I couldn’t help but think of how glad I was that it happened.  I want my kids to know that I can handle whatever moments life presents to me.  I showed no panic, no fear, no “us and them” mentality.  I looked at that homeless woman, didn't turn away, get weird, and act as though she didn't exist.  I treated those young women with dignity and respect, because that is what every human deserves, regardless of what I thought about their behavior.  I wasn't confrontational or judgmental.  I protected my child and made her feel safe in a new and unknown situation.  Life exists beyond the bubble we raise our children in.  To let them get a glimpse of it, I believe, is a really important learning opportunity.

When Rowan retold the story to my mom, she spoke about my actions with a sense of pride and respect.  I'm sure this situation will continue to inspire many a conversation between my daughter and me...  As she grows, I hope she remembers this story and know that I can handle anything she needs to come to me with...  Because if our kids don't think we can deal with their stuff, we are in big trouble!!!