Spring Break in the ’80s Versus My Daughter’s Spring Break 2021

I barely waved goodbye to my dad as I jumped out of his four-door Buick LeSabre at Detroit Metro Airport, my three best friends running alongside me. We reached into the sedan’s trunk (that my dad rushed to open with the very same key that he used to start the car) for our suitcases (that had no wheels) and lugged them the 100 feet to the busy PanAm counter.

We presented our tickets that had arrived by mail weeks before and checked in for our 3-hour flight. Security was barely existent as we giddily made our way to the gate. Marlboro Lights were our cigarettes of choice and although it was just 8:00am and we were only 18-years-old, we joined the other smokers in the terminal and lit up as we waited to board, using the already full airport ashtrays to flick the ashes away. 

We talked in teenage gibberish, knowing that the Fort Lauderdale “strip” was waiting for us just after we landed. We could almost taste the fun that was to come. 

Spring Break was different in the ’80s. (via Wendy Siegel)

I’ll never forget my high school spring break trip

Our seven-day adventure was peppered with bottomless Long Island Iced Teas, late-night Dominos deliveries to our hotel room, endless applications of Frosted Brownie lipstick and non-sober dips in our Holiday Inn pool. High schoolers from everywhere descended upon the Fort Lauderdale beaches to apply baby oil as sunscreen, present fake id’s to uninterested bouncers and enter the hot and sweaty bars and clubs to smoke, drink and do what 1986 high schoolers did.

It felt like heaven to me and my friends. Not for a single second did I consider calling my parents to share with them my whereabouts or the sordid details of my days on the beach and my nights on the town.  

And I assure you that there was not a moment in time, as they sat in our living room laughing at the Huxtables’ antics on the Cosby Show and trying to solve the mystery of who shot JR on Dallas, that my parents thought about calling me on our hotel room phone (did the even know where I was staying? I’m not so sure). I imagine they enjoyed the peace and quiet of a full week at home without me constantly asking to borrow the keys to the Buick.

It was one of the best weeks of my life. And I survived. Obviously. I’m still here to write about it. 

I went with my daughter on her spring break trip

Fast forward 35 years…and I’m back on high school spring break. But clearly life is different. Because I’m 52 years old and I’m the mom. And yes. You read it right. I’m on my daughter’s high school senior spring break. Just writing it makes me laugh at what I’ve become.

But here I am…on the beach in Miami…2.16543 miles from the hotel where my daughter and her friends are living the spring break life that I lived back in 1986. My every waking moment is spent praying that they’re not as stupid as we were. 

But even if they are…I’m staying only 4,322 steps from my girl (give or take a step) with ten other moms whose daughters are beaching it up with mine. And between our kids’ Snapchat stories, the selfies they’re sending us (“check out which bathing suit I decided to wear today, mommy”), the Uber receipts popping up on our phones, the notifications of charges on our kids’ debit cards and the app that keeps moms from needing intravenous Xanax, Life 360, we can jointly breathe.

Together we can piece together where our kids are and what they’re doing. And we are laughing. Laughing at ourselves for being “those moms” and laughing as we imagine how much fun our kids are having without us. 

I guess we moms are doing some helicoptering parenting

You’re likely shaking your head at this level of “helicoptering.” Maybe you’re wondering if I’m also planning to move into my daughter’s college dorm next year? (I totally would if the bathrooms were better). But MAYBE you’re secretly wishing that you were here, too. You might even be one of the many moms hanging out on lounge chairs on this very same beach while your sons and daughters are galavanting with mine.  

If you’re feeling judgmental, let me explain myself. While my daughter is still a full-time resident in my house, while she’s still my baby, while I still have the ability to take care of her when she needs me and even when she thinks she doesn’t, I will be here for her. You may put me in the “over the top” category, but it’s not like I’m staying AT her hotel or following her to any nightclubs or reminding her of the day’s UV rating or slathering her back with 75 SPF sunscreen.

I’m not even pretending to be the housekeeping staff at her hotel so I can fold her clothes and make sure there’s no sand on her sheets (though please understand how tempting this is to me). 

My parents may have been fine with me being “out of sight, out of mind” while I spent a gluttonous (to say the least) week on the Lauderdale strip, but this momma is not. I can blame it on the times, I can blame it on the media, I can blame it on social media, I can blame it on anything…and I’m happy to. But I know for sure that if I DIDN’T come down and something happened to my daughter, I’d never forgive myself. Call me crazy, but it’s my truth. 

I had the best time on my daughter’s spring break. I got some sun, read two books, laughed with friends who were also stalking/not-stalking their kids, wore the cute lace swim cover-up I got for my birthday and discovered that my daughter was capable and responsible and street-smart enough to manage a week on the beach with her friends. This trip was good for both of us. 

Fortunately, she’s my youngest and I have no more high school spring breaks to crash. But if you’re looking for a chaperone for your kids, don’t hesitate to reach out! I’m available for hire and I’m great at hiding behind palm trees and lifeguard chairs!!

More to Read:

My Son’s Spring Break Nightmare

About Wendy Siegel

Wendy Goldstein Siegel is the mom of three daughters -- two college sophomores and a high school senior. She and her husband are the owners/directors of Tyler Hill Camp, a sleep-away summer camp in the Pocono Mountains. When she's not at camp, Wendy can be found on her yoga mat, Peloton bike or trying to figure out which daughter ordered what on her Amazon account.

Read more posts by Wendy

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