23 Aug Adults Only
First published in the NZ Woman’s Weekly 23.8.21
“Is this… um… Is this a no-kids resort?” We’re on holiday in Rarotonga and a family with two young boys have dropped by to have a look around. I’m wandering past with a book when the mother stops me to ask the question in a tone that is tinged with wonder, and also hope.
Yes, I tell her, you have to be over 16 to stay here or to use the pool which is deep enough for dive lessons, though anyone is welcome to eat at the restaurant. She says it would feel mean to give the kids lunch by the pool but not let them swim in it afterwards, and I see her point. I ask how long they’re in Rarotonga for – ten days, she says, which is longer than us and I’m envious. “But you can do a lot more in a week without two kids in tow!” she says, and we grin at each other because I used to be her, and one day she might be me.
I remember my first holiday as a mother, about eight months into the parenting lark. It was a weekend away and somehow I’d imagined it would be like pre-baby weekends away – a dinner out, a nap, no housework or cooking, much peace and freedom and maybe a book. Then the shocking realisation that a weekend away with a baby was exactly like a weekend at home with a baby, except without the stuff you needed on hand.
This is my first experience of an “adults only” resort. Though “adults only” sounds like the back room of a video store with rude movies… “Child free” maybe? Just “quiet” mostly, with a distinct lack of shrieking in the pool or whining at the restaurant or sulking on the sun loungers. That special kind of quiet your house has once you’ve got the last kid off to school.
We are people temporarily escaping kids, or yet to have kids, or enjoying being able to afford the luxury of a place without kids now our kids have left home. Even our conversations seem quieter, our voices less urgent, lacking the edge of hysteria you detect in someone’s first adult conversation of the day. No one needs to be told off, given warnings, or have boundaries explained. You are not vigilant. You are allowed to swim at night in the pool so long as you don’t annoy anyone. Aside from the no-kids rule, there are almost no others.
I like how adults are with each other when it’s just us. We dip in and out of conversations, and occasionally gather in groups for sunset cocktails but also sometimes don’t. I get the feeling we’d all cheerfully lend our neighbours a cup of sugar but probably wouldn’t ask for one ourselves. We are delighted to be self-contained.
There is a wedding on our beach, and an engagement, and other stories are shared about big life events. We give each other hot tips on places to eat and occasionally all end up at the same restaurant where we smile and wave but stay at our own tables, comparing notes the next day about the cheesecake and fish.
After eight days, I’m at the airport where clusters of hot, fraught families are making their way home and I am so overwhelmed by the sounds they make, I put in my earbuds and listen to an ocean scape. I will re-acclimate, but I’m not ready yet.