Tourists at Praia do Barril in Tavira, Portugal
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Do It. Go On A Mom Trip.

Maybe you plan a big mom trip for someday, when your kids are older. Maybe it’s not at all what you expect.

You’re the moms and you found each other because you all stand around on the playground after school most days and a few of your kids are friends and you’ve decided to not-like all the same things. This is the backbone of all friendships, as you'll learn in your 30s and then your 40s. Raising kids is way better once you find other people who are raising kids a bit the same and those people also like to do things like go to the movies and share appetizers and complain about other people when it feels sort of fun to be mad.

You find each other and imagine what it’s going to be like to hang out without the kids, and maybe you plan a big someday mom trip for when your kids are older. Maybe this is the thing that gets you through — the planning, or the imagining, or both. You try out a few half-attempts in the meantime: a weekend at a local cottage with half moms and half non-moms when you are still in the thick of it with your kids. You play-act at being free as a bird and check your phone once, twice, three times an hour because one kid is refusing to send you more than a thumbs-up text, which obviously could have been sent by a murderer. When you sort of laugh at how bogged down you still are, it comes up again, the big someday talk. Someday we’ll be back to ourselves. Someday we’ll go somewhere fun for a weekend and not talk about kids and be free to do whatever we please.

Someday comes up so fast but also way too slow. Your kids are grown and fine, just fine, and now is the time for you to have that moms’ trip woohoo that you’ve been talking about for years. Then you do and it’s not at all what you thought it would be.

Now here comes the hard part neither of you was expecting: You are both the planners of the family.

First off, one of you, whom I’ll call Marcie, moved away to the other side of the country, so now you have to find a good middle point. The middle point, geographically, is not California, but you choose California because it is California. Because it is off-season and cheaper, quieter. You decide to rent a car because finally the kids have moved out and you can afford to rent a car. You decide on Carmel because it’s close to Monterey, a place you are both embarrassed to admit you know best from Big Little Lies and this is not a slight. You plan on the phone, by text. You pick out the things you want to see. The ocean obviously. Sunshine. Reese Witherspoon, with any luck.

Except California has decided that it’s not your time to see Carmel on account of the roads having washed out. It never stops raining. Everything about your trip was built around Carmel and Monterey and sunshine. Hiking, floating in the pool. Spa visits. You both brought leggings and sweatshirts and bathing suits and not much else. Now here comes the hard part neither of you was expecting: You are both the planners of the family. The booker of trips. The deciders.

One of you (me) is a single mom and so every trip was picked out by me and paid for by me and therefore no one was allowed to have an opinion. But on this trip you are both the moms and you are both the deciders and no one gets to just say, “Here’s where we’re going, put your bags in the trunk.” You are both a little surprised to find the other person wants to pick stuff. That one of you might want to do some hiking and yoga and the other one wants to see San Francisco. One of you is a restaurant person and the other packs snacks for the car. You both kind of think, Uh-oh, we’re doomed, until you remember that you are both moms so you know how to solve everything all the time.

You stay for two nights at a dreamy lodge just outside of San Francisco, close to the Redwood forest. It’s one of those old-fashioned-looking places that used to be Fort Baker, where the main building has a wraparound porch and it’s all decorated like the star of a Nancy Meyers movie. This is your kind of place, a rom-com dream. At night you eat in the restaurant close to the fireplace, curled up on a banquette with a glass of wine and appetizers. You agree on appetizers still.

Your mom trip was not a girls’ trip woohoo because you just don’t turn back into those people ever again. There is a deep relief in this for you both.

In the morning, you both eat the complimentary pastries in the lobby after a yoga class in the quiet chapel. You both resist the urge to fill a paper bag with leftovers. You get a room with a view of the Golden Gate Bridge and two massive beds. You hike all day, for miles and miles you hike. This is your thing together, this is where you find your groove and remember. Talk about your families, your other friends. Old lovers, this part is the most fun. Mostly you talk about your kids, even though you didn’t think you would. They will never stop being the headline in every conversation; you both know this now. And it’s a beautiful thing because you realize that you love each other’s kids, your shared history.

Afterward you switch to the thing your friend wants and go to San Francisco. You stay at a super modern hotel with a wall of windows looking out over the bay. You eat real Szechuan in Chinatown. You walk the neighborhoods, visit the Painted Ladies from Full House and take pictures of houses you could never afford and try to decide which one you would buy if you won the lottery. At night you climb into your beds and watch the Dolly Parton documentary on Netflix with the lights of the city all around. Chocolate and a bottle of wine on the nightstand between you.

It wasn’t what you wanted, but it’s more than you thought you might get. It’s more than enough.

You both fly home after. Legs tired from all the walking. A tiny bit hungover from all the wine. Clear-eyed about one thing: This friendship you made on the school playground has not changed. Your mom trip was not a girls’ trip woohoo because you just don’t turn back into those people ever again. There is a deep relief in this for you both.

You’re both in it for the long haul. Kids, grandkids, parents, family deaths. Stories upon stories. And now you know. The schoolyard is everywhere.