By Anne Bokma
When my oldest daughter was in Grade 7 and screamed “I hate you!” because I was nagging her to clean her room, an older friend of mine, who had grown daughters, reassured me: “Don’t worry,” she told me. “She’ll like you again when she’s in Grade 12.”
I remember wondering how I was going to get through the next three years.
That friend was right. By the time Ruby hit Grade 12 she seemed to develop a new appreciation for the mother who used to annoy her so much. She barely even rolled her eyes at me anymore.
But by then, the cycle repeated itself. My youngest, Lucy, had just entered Grade 9 and I got to re-live the torture of those teen years all over again.
Those years aren’t easy on moms. A British study of 3,000 parents found mothers argue more often with their teen daughters than with their sons. And two-thirds of parents said girls were harder to raise than teen boys.
Although there were times I despaired when we fought about things like chores and curfews, there were plenty of positive moments too. And now that Ruby, 19, has just completed her second year at university and Lucy, 17, will start Grade 12 in the fall, I’m very aware that it won’t be long before they are off living their own lives. These days, I’m trying to create as many moments of connection with them as I can.
So I plan a separate pre-Mother’s day excursion with each of them to two spas — Scandinave Spa in Collingwood and Body Blitz in downtown Toronto. Both are famous for their therapeutic water circuit, based on a restorative European ritual involving cycling through hot baths, cold plunges and quiet relaxation — all designed to stimulate the blood, release adrenaline, reduce stress and release endorphins, specifically serotonin, the “happy hormone.” What mother-daughter relationship couldn’t benefit from that?
Body Blitz: An urban oasis
I’ve picked the spas with each of my daughters’ personalities in mind. I take Lucy, the quieter of my two, to downtown Toronto’s boisterous Body Blitz, the very opposite of a hushed Zen getaway. A women’s-only spa where pals paddle around languidly in the almost Olympic-sized Dead Sea salt pool and cluster in sweaty circles in the eucalyptus steam room, the place is a comfy estrogen-fuelled urban oasis where everyone moves at a purposely slow pace. There’s no rushing here. No cell phones either. We stay for almost three hours and it’s the longest stretch I’ve ever seen my daughter go without her beloved handheld screen. She manages without it, no problem.
After our soak in the hot pool, we psyche ourselves up for the recommended minute-long plunge in the frigid pool that’s designed to jack up our circulation. We hold our breath going in and I can’t help but let out a small yelp when I take the plunge. I barely last a few seconds in the freezing water but my daughter surprises me by calmly wading in and staying for the full minute. I tell her I’m impressed. “You can do it, mom. Try to stay longer the next time,” she urges me. Isn’t it nice when our kids encourage us?
We head to the plush red leather loungers for the requisite 15-minutes of relaxation before repeating the whole hot-cold-relax circuit again. We grab a magazine and sip on healthy smoothies (they’ve been pre-ordered from the juice bar and delivered to us poolside) and luxuriate in the setting. The main part of the spa is a massive room constructed of exposed brick, lots of warm wood and curved glass walls. Most of the women are in bathing suits; a few are in their birthday suits. It’s good for my daughter, I think, to be exposed to such a wide variety of women’s bodies.
Body Blitz, with two locations in downtown Toronto, is the brainchild of Laura and Rena Polley, who grew up in a Little Women home with five sisters in their family. They know what it takes to create an environment where women can truly relax and unwind. The sisters have recently introduced another treatment option for women with their Blitz Facial Bar, with four locations in Toronto, specializing in 30-minute light and laser facials.
In addition to the water circuit, Body Blitz offers treatments that include massages, body scrubs, muds and glows (the “deluxe sweet ginger glow” for example, includes a body wash and scrub, warm milk treatment with grapeseed body oil, a scalp treatment, face mask, serum and moisturizer as well as a hair wash and conditioning). The spa supplies robes, towels and sandals and its vanity area is fully stocked with hair products, body moisturizers and little extras such as hair elastics and plastic bags for taking home wet suits.
Our outing has the desired effect. Even though I’d hoped Lucy might open up a bit more, I try to remember how little my mother really knew about my teen existence. The important thing is we have a laid back time together floating in the warm waters and taking in the pleasant buzz of female energy around us. “I’d like to do this every weekend,” Lucy says.
Body Blitz fees for the water circuit are $60 a day ($50 on Tuesdays). Children 13 -17 are permitted, but must be accompanied by a guardian.
Scandinave Spa – a soothing and serene setting
When I tell my daughter Ruby that we’re booked for an overnight trip to Collingwood’s Scandinave Spa she’s pumped — and, no, it’s not because she’s going to spend some one-on-one time with her mom. “You mean it’s a spa like the one on The Bachelor?” she asks. Seems the popular TV show recently aired an episode set in Finland called “Nice Girls Finish Last,” in which bachelor Nick Viall hangs out at an outdoor thermal spa with one of the women vying for his affection.
Unlike her younger sister, Ruby is a big talker (like her mom) and has no problem airing out her worries. She has a tendency towards perfectionism (also just like her mom). If she doesn’t score all As in her studies, she can be hard on herself. I figure Scandinave will be the perfect remedy as she’s just completed her last stretch of exams. There’s a strict policy of enforced silence here — numerous signs remind guests to please be quiet. There are even staff members who will come by and gently shush you by holding their index finger to their lips.
We arrive in Collingwood the day before our visit to the spa, booking into a luxurious suite at Blue Mountain’s Grand Georgian Hotel and heading over to the on-site restaurant, The Pottery, where we dine on lime and pepper calamari and pumpkin ravioli made with maple cream, parsnip chips, gorgonzola gratin, walnut pesto and fried sage. In the morning we make the short drove to the spa, situated in a serene natural forest on 25 acres of natural Ontario birch, Canadian maple and pine trees. Muskoka chairs and loungers with protective canopies are scattered around the outdoor fireplaces, thermal baths, Nordic waterfalls and cold plunge pool. The roofs on the buildings housing the Finnish sauna, eucalyptus steam room and relaxation areas are painted barn-door red, lending the place a homey feel that’s further enhanced by the half dozen hammocks that sway under a grove of pine trees.
Here the guests are mothers and daughters, small groups of friends, a few couples, even some guys hanging out together.
We complete the hot-cold-relax circuit three times and pride ourselves on staying still for a full minute in the cold plunge, gritting our teeth while secretly snickering at those who barely dip their toes in the icy water. We linger a long while in the infrared sauna that’s so large it could fit at least a couple of dozen people. It’s part of a new 1,500 sq.ft. building constructed earlier this year that also includes a solarium that looks out over a tranquil pond in the wooded forest. I nod off on a lounger and Ruby wakes me. It’s time for lunch. We’re surprisingly hungry for expending so little energy and chow down on soup and sandwiches at the on-site Spa Bistro, a Wi-Fi- and booze-free zone with luxurious red furnishings with large windows overlooking lush greenery.
Over lunch, Ruby says, “I thought I’d be bored with all that sitting around and not doing anything. But it was soooo relaxing.”
The spa also offers Swedish massage, hot stone therapy and sport massage starting at $145, which includes access to the baths. The all-day access pass to the outdoor spa is $55 (“Unwind Wednesdays” are $45). Guests must be at least 19 to visit.
It’s a funny thing about teen girls — their emotions can sometimes be as extreme as a hot sauna and a cold plunge pool. One minute they hate you, the next they’re still calling you “mommy.”
When my girls were young they used to bring me homemade cards and tea and toast in bed on Mother’s Day. Now the best gift of all is every moment of time spent with them.