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Cruise To Contentiousness

When I was around 19 years old, I was out shopping with my mother at a local jewellery store. The shop was running a drawing where the top prize was a free cruise for two people. We both decided to put our names in.

A few weeks later, the shop called to tell me I had won. When I phoned my mother to tell her the good news, I mentioned that I would probably want to take my boyfriend at the time. We had been dating for three years (since I was 16 and he was 17), so it was what I considered a very serious relationship. I didn’t think to break this to my mother gently, because I was relatively young and foolish and it didn’t even occur to me that she would have expected to be my cruise companion. Despite making an effort to spend time together doing things like shopping, our relationship during that period tended to be quite contentious. We tended to fight (and make up) just about every day.

She got VERY angry with me, but I decided to stick to my guns. Partly out of stubbornness, and partly because I thought I’d have a much better time doing romantic things with the man I was smitten with, rather than spending the entire cruise inevitably bickering with Mom.

All this was before I had officially claimed the prize. When I went to the store to collect, I asked a little more about it. It turned out that, as is common, the prize ONLY included the cruise. It departed from Florida, and we live in Ontario. Being a university student, I didn’t think I had enough money at that time to make the trip. The store told me I could think about it for a day or so.

When I mentioned this to my mother, she replied that it was too bad I hadn’t asked her, because she could have afforded the trip. Because I did selfishly want to go and because it seemed like she was going to be gracious about all of it, I almost asked her after all. But then she started saying very nasty things like how my boyfriend didn’t deserve such a nice trip anyway. (She thought he was too “low-class” to associate with, one source of our many fights.)

I let the jewellery store know I would not be claiming the prize, and gave them the go-ahead to offer it to somebody else.

My mother and I never mentioned the trip again. I am 36 now. Our relationship is much better. We still get on each-other’s nerves, but we only get together a few times a year. I’ve grown up a lot, and the man I eventually married (who is not the boyfriend from the story) is a very calm man who tends to have a calming presence on everyone around him.

Do you feel I should have offered the spot on the trip to my mother first? Did I have an obligation because she was with me at the time of entering? Simply because she is my mother? At 19 would you expect a girl to travel with family and not a boyfriend? Was I foolish to give up a great travel opportunity because of a personality clash? 0905-18

Your mom may have had an unspoken expectation, even prior to your winning the cruise, that you both were entering to increase the odds of one of you winning so that both of you could go together on the cruise.   It appears the decision to enter the contest together occurred during one of those moments when you both were not engaged in being contentious.   The question in my mind is, how would you have felt if your mom had won the cruise and announced to you that her guest was not you but some new boyfriend of hers or an old school friend?   Would you have been bent out of shape at her choice?   If the answer is “Yes”, that you would have been confused or hurt by her choice, then I think you owe your Mom more understanding in regards to how she reacted.

Declining to accept a prize because you cannot afford to utilize it is no shame but I would have asked if the cruise tickets could have been used by another person and if that was possible, offered it to your mom.   “Mom I won the cruise but I found out that there are fees associated with claiming it that I cannot afford.   I can transfer this to someone else so, here, enjoy that cruise.”    It would have then been interesting to see who she would have then chosen to go with her or if she would have also declined because she did not want to actually pay for airfare either.

{ 36 comments }
{ 36 comments… add one }
  • SC September 6, 2018, 8:11 am

    Yes, you should have asked your mother just because she is your mother. Then you should have offered both tickets to her when you found out you couldn’t afford it. First, selfish, then spiteful.

    • Girlie September 6, 2018, 3:00 pm

      OP doesn’t OWE her mother something just because she’s her mom. There are tons of toxic parents out there, and this comment appears to be incredibly judgmental.

    • Wendy September 7, 2018, 4:03 am

      Your joking right? This is sarcasm? Cause OP owes nothing to her mother just because she is her mother. Or are you telling me you share everything with yours always have and always will?

    • Bea September 7, 2018, 10:01 am

      My mom and I have always been close. At 19 I would have been cool with going on a cruise with her but she never expected me to invite her anywhere. She always laughed and said “you should take a friend! You don’t want to hang out with your mom!” but I usually insisted. She wasn’t ever judgmental or trying to tell me what to do, so we were able to hang out and laugh. To this day she’s my best friend and biggest fan and best mom in the world.

      I feel bad for anyone who’s mother expects this kind of thing. It’s so bizarre and boundary treading.

    • Melissa September 7, 2018, 12:46 pm

      Lol. You sound like you may be OP’s mom. She doesn’t sound like someone I’d want to vacation with either. It was probably OP’s first opportunity to take any kind of trip without her parents, and there were likely rules within the contest that the prize wasn’t transferable, although if my mom raised a stink like OP’s mom did, I doubt I’d bother to transfer the prize to her regardless. Adults handle disappointments without becoming incredibly angry and insulting their daughter’s boyfriend. Talk about selfish and spiteful behavior – OP’s mom is a great example of that.

    • clairedelune September 7, 2018, 7:25 pm

      I doubt both tickets would have been hers to offer. The store gave her the opportunity to accept it or reject it on her own behalf (and that of her guest), not to accept and give them away.

  • AMC September 6, 2018, 9:22 am

    I am both a daughter and a mother of a daughter, so I can see both sides of this. I can understand how, at nineteen, you’d of course rather go on a romantic trip with a boyfriend instead of with your mom. (What lovestruck teen wouldn’t?) But I can also understand why your mother would feel hurt by this. However, her handling of the situation was a disaster. She could have spoken to you calmly about her feelings and told you how much she loves spending time with you and how precious and finite mother-daughter time is. Instead she chose to insult your boyfriend. Seriously, what did she think she would accomplish with that? Honestly, I probably would have given the tickets away too.

  • paddy September 6, 2018, 12:29 pm

    I completely agree with admin. I would have been hurt (either as the daughter or the mother) in the scenario provided above. If I’m with someone and we enter a sweepstakes to win a trip, I don’t think it’s a stretch to assume the one who won would take the other. It’s part of the fun in entering together. Unless, of course, one of the parties (at the time of entering) indicates that if she wins, she’d like to bring someone else along. At age 19, many of us have had off and on relationships with our mothers. And I could see my mom being disappointed that I hadn’t at least asked her to come with me.

    It seems a bit mean to not offer mom the tickets when you know you couldn’t get them. Granted, her comments weren’t kind. Many people react rudely after they’ve been hurt. But it would have felt good to be the bigger person and offer them to her anyway. Otherwise it just seems petty and it seems a waste. Knowing my mom, if I’d offered her the tickets because I couldn’t afford them, she probably would have taken them and then asked if I wanted to come with, her treat.

  • stampysmom September 6, 2018, 12:32 pm

    The very first thing that came to my mind – cruises don’t generally allow people under a certain age to travel without an older person. I want to say 21? I’m curious if they had found out that you were both under 21 they may have not allowed you to book without an over 21.
    I’m also wondering if you had to buy to enter. If your mom purchased something (as you said you were a poor student) and you got an entry too, I would have leaned towards inviting her just to be considerate.

    • Rebecca September 7, 2018, 12:36 am

      She was 19, so legally an adult and of legal drinking age in Ontario.

      • stampysmom September 7, 2018, 1:57 pm

        That makes no difference outside of Ontario. She’s bound to the laws of the country of ship origin or the policies on board. You can look up the various policies for the different lines. You can’t rent a car in Ontario at 19 either.

    • Bea September 7, 2018, 10:02 am

      Ships don’t operate on US law, that’s why I am leary of them.

      If there was an age requirement, that’s up to the contest holders to enforce. You’ll see disclaimers of “must be 18” or “must be 21” to enter:)

    • AM September 11, 2018, 3:43 am

      In the US and, I suspect, in Ontario, making a purchase a requirement to enter a raffle is illegal. They can hint at you and guilt you but they can’t actually make you buy something.

  • staceyizme September 6, 2018, 1:03 pm

    While nobody comes out very well, here, it does sound a bit provoking to inform a parent who entered the contest at the same time that you did that you intend to cruise with another person entirely. It’s not an ordinary context in that it sounds a bit like you live at home, go to school and are still transitioning to independence. She might have faced penalties to her income taxes if you claimed the prize (assuming you were still claimed as a dependent), and might honestly have assumed that you’d cruise together if either party won. It does sound like she was a very bad sport about the whole thing and it further sounds like she’s made the process of separating and moving into adulthood as prickly and unpleasant as possible (assuming the “contentious” nature of your relationship stems from both parties failing to be reasonable and objective). In your shoes, I’d be less concerned with who went on this particular cruise and more focused on whether or not you’ve really been able to move past this period in your relationship and whether you are now able to set and maintain good boundaries in all of your adult relationships, not just this one in particular.

    • Lolo September 6, 2018, 3:47 pm

      I could be wrong, but in Canada our prize winnings (such as lotteries etc) are tax free, so not sure that this would have had tax implications for her mother.

  • staceyizme September 6, 2018, 1:05 pm

    Oops! Sorry for my failure to note your age now as being 36. Rather irrelevant advice given above and I apologize.

  • Catherine St. Clair September 6, 2018, 1:30 pm

    I have to admit the notion of taking a cruise with my mother when I was nineteen would have been the last thing I wanted to do. These things depend a great deal on the relationship you have with your mother and she may have naturally assumed that, whichever of you won, would have invited the other to come along . If I had invited my boyfriend, I would have expected him to pick up most of the tab since you were providing the cruise. Save up and take your cruise when you and your husband retire.

  • Reaver September 6, 2018, 1:55 pm

    They both bickered and fought daily, and her moms go to tactic was to insult her boyfriend and insist he didn’t deserve a nice trip, I wouldn’t have brought her along either.

    • clairedelune September 7, 2018, 7:26 pm

      Yeah, she doesn’t sound much fun as a traveling companion.

  • Girlie September 6, 2018, 2:59 pm

    They were OP’s tickets to do with as she pleased. When it turned out she couldn’t afford them after all, she let the store know, and the store picked another winner.

    Her mother was completely out-of-line to make an assumption about something like that. No one OWES their parents a ticket to a cruise that they won – and I say that as both a mom and a daughter (who has an EXCELLENT relationship with her own mother).

    Her mother was even MORE wrong when she insulted OP’s boyfriend – something that, in my mind, just proves that OP was probably making the correct decision in not wanting to go on a trip with her mom in the first place.

  • Lolo September 6, 2018, 3:46 pm

    I can’t see as why she was obligated to take her mother. They did not enter the draw together, they were there at the same time and entered a draw. I would not expect my best friend to take me over her husband if we were both entering a draw at the same time.
    If they had stated, “if I win, then I’ll take you” to each other then reneged, I can see her mother being upset. Of course she wants to go on a cruise with her long term boyfriend, and not her mom. I’d want to take my boyfriend too.
    Now, if I couldn’t afford to go, I would certainly asked if someone else could have the prize, and if I could, then ask my mom if she wanted it. That would have been the gracious and rise above it thing to do. But at 19, we aren’t always gracious, especially when someone is less than kind about your loved one. Heck, at 42 I don’t know if I’d be that gracious 🙂

    OP, I don’t think you were under the obligation to take your mother, and I would give yourself a pass on this.

  • Kay_L September 6, 2018, 9:33 pm

    I think it was selfish to not take her. And ultimately it was your undoing in that you had to give up the trip. Can’t help but notice that boyfriend didn’t offer to pony up the airfare…

    • EchoGirl September 7, 2018, 1:10 am

      Why would you assume he *could*? If OP didn’t have the money, it seems reasonable to assume that someone who is perceived as “low class” compared to OP and is around her same age doesn’t have the money either. It’s not necessarily reflective of his character, only his financial status.

    • NoviceGardener September 7, 2018, 4:54 am

      To be fair, we don’t know if OP had even mentioned the trip to her boyfriend before turning it down. Maybe she was waiting for more info before she did. And “pony up the airfare”? For a trip he didn’t ask for? I wouldn’t expect that from a millionaire, let alone a nineteen or twenty year old guy.

      I probably would have read an “unspoken contract” with my mum into the situation if it had been me, but OP had no obligation to take her. The whole thing reads more like an issue of tactlessness and miscommunication than genuine ill will, to me. With the exception of the mother telling the OP that her boyfriend of three years”didn’t deserve such a nice trip,” that is. That was flat out rude and mean.

  • Anonymous September 6, 2018, 11:15 pm

    Well…everyone lost out here. OP’s mother didn’t get to go on the cruise, because OP was going to go with her boyfriend instead, OP didn’t get to go on the cruise, because she couldn’t afford the airfare from Ontario to Florida (no shame in that; I live in Ontario too, and I can’t afford it either), and OP’s boyfriend got vilified by the OP’s mother by association. I don’t think the OP should have automatically asked her mother to join her on the cruise, because her mother picks fights and insult her boyfriend, and also, the OP said that she had a history of “bickering” before that, and then they’d be on a boat, with limited places for the OP to walk away to, if her mother were to pick a fight–unless she was a REALLY strong swimmer. So, in my mind, the only way to have prevented this, would have been to talk about who to bring on the cruise, before entering the draw, when it was still hypothetical…..but, it’s a hard line to walk, because, the goal of a parent is to make their children not need them, but then it can be painful when they do. The OP is in university, so she has a whole life away from her mother, as well she should, but her mother probably remembers all the years that preceded it–helping with (progressively more difficult) homework, driving the OP to ballet and Brownies and music lessons and whatnot, so she’d look adequately well-rounded on her university application. So, I can see both sides, but maybe, in the absence of talking about how to share the prize (or not) before entering the contest, the OP should have said, “Okay, we’re at an impasse here, so I’m going to sell the cruise on eBay and use the money to get us something we both enjoy.” The “something they both enjoy” could even be a shorter outing, because hey, maybe a cruise with her mother is too much for the OP (no shame in that; it’d be too much for me too), but a day at an amusement park or a night out at a concert would be manageable.

  • OldMom September 6, 2018, 11:25 pm

    No advice on the etiquette angle, but, I will suggest that no one enter “contests” to win cruises. Those things are essentially scams to fill low end cabins with captive guests who have to pay for virtually everything else aboard. Add up air fare and hotel before the ship leaves, tips, fees for anything not included, side excursion fees, shopping, etc. “prizes” like this could easily cost thousands. You and your mother both are better off declining. If you want to cruise, look for good discounts and deals and you will probably come out ahead of where you would have been had you accepted. (Oh and there are usually blackout dates on claiming your prize…. hurricane season might be available.)
    All that said, my daughter once won a trip… a real one that included funds for airfare and side trips, and she invited me to go with her. It was very nice and she didn’t have to nor did I expect it. But she was a bit older then, mid 20s, and we were past the constant bickering stage of late adolescence and we didn’t live together. I doubt she would have asked me at 19. She would have gone with a buddy but probably told me about it. Me at 19? Not only would not have invited my mother, wouldn’t have told her I was going.
    So in perspective, your mom shouldn’t have assumed you would go together without mentioning it so etiquette wise you are fine. Mother-daughter bickering at age 19, while still close and spending time together, sounds right on target developmentally for you both so no worries there. If your mom is still mad, tell her you heard on the Internet that those cruise prizes are a scam.

    • Store Manager September 7, 2018, 10:45 am

      Good point! Finally someone points out the costs associated with cruise. The whole ship is a floating liquor store with suggested % for tips. If the OP at the age of 19 couldn’t afford the airfare, let alone the expenses occurred on board. Glad she didn’t go to get herself into debts.

  • EchoGirl September 7, 2018, 1:01 am

    Add me to the chorus saying that I think Mom “assumed facts not in evidence”, as it were. There’s no real reason for mom to think that they were entering specifically to increase their chances of going together, rather than that they were each entering because each of them might like to win the prize. I could understand being disappointed and upset, but OP didn’t promise her something and back out, Mom inferred a bargain or agreement that never existed and then expected OP to keep to it despite the fact that they had never agreed upon it in the first place. If she wanted that to be the deal, she should have communicated it clearly, not just assumed that OP was on the same page.

    Yes, it would have been nice for OP to offer the tickets to Mom when she couldn’t take them herself, but she was under no obligation to do so, and given Mom’s passive-aggressiveness (WELL, if you had taken ME…) and insulting OP’s boyfriend, I don’t entirely blame her for not feeling charitable.

  • at work September 7, 2018, 9:07 am

    If I were the 19-year-old winner, I never would have considered taking my mother. I would have wanted to go with my boyfriend. My mother would have been hurt and would have let me know and I would have been bewildered. If I were the mother, I would have expected my daughter to go with one of her friends, not me. They are her tickets, she has a life apart from me, she is an adult, she can choose. As for OP’s situation, why would you want to go on a cruise with someone you bicker with regularly? Sounds like no fun at all, and there you are, stuck on a ship together. Being with you at the time you entered the contest doesn’t guarantee her half your prize. What an interesting assumption!

  • Ollie September 7, 2018, 11:45 am

    I feel sad that the OP has spent nearly half her life holding onto this.

  • Melissa September 7, 2018, 1:13 pm

    Very few 19 year olds are going to travel with their parents if they have a choice to go with a friend or significant other instead. I remember taking a weekend trip with my mom around that age, and it was not fun at all; we got along okay but the last thing I wanted to do was go away for a weekend with my mom and miss out on what my friends were doing. And, nothing about that trip changed our relationship, it wasn’t a bonding experience or anything like that, so it’s not like I even look back now and am glad I went or anything. My mom is awesome but we just aren’t compatible when it comes to traveling.

    I think this is just a case of unspoken expectations, obviously OP and Mom had two different expectations, neither of them voiced those expectations, but Mom still blew up when they were unmet. I don’t think OP was being selfish in wanting to go on a cruise with her bf, but even if you do feel like she was selfish, she was 19 at the time. Mom was presumably 20ish years older than her, give or take. If the onus was on anyone to behave graciously, it was on Mom. She basically proved OP right in choosing to invite her bf instead. If she’d expressed disappointment in a reasonable way, then I’d probably feel kinda bad for her disappointment (although then there wouldn’t have been any need to share the story here!). But, when people react the way that Mom did, it’s really difficult to feel any sympathy for her. I’m glad to hear/read that the relationship is better now, and it hasn’t come up since though!

  • Kathryn September 8, 2018, 9:24 am

    Wow!! I would expect my Mum to want to go on a cruise with her husband (my Dad) and that if I’d won, she’d be happy for me to take my own husband (or a girlfriend, not her). She’d prefer to do things with her husband over me and I feel the same. I love my Mum dearly, but this is a cruise for two, not a larger family!! For goodness sake, I’m surprised at the reaction of everyone else.

    Furthermore, of course I would tell my Mum I’d won!! Wouldn’t she want to share in my happiness? If my Mum had won, I expect I’d be a bit jealous, but that’s my own emotion that I need to tackle and not mum’s responsibility to deal with. I hope my happiness for her would significantly outweigh any jealousy I’d (understandably) feel. I don’t think OP did anything wrong at all!

  • Kitty September 9, 2018, 2:35 pm

    Hmm, I would probably have not mentioned having won the cruise until more detail was known about it, including the fact that travelling to the cruise was not covered. But if mom had won the cruise, I honestly would have expected her to go on it with a friend or partner, not with me.

  • ALM September 9, 2018, 3:06 pm

    Am I the only one who thought Mom had her daughter enter the contest to increase MOM’s chance of winning? As in it never occurred to Mom her daughter was entering as an independent adult, but that daughter was just an extra body that provided an additional chance for Mom to claim the tickets and go with whoever she was planning on going with?

  • Lerah99 September 10, 2018, 12:42 pm

    What fascinates me the most about this post is that the OP is 36 now and STILL trying to win this argument with her mom.

    By 36 shouldn’t you be past this?

    Your mom is a person, with all the flaws and foibles that goes along with being human. By this point you should be able to accept who she is and decide if she is too toxic to deal with or not.

    Either way, an argument over a cruise 17 years ago? It’s time to let it go.

    Why are you still looking for strangers on the internet to tell you that you were right and your mom was over the line? Why are still trying to score points about something that happened 17 years ago?

    If you are in a period of self reflection and feel guilty that you might have hurt her feelings, then apologize. In general, no one is sad to hear “Hey, at 19 I was kind of a jerk. Sorry for that time I… I really regret it and want you to know how sorry I am.”

    If you just want something to throw in your mom’s face as a “See! These people on the internet agree with me! I was right and you’re crazier than a bag of cats!” then you might want to think about why. Because it is some serious arrested development to still be fighting with your mom like a teenager when you’re in your mid 30’s.

    • AM September 11, 2018, 4:02 am

      You’re making quite a leap there. Isn’t there anything you remember from that period of your life that you might occasionally reflect on, when something reminds you of it, without obsessing about it or still trying to win?

      I had an awkward couple of dates in high school with a guy who had much stronger feelings for me than I did for him. Nothing much happened, I maybe broke his heart, we moved on. I had nearly forgotten the whole thing when, sixteen years later, I happened to meet someone who shared his very unusual first name. Suddenly I was remembering things I hadn’t thought about in almost half my life, and looking at them with fresh eyes. Was he really as needy as I thought or was I insensitive? Am I proud of the way I handled things? What would I do differently?

      I don’t think it makes you petty to occasionally revisit the past and reflect on your choices. Quite the opposite.

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