CHIANG MAI, THAILAND—The look on my son Ethan’s face is priceless: Eyes closed, droopy smile across his lips, arms limp on either side of the table.
I know that feeling. I have had that feeling. I’ve just never had it next to him before.
Ethan, 9, and I are experiencing our first Mother-Son massage.
Down the hall his dad and 7-year old brother are having a similar parent-child bonding moment.
The experience offered by the Four Seasons Chiang Mai in Thailand isn’t billed as a mother/son or father/son outing, but the introduction of the Angel Bliss massage for kids means that my trip to the spa doesn’t have to be a child-free zone.
And I mean that in a good way.
In recent years it hasn’t been all that uncommon to bump into little girls in the pedicure station or hairdressing chair but boys are usually left at home for what many see as a “girls only” day out.
And even though more and more men are discovering the benefits of spa, little boys seemed to be out of luck.
Even little girls had limits. Most spas only cater to an over 16 crowd and those that do cater to younger clientele tend to limit treatments to pedicures, manicures and hair braiding.
But times are changing.
While the Four Seasons Chiang Mai Spa has a full menu for kids and another for teens, it’s the Angel Bliss massage (3100THB or about $100 CDN) that raises the bar. Now Kids as young as 6 (accompanied by a parent or guardian) can get a rub-down to remember.
“The massages for adults are entirely different in terms of strokes, pressure applied and techniques used,” Spa director Chandarella Lauzon explains, “but both offer relaxation and beneficial effects to the body.”
It would be silly to assume that just because kids are smaller that they don’t also build up stress in a way where massage could help, she points out.
Ethan hasn’t had much stress lately. We’ve been traveling the world as a family since June 2011 and his most pressing question is often whether to do his online homework now or after another swim, but the idea of the spa intrigued him.
From the moment I read that the treatment was “ perfect for energetic kids” and that it “improves the quality of children’s sleep, soothes the nervous system, and helps to strengthen the immune system,” I was game too.
But the fact that we’re sharing “a moment” also matters and Lauzon says it’s a popular reason parents opt for the treatment
Once we’re in the room, Ethan removes his t-shirt (optional) but kept his shorts on. He had his feet washed in a warm foot bath and then hopped up on the table parallel to me. The massage is designed to focus on the back, feet and arms using only a gentle stretching technique. Kids are always assigned a female therapist and the same adherence to proper draping techniques and guest privacy that I’m used to are applied to his treatment too.
At 9, Ethan couldn’t have had this treatment without me in the room but kids who are 13 years old and older can have it alone as long as there is parental approval and consent.
I admit to keeping one eye open while Ethan got his first massage. I wanted to make sure he was comfortable.
The fact that he never once opened his eyes (I might’ve even heard a snore or two) was telling.
When it’s over, we get dressed and head out to sip on glasses of flavoured water in the lounge with his dad and brother.
I ask him how it felt.
“That was amazing mom. We should do it again.”
A spa kid is born.
This post originally appeared on thestar.com.
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