Road Trip

Do you enjoy traveling with your child?

I promised my son I would take him to my alma mater for a visit, and a football game a few years back. I wasn’t sure how I was going to pull it off, as my alma mater is no where near where we live, but knew we’d figure it out. We decided this summer the game we’d go to this Fall, and bought tickets.

As we got closer to going on our trip, my son and I were reaching a point in our relationship where it felt strained. He is a teenager now, and changing. He is embarrassed easily, it is hard to understand how he is feeling and how to ‘appropriately’ respond, and he has taken up testing the boundaries of acceptable behavior (short hand — my child is embracing being rude). I looked at the upcoming trip as an opportunity for my son and I to hit the reset button. I wanted to reassess our relationship and figure out how I can better learn what’s going on with him and support him, coach him, mentor him, redirect him, versus getting upset with him. I was aware that too often I was going into “Mom” mode — where my son would do something ‘unacceptable’ and I would turn it into a teaching moment. I think my son was desperate from a break in the class. 🙂

We left on our trip. We got our car early in the morning and headed off for school. We had a long drive ahead of us. We listened to music, we talked, he slept a little bit. It was nice. I held my tongue anytime he said something I wanted to respond to — my teacher instinct is strong — I had to remind myself that for the sake of my son and my relationship I needed to give it a brief rest. We got to campus and walked around. The campus has changed significantly since I was there. I talked about what had changed, what had stayed the same, and he asked questions about how you schedule classes, how do you take the right classes needed to graduate (he was interested in learning about credit hours worked), and how you get from one class to another on time — the campus was spread out.

We were fortunate that I had reconnected with one of my favorite former professors that still teaches at the school before we came. He encouraged me to bring my son to listen to one of his lectures. We took him up on the offer, I was excited by the prospect of seeing my former professor teach again, and my son’s interest was peeked with the opportunity to sit in on a college class. During the lecture, the professor introduced us (it was an auditorium class that probably had 100 students in attendance). He went through his lecture and at one point, reflected on me as a student, the contributions I had made, the work I had done, how I interacted with my peers and how convinced he was even then that I would do well in life. It was one of those moments that, as a parent, you couldn’t have planned or hoped for.  Getting a public acknowledgement of how others see you and no less, in front of my teenage son, and one hundred others, was more than I could have ever hoped for or imagined. My son seemed to hang on ever word the professor said during the class. I think (hope) he may have even started to see his mom in a new light after what the professor said.

We went to the game the following day. There were times when I thought my son was bored or indifferent about what we were doing, because he was being quiet. But every so often, he would lean over to me and say, “Mom, this is pretty cool.” I was seeing that I’d been right, I did need to give myself and son some space to better ‘see’ him and understand him.

We got back on the road the day after the game. It was a wonderful trip, but it was still nagging me that I hadn’t had a heart to heart with my son. As we neared the end of our road trip, I said to him, “You know mom loves you. We’ve had a really nice trip. You sometimes give mom a hard time or are rude, and I want to understand why. Do you know why you do it? Because if you do, we can work together on it and figure it out.” He paused for a second and said, “Mom, I’m not sure why I do it.” You could tell his wheels were turning. “Okay,” I said, “If something comes to mind, let’s talk about it. I love you and I don’t want us to fuss at each other or be upset with each other all the time.” He nodded and I left it at that.

It was a trip of a lifetime for me. One I will cherish forever. Spending time with my son, and us reaching this new level of understanding was priceless. Everything else — the professor, the class, the campus, the game, was icing on the cake.

How are you connecting with your child? How are you navigating any strain (if it exists) in your relationship?

 

The Waiting Game

Most of us have been on family vacations that include a long period of time in the car. It never fails at some point during the trip, the kids get restless, the distractions no longer distract, and the noise volume increases. It was this way when I was a kid, and it’s the way it is now with my own kids. When we reach this point, whoever notices it first will call for “The Quiet Game.” I think many of us have invoked the Quiet Game in this situation–where everyone gets quiet, and the last person to speak (or in some cases make any kind of sound) wins the game.

We were recently on a road trip that required us to get on a ferry with our car. We left the house early in hopes that we’d make it in time to get on the earlier ferry. After waiting in line for almost two hours, we learned that we were seven cars too late and we’d have to wait another five hours for the next ferry. It was a bit deflating, but we were prepared to wait it out. We were also preparing ourselves for playing the Quiet Game…we feared we might have to play it multiple times throughout our wait.

We went to a nearby cafe to get some food and drinks to help us get through the long hours, and noticed there was a beach just down the hill from where we were parked. We ventured down to take a closer look, thinking we could kill 30 minutes to an hour down there. Instead, we found there was a beach trail, that included a broad walk and separate paved path for several miles. Since we had such a long wait, we had plenty of time to explore.

My youngest son and I went first, we took our time on the path, noticing the sea life, the way the boardwalk turned and curved, and other wonders of nature along the way (a caterpillar eating a leaf, a large stump washed up on the shore, little pinecones on the ground). I was very present in the moment with my son. It was relaxing and we enjoyed each others company. When we got back to the car, we still had a few more hours to get through. My husband and our older son decided they would check out the path based on our experience. My younger son wanted to work on an activity book, and then when my older son returned they decided to watch a movie on the DVD player we had brought “just in case.”

When we got onto the ferry, my husband and I discussed how pleasant the long wait had been. No Quiet Game, no fussing, nothing negative. It had been time well spent. We had found ways to occupy ourselves and created some new memories at a ferry terminal. Not something I expected to do.

I will look a waiting differently in the future. It may include the Quiet Game, but it also provides me with the opportunity to be present with my kids and to find the joy in our surroundings whatever they might be.

What is your favorite game to play on road trips? What helps make the time pass more quickly or pleasantly?

I Don’t Want to Grow Up

Growing up isn’t easy. We tend to think of the difficulties of growing up as being a childhood challenge, but it afflicts adults as well.

My children recently watched the movie Peter Pan. Peter, Wendy, John and Michael’s adventures in Never Land really captured their attention. Peter Pan’s desire to never grow up really peaked their curiosity. You could almost see the words forming in their minds, is never growing up possible? They asked to watch the movie over and over again for weeks on end.

We recently took a family vacation (see my previous blog on road trip marketing toys). We agreed prior to going on our trip, that we would all travel to visit our family and then our oldest son would stay behind for a few days to have an adventure with his grandparents. Our son was excited. I can only imagine what he thought his adventure might include. While I knew he may fantasize that his adventures would be like Peter Pan’s, he knew there would no sword fighting or swashbuckling. Instead his adventure included learning new things like fishing, kayaking, hiking and enjoying the outdoors in a new environment.

The night before my husband, youngest son and I were due to leave I sat down with my son and talked about what would be happening in the upcoming days. He expressed that while he was excited for his adventure, he was sad too. He was going to miss us. I told him that we were going to miss him too. I explained that this was an opportunity for him to get to know his grandparents better and a chance for them to get to know him better. While they had watched his brother and him when they were younger they hadn’t had alone time with him. I told him that it was going to be an opportunity for all of us to be brave and that we’d all grow up a little bit from this.  My son would gain some maturity and confidence from being on his own, and my husband and I would gain some comfort in knowing that our son was blossoming outside of our immediate care. Our youngest wasn’t sure quite what he was going to gain for this experience. I explained, “You are going to get to grow up a little bit too. You’re going to get to spend some time with Mom and Dad one on one (something he’s never done before) and you’re going to see that you are okay on your own.” He replied, “I don’t want to grow up.” And while he wasn’t mimicking Peter Pan, I understood his sentiment. It’s hard to let something go that you love so much, whether it’s your childhood, your brother or leaving your child with his grandparents.

It was wonderful when our son returned home. It was a celebration. We learned a few things about each other on the trip. He traveled well with his grandparents, he picked up fishing and kayaking very quickly and he thrived being on his own. My husband, younger son and I grew too. We learned that while our nest won’t be empty for another decade or so, we have a taste for what it will be like. And while it will be sad when our boys are out of the house and on their own, it will be a celebration too. Of growing, gaining confidence and understanding that everything will be okay. We might not always look forward to opportunities that force us to grow up, but we were all a little bit better for experiencing them.

How do you help your child grow? How are you growing with them?

Let’s Have an Adventure

What family vacations come to mind from your childhood?  Road trips? Camping? Visiting friends or family?

As a child, my family was a ‘road trip’ kind of family. We drove everywhere, regardless of the distance. Our trips were educational. We saw a lot, learned a lot, and after a while, got on each other’s nerves a lot. But we enjoyed the experience together and have many great memories as a result. As a young adult, I often felt like many of our family vacations were FFF – Forced Family Fun, but in reality, they were an adventure.

An adventure is defined as an exciting or remarkable experience. I can remember getting ready for our trips, packing our suitcases, and thinking about the games we’d play in the car. It was exciting, we were going to see and do something new. Even if we were going to see our relatives or go to a new place, our road trips were never quite the same.

This summer, we have planned many adventures for our family. There will be camping, long drives, and lots of time together. My husband and I can’t wait. The kids seem excited too. I wonder if they’ll think back and have fond memories of our time together, or if they’ll think of these trips as Forced Family Fun.

We are building memories, and I’m treasuring each one. To see my sons faces once we get to our destination, to see them enjoying finding bugs in the outdoors, roasting marshmallows over the campfire, watching waterfalls in awe, or seeing their joy as they jump into a pool, I’m not sure being a parent gets much better than these moments.

What adventures do you have planned for this year?