Recently, I posted on my Facebook wall that we had finally made plans for our son’s 10-year-old trip. Who knew that it would be so controversial? I should know better, though. Post something on Facebook and you’re bound to stir the pot even if it wasn’t your intention.
The basic premise was, “Are we setting expectations too high for our children so that things become expected, rather than appreciated?” Before I answer that question, let me backtrack a bit, if I may. And, hold up on the judgment. You’ve gotta read this post the whole way through before you form any of those. Pinky swear.
When the grandkids turned 21, my grandfather and his wife took each of us – individually – to Las Vegas. “Twenty-one is a milestone age and I want to spend some time with you before you start living your life,” my grandfather was known to say.
Now that I’m 36, I understand a bit where he was coming from back then. I turned 21 and began my senior year in college. My boyfriend (now husband) had just proposed to me and we were planning a summer wedding. We had graduate school applications and GRE testing on our minds, along with selecting the wedding party, reserving the church and reception hall and picking out tuxes and bridesmaid dresses. Our life was just about to begin. But for a few days, I was just a granddaughter. Hanging with her really cool grandpa and Mimi Ollie. In Vegas.
I know that my parents sent me with some money and I came back with more after a few lucky pulls on the slots. I know that I wasn’t really looking forward to the drive all the way from the Texas panhandle to Nevada. And, I know that I really, really missed my fiancé.
But what I remember is a whole other story.
I remember thinking, “Wow, is my grandpa going to drive the speed limit the entire way?” Yep. I remember arriving on the strip (the original one) and my grandpa telling me stories about the WWII soldiers camping out there before they set off on their missions. He was a tail gunner in the war and his stories are always fascinating.
I remember losing my first, and only, hand at the black jack table and my grandpa reiterating, “Sometimes you gotta know when to fold ‘em.” Yes, indeed. A valuable life lesson in many areas of life, I later learned. I remember being wide awake at 9pm when they called “lights out” in the hotel room. And, after the 5:30am wake-up call the next morning, I remember that I only made that mistake one night. I remember eating breakfast with my grandparents every morning and being thankful for the time together.
Could we have gone somewhere closer to home, spent a little less money and still called it a great memory? Maybe. But, it wasn’t really about the destination. It was about the journey. And trust me. When you’re in a car for 24 hours over a four-day stretch, you’ve got plenty of journey.
When my husband and I first started planning our son’s 10-year-old trip, I was reminded of Vegas and its many life lessons. We have what the secular world would consider a large family. With five children under the age of 10, three of whom are enrolled in a Catholic school and a husband who works for a non-profit, we don’t have many “extras.” We don’t eat out often. The kids are allowed one extracurricular activity. We don’t vacation in Europe. As a matter of fact, most of our vacations are spent pretty close to home! We send the kids outside often and tell them to “get creative.” We don’t have credit card debt that can’t be paid off every month. We have a mortgage. We have one paid for car and one almost paid for car. We live life intentionally, with purpose.
The 10-year-old trip only has two requirements: 1) you must travel on a plane to get to your destination and 2) you must choose only one parent to accompany you. It’s likely that this will be the only trip our children ever take with us on an airplane. We recognize that our children don’t get uninterrupted, one-on-one time with us all the time, and certainly not for days at a time. We also recognize that at age 10 we are still somewhat cool and we pray that the door of opportunity to engage in meaningful, heartfelt conversations is opened and strengthened during our time together. Our son will be entering middle school in two years. He’s already lived more than half his life in our home. This trip is about spending precious time with a parent in a place that has significant meaning for that child.
Nothing about the way we live says “expected.” Just ask my children to show you their chore charts! So, there’s your Paul Harvey rest of the story. I doubt any of our children will come home with a bag full of overpriced souvenirs. Rather, I pray they come home with a full heart, love and respect for their mom or dad, thankfulness for their Creator and more sweet memories than any bag could ever hold.
Kathryn is still sorting through photographs and hearing stories about her recent 10-year-old’s trip to Washington, D.C. There were a few souvenirs, lots of joy and a remarkable bond between father and son that returned home. You can read more about her adventures with five children at Team Whitaker.