LSS: Building character one mile at a time

In honor of our nation’s Independence Day and the American tradition of family reunions and summer road trips, my family is on a cross-country jaunt. I believe long car rides build character, memories and relationships—not to mention an appreciation for geography and even geology.
And that is why we’ve zigged and zagged and driven 2,047 miles in the last week seeing sights and visiting friends and relations across the land. I want my children to be well rounded, kind-hearted, informed, gracious and giving humans who do want they can to make the world a better place. Based on personal experience, seeing a variety of places and getting to know the people and ways of those places provides a more solid motivation for wanting to be and do all those things.
That’s what I’ve wanted for my kids from the start.
Which is why I started doing all this madness when they were young.
Stay with me here.
The truth of the matter is that with the exception of the extended family reunion in Los Angeles, where my children will have the chance to meet cousins they’ve never met before and the Grand Canyon, which we plan to hit on the way back, my 13-year-old daughter Greer has been to all the places and done almost all the things we’re doing on this trip.
But she does not have one smidgen of recall about these grand events.
Oh, yeah, this column isn’t going where you thought it was going. Yes, I’m all about purple mountain majesties and sea to shining seas and fruited plains, but that’s not the message today. Consider what I’m writing here to be a public service announcement for parents with children of all ages—but especially new and about-to-be-parents.
If your child is two or younger, save yourself the grief and agony of taking child-centric vacations. This is the important part: YOUR CHILDREN WILL NOT HAVE AN OUNCE OF RECALL ABOUT THOSE TRIPS.
Even when they’re three.
Even when they’re four.
Now, I realize there’s merit in doing fun things with young children—things they’ll never remember. I’d just recommend choosing those things differently than say…I did.
Save yourself some money and energy. We all know there’s one place in particular that sucks you in. It’s that place, that amusement park on steroids, that makes you think it’ll be magic once your there and life will be beautiful. You’ll be beautiful and your children will grow up to be successful, happy people because you took them there when they were young.
Let me be clear, I am not advising foregoing visits to said parks. I am simply advising that you wait until your children are older—you define older (but I’d put seven at the minimum).
Do not succumb to the peer pressure. Trust me, if your child is under age six, he or she will not remember a dad-gum thing, except maybe a pineapple popsicle or some other random tidbit that could be garnered somewhere else at much less expense and all around hassle. The truth is this: Your children would much prefer sitting down with you and rolling a ball back and forth. Or building a castle out of blocks or sand.
They won’t remember that either, but they’ll have more fun. And if you let yourself, so will you. Plus, there’s the added bonus of that kind of vacation costing a whole lot less, and it may even offer the opportunity for you to—brace yourself—relax.
I write all of this, with the following confession: Here I sit in a hotel room in Pasadena, California, with an exhausted husband and two sleeping children, ages 9 and 13. Tomorrow we are scheduled to go to that place of fun and magic that I said I’d never visit again.
We’ve been three times before. Let’s hope this visit makes memories for a lifetime. I’m sure it will be a character building experience for me!

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