I love to travel. Especially with my family. We recently got home from an eight day whirlwind trip to two of our country’s beautiful national parks, Glacier and Yellowstone. This would be the first time that my daughters would experience these incredible expanses of beauty that our nation has thankfully protected out west, and I was as excited as Teddy Roosevelt in a forest.
As we were planning our trip, the former second grade teacher in me kicked into high gear and I immediately started concocting ways to make sure my girls would absorb as much information, and appreciation, for what they were about to see. As I often do, I put on that heavy “mom hat” called “pressure and perfection”, and started heavily focusing on my role not only as a caregiver, but in this situation, an educator.
That’s what we’re supposed to do, right? Our job is to make sure that our children are being exposed to new situations, constantly learning, and soaking up absolutely everything that they can about new places and experiences. Well, yes in a perfect world, but after some reflection, following our return home, I realized I had set an unhealthy expectation for not only them, but for myself too.
I wanted them to see EVERY beautiful vista from our van. I YEARNED for them to be well-versed on geysers, fumaroles, and every other geothermal feature that they would see. I ACHED that they would remember each and every fun fact that our tour guides spewed so that their sweet impressionable minds would be blown by the vast and intricate world God so perfectly created. But then reality set in.
Instead of soaking in every gorgeous landscape from our vehicle as we traversed the wide open spaces and jagged mountain passes, I mostly saw them curled up in the back bench in the van, with their noses in a book. (Still a good thing, mind you.) And instead of becoming an instant earth scientist ready to present their dissertation on volcanic energy after our full two days in Yellowstone, they laughed and talked more about the weird, icky, bubbling mud in the ground.
The best part was, all of this was a far better outcome.
Years from now this trip will most likely be a faded memory for them, only jogged by the few thousand pictures we took. They won’t remember the facts about pine cones that the park ranger shared at the educational talk. But they will remember that we were together as a family, and the funny moments like watching me “van surf” trying to make peanut butter and jelly sandwiches while we cruised down the highway to our next location.
They probably won’t remember all of the specific things that make our national parks so special, but they will know that we as parents, cared enough about these beautiful places and the importance of exploring our world, to make the effort to go. My parents did this for me as a child, and my hope is that this concept will now be rooted in my kids’ DNA as well. And hopefully, the process will continue as they share the wonders of God’s creation with their children someday.