Three years ago our oldest son turned 10. As our gift to him, my husband and I took him on a trip by himself. No younger sister or brother elbowing him in the car. No compromises on where to stop for lunch. No sleeping on the floor in the hotel because he’s the oldest.
The weekend was all about him. Our only criteria was that the destination be within driving distance: close enough to get there in a few hours, but far enough away to provide good conversation time in the car.
We planned two days that we knew would absolutely delight his heart, specifically choosing activities that suited his unique interests. We went to the places, did the things, and ate the foods he loves the most.
He was prince for a weekend.
And while we had a total blast with our son at the amusement park and a Major League Baseball game, our favorite moment came during a leisurely lunch on the second day. That’s when we got to hear all of the dreams, hopes, fears, worries, and joys stored up in that 10 year-old boy’s heart.
It’s also when we, as his parents, got to fan the flame of those dreams and hopes. When we got to address and pray about the worries and fears. And when we rejoiced along with him for all the joys in his life.
Now, I’d say we’re pretty intentional people as a rule. (Case in point: this was my first-ever post for Des Moines Moms’ Blog.) And because of this, we have deep conversations with our kids on a regular basis – probably to their profound annoyance and future investment in therapy.
But, there’s something special about getting away with your child on his/her own that creates this holy moment of connection. Away from his routine, his friends, and the distractions of his siblings, our son blossomed under the undivided attention of his parents. He felt safe. He felt known. He felt unique.
And through that experience, I realized I’m so guilty of addressing my kids as a collective whole.
“I need you guys to get your shoes on and get in the car.”
“Everyone needs to pick up the family room before we can watch the movie.”
“Good night, boys. I love you.”
Spending the weekend with our son on his own, gave us the opportunity to really get to know him as an individual person, not just one member of a trio.
The 10 year-old trip was so successful that two years later we took our daughter on hers. (I wrote a series of blog posts chronicling our trip with her if you want some ideas. You can find them here, here, and here.) The activities, restaurants, and conversations couldn’t have been more different from our son’s, but the result was the same: a deep, lasting connection and a new understanding of her as a unique gift to our family.
Ten year-old trips can be a fantastic tradition for your family. But, here’s the good news: you don’t have to wait until your kids turn 10 to take this trip.
In fact, you don’t have to take a trip at all. You can achieve your goal of a deeper connection through individual moments throughout your week. Ice cream dates, shooting hoops in the driveway, running an errand together, or a cookie-baking afternoon in the kitchen can all be moments to steal your child away by themselves for some individual attention and connection.
If you want to start the individual trip tradition, but your child is already 10, call it a 12 year-old trip instead. Or an “All About You” trip. The point is spending time together and showing your kid that he/she is both important and worthy of your undivided attention.