In a bit of a contemplative mood this morning. I’m down in Pennsylvania, spending time with the fam. Growing up, I moved around quite a bit. I was talking to TRC and doing some math, and by the time I was his age, I’d already lived in at least 4 houses in 4 different schools. For quite some time, I never seemed to stay in one place longer than a couple of years. TRC has lived in two places, and been in the same school district for his entire schooling so far.
So when I come down to Pennsylvania, and it’s the same house that my parents have been in for the last 22 years, it’s a bit of a strange feeling for me–to actually have that many memories about a single place. There are a few other places I have that, of course. But anyway–it just got me thinking.
I think sometimes as a father, I really want my kids to have all the same great experiences I had growing up, with none of the bad ones. I want to pick and choose for them to make their childhood one big bundle of awesome. There’s more than a few problems with that quest, obviously. The first is that it’s impossible to go back and recreate certain things. Growing up, I’d go to a family cabin in the Utah mountains for a week each year, and all my cousins would come along. There were like 15 or 20 of us–the number changed from year to year. But we’d go up, and we’d have a blast. I’d love for my kids to have that same experience.
Except I live in Maine. My kids’ closest cousins are 12 hours away by car, in Maryland. And after them, the closest ones are in San Antonio. And then the other cousins are in Utah. When I was growing up, all of the cousins (minus my family) lived within about a half hour of each other in Utah. So short of me convincing all my brothers and sisters to move to Maine (something I tried already–it didn’t work), the only other option would be to fly to meet people someplace in between. That’s happened a time or two, but it’s just not practical in the long run. You can’t count on it from year to year.
So there goes that experience, right?
Right and wrong. Because what I’m coming to see and understand is that everyone has different interactions with the past. What I experience at a place and time may be very different from what someone else experiences at the same place and time. Same place and different time? It’s going to be wildly different.
Cases in point: my mission and my college years were flat out awesome. There were a lot of difficult times, of course, but looking back on them, I had a ton of fun. Made friends I’m still in touch with today, and had just a great time. But I talk to people who had very different interactions with those times of their lives. Their mission was incredibly difficult. College was full of trouble. And I just can’t relate to it. I can get that they had a different time, but I can’t understand how that was possible. Well, I *can*, but it takes some mental effort for me to connect the dots in my head, since it’s so different from my own experiences.
What I’ve come to accept is that everyone’s life is different. (I excel at struggling with a subject, only to eventually arrive at obvious conclusions.) My kids couldn’t have my childhood if I did everything possible. And they shouldn’t. I can’t recreate things exactly as I had them. But what I *can* do is help them have awesome experiences of their own. Have my own family traditions that they can then look back on and wish *their* kids could have the same things.
So we come down to Pennsylvania regularly and try to meet up with their Maryland cousins at least once a year. We fly out to Utah to see family. We go to Europe every three years or so. We try to get down to Disney World fairly regularly. And then we have things like Groundhog Day parties, summer fishing expeditions, Christmas traditions, play dates, and more.
I can’t recreate the same things I did that I enjoyed as a kid. My kids will interact with and see those things differently. But I can recreate the same sort of environment. Nurture and support. Fun loving. Family councils.
Wait. There is *one* thing I can recreate perfectly. Long car rides stuck in the back seat with nothing to do.
Some things never change.