A few weeks ago, after reading this article recently posted on Cup of Jo on the importance of (among other things) parents spending quality time with our kids, I booked three flights to Portland, OR: one for my daughter, one for my son and one for myself. This might not seem like a big deal. We live in Arizona, after all, so the flights are short and direct. For me, however, it was the first time in 11 years I have taken a trip with both of my kids alone, on a plane, to another state.
I've been thinking a lot lately about how much time my entire family spends together but not really together. We log a lot of screen time. Tablets and laptops are repeat offenders. Phones are omnipresent. We are all aware of it, of course. My husband and I talk about the dangers of it, the way it disconnects us all from each other, the behavior patterns we see in our kids as a result of spending a few hours a day glued to YouTube or Minecraft. It's been a slippery slope this year, as I've gone back to work and the kids have gotten older.
I thought about this when I booked the tickets. I normally wouldn't travel with the kids without my husband. Travel is hard enough for a finely-tuned introvert. But this weekend, when I thought of how much time my kids and I have spent apart from each other (even in the same home), I felt a pang of early regret, a precursor to the feelings I'll have later, when the kids are too busy or gone off altogether, to when I will wish I could have these moments back and make better use of them.
With this flurry of emotion, I booked tickets and a hotel room and announced to my siblings that my little group of three would be joining the rest of them to celebrate our sweet niece's second birthday. We packed our bags, loaded our suitcases, charged our tablets (for the plane ride, of course) and headed off.
I am happy to report we had a wonderful visit. Instead of spending the weekend playing Minecraft or complaining of being bored, my kids tore down a waterslide at epic speeds, swimming and splashing with their cousins. We watched 2-year-old Lulu's eyes shine as we sang her Happy Birthday. The boys played a game of soccer, the older boys gentle with the younger ones (with a few parental reminders called out from open windows). I drank coffee with my brother and chatted with my sisters. The kids loaded up on $2 bills from Gramps. Our sister-in-law made us a lovely, homemade meal, candles burning, table set. Grandmothers chatted, babies on hips and toddlers roaming through their legs. It was really lovely in the way life is lovely when you're with your people.
The trip wasn't without frustrations or challenges. Keeping two kids quiet in a hotel, after a 5:30 wake-up is no easy feat, but the benefits and good times far outweighed any blips. Ironically, on the ride home, I opened my airline magazine (yeah, I read those) to an article about parenting, consumerism/materialism and kids. The basic gist is that kids who are taught to value things rather than people and experiences grow up to be more materialistic, and that has been shown to lead to higher levels of anxiety, depression and general unhappiness. What we all know, in our hearts, to be true is true: experiences trump things for long term happiness. Later, as our kids age, they won't remember the Xbox as much as they'll remember that crazy trip to Portland, with their cousins and their slightly frazzled mother. They'll even forget the frazzled mother part and remember all the good stuff, because our memories have the capacity to massage out the negative and remember only the good stuff.
For the price of a gaming system and new TV, I took my kids on a 2-day trip to visit family. I am exhausted and sleep-deprived, but I am happy. So are they. We will remember this weekend for a long time.
I hope everyone had a lovely weekend full of adventures, big and small.