July 14, 2011
This summer, our older daughter (and third oldest child) turned 13. That means we now have 3 teenagers at the same time.
Let that one sink in. Kinda scary, eh?
I have watched her and her siblings celebrate birthdays at camp 8 summers. She was a tiny, little peanut-pie when she first put her face into a Champions birthday cake on her 6th birthday.
I find that I have trouble realizing that she is now a teen.
One of my observations about parenting is that we always think that our children are 18-30 months younger than they actually are and they always think they are 18-30 months older than they actually are. So as I saw my daughter, I still saw someone that is 11. Meanwhile, she looked back at me feeling like she is 15.
I believe that this mutual misperception leads to a lot of the challenges of parenting - we often want to hold on too long and they often want to fly too early.
Often, adults lose their “coolness factor” as their children progress through their teen years. They still love us, but they start to find us terribly embarrassing. A dance move in front of their friends can lead to fits of humiliation. Questions about their music results is high-quality eye-rolling.
Susie Ma’am and I have decided to take a two-pronged approach to this challenge. First, we have decided to embrace our function as embarrassers-in-chief. We have told then that we strive to be the most humiliating parents possible. We plan to wear costumes to their school functions (I am guessing the kilt will kill!) and dance with intentional awkwardness.
Our second approach is more unique.
We never get summers with our children. They are campers here and then they attend other out-of-state camps. They also visit grandparents during the summer. During the non-summer months, we spend a LOT of time together. They attend a “University Modeling School”, which means they go to school 3 days a week and do loads of homework the rest of the week. They also have wonderful vacation schedules, so we travel with them several times a year. But we still rue the loss of summer vacation.
Also, remember the part about having 3 teenagers at the same time? Well, we thought that it would be a good time to travel with them since they still appear to enjoy our company. I am not sure we can count on that much longer.
Here is the gist of our fool’s errand:
We have decided to take all 6 of us on a couple of very long trips - one to Europe and one to Asia and New Zealand. The kids were planning to switch schools anyway (so there is not a huge friend-displacement) and we have gotten approval to take them out of school for the next year. People ask if we are homeschooling. The official answer is no. We are not teaching 9th grade grammar or math. But we do believe it will be a tremendous education for them. We will be journaling, learning history, seeing art and visiting other cultures.
The fall is a very slow time for Camp. Also, we have managed to assure that we will never go more than 24 hours without an Internet connection. We had been saving for a while and had been looking for something extraordinary to do as a family. In short, we decided there are more reasons to take the trip than to NOT take the trip.
As I look at the pending travels, I am both excited and nervous. This is not a luxury trip. We will be putting everything into backpacks. We will be traveling more like college kids than comfortable tourists. In fact, Susie Ma’am wants us to live with a family in Laos for 2-3 days. We want our 4 children to know how fortunate we are to live in this country.
I am certain that there will be days when we are fraying each other’s nerves. I have already told the kids that they can NOT vote one of the others off the island during the trip. Yet I am certain that we will return as a closer family.
I plan to blog as we travel. If you have an interest, I hope you will take a few minutes to read it to see if we are still 1) alive and 2) sane. The good money says that sanity might not last.
We will be attending all the reunions in the fall (Houston, Dallas, Austin, San Antonio and Midland) as well as having some parties to meet new families. We hope you will be able to join us when we do. We are excited that all of us will be able to come to these events this fall. We would love to meet any of your friends that might be interested in camp while we are in your city.
Before I go, I want to share a quick story from camp this week. During the Rookie overnight, the Division Leader and the counselors wanted to do something unique. Inspired by the Caveman Dinner, they decided to create an adventure.
Half of the counselors became Wooly Mammoths. The other half led the Rookies on a Mammoth hunt.
I can assure you that the hunt went well, but no counselors were hurt in the making of this Overnight!