December 4, 2016
Reinhold Niebuhr authored one of the great prayers/approaches to life:
The Silver Fox (my wise mother) often quoted that to me over the years. Despite the tendency of teenage sons to discount the advice of their parents, this particular bit of insight really struck me as profound. In the subsequent 35-40 years of my life, they have proven as wise as any philosophical frame I can imagine.So you would certainly understand my delight when I realized that our children had learned the same lessons.
OK, perhaps not with every aspect of their lives, but that have come to adopt the “serenity to accept the things I cannot change” when it comes to our desire to document this trips with photos. As a general rule, they have made peace with the regular “lets preserve this memory with a picture” photos. Even when squabbling, they are generally able to adopt a face that seems happy to be wherever we are.
With this in mind, the photo above is the perfect introduction into this blog. In it, you see the fabric of our familial foray begin to frazzle. Wiley still manages a great smile. Virginia looks tolerant. Terrill toggles between confused and annoyed. But the best shot is Liam. Despite an effort to seem happy, his face simply screams “why am I at another coffee tasting with these people?”
In Africa, the “coffee plantation tour” was the go-to experience to complete an otherwise light itinerary. While this makes sense logistically, it does require a tad but if research, such as “has this family toured a coffee plantation yet”? Without this research, mistakes will be made. For example, a family of 6 with only 2 coffee drinkers might visit 3 within a week of each other.
As a result, “a coffee tour” has become a family joke that equates to “root canal without anesthesia”.
While driving Bali, our driver insisted that we visit a coffee place. While initially resistant, we would acquiesce for reasons that will soon become clear. But that still did not assuage our progeny. This photo shows that.
It also shows something even more important. Please allow a short tangent and I will return to this point.
Many people talk about the virtues of Bali, including the food, the beaches, the temples and the people. It has been great for us, but for different reasons than most other travelers.
Our time in Bali followed almost 5 weeks of intense travel for the Baskin females and roughly 6 weeks for the males (the boys and I spent a week in China before heading to Japan).
When Susie and I made our plans, we knew that Japan, Myanmar and Singapore would all be quite demanding on Team Baskin. We would have a lot of travel, many early mornings, some late nights and some tight quarters (remember the single room we shared in Tokyo). Also, most of these days would find us leaving our hostel/apartment in the morning and not return until much later that day. This type of travel can be demanding if you are just a couple of people. When you have 6 distinct personalities that all have strong opinions, it becomes much more challenging. If that group then becomes a little aggravated with each other (as often happens when families spend a lot of time together), nerves can get a little frayed.
Knowing all of this, we put Bali in the middle of our travel agenda as an opportunity to relax a little and hit the “reset” button. When we traveled 5 years ago, we certainly appreciated these strategically placed reset days.
We, however, did not realize how much more important such a break is when your travel team averages 18 years of age rather than 13. When the kids were 10-15, they more willing to defer all decision-making to us. That ship has sailed. The oldest are adults. They can drive and vote. Their opinions are now multitudinous, deeply-felt and inevitably contradict each other.
Also, three of our brood would normally be in college and they are craving the independence that college means. I do not think anyone would want to miss out on this experience, but I know there are moments that they long to be doing what their peers are doing.
When you are a high school graduate, family time can sometimes be like chili powder or garlic – a delightful source of pleasure, but only in moderation.
But there is no moderation here. We are shoving the chili powder into our mouths by the spoonful.
That spoonful of togetherness is evident in Liam’s expression.
So Bali was more than just a more relaxing schedule. It was a place where the kids could do things separated from each other and from us.
We have been able to have breakfast separately and even sleep in several times.
Today, we have been on a long van ride. After a long period of silence, I asked Liam what he was thinking about. “Surfing. College. Seeing my camp friends.” It does not take a master translator to understand that he is longing for more independent time and less family travel moments. [Note: the van we were in had an engine light that constantly flashed, no working AC, no seatbelts and missing cushions in the seats that left our rears numb. In other words, I suspect none of us was craving more travel experiences in that moment, but the comment still helped me understand what he needs.]
Knowing this, I see an opportunity. For the next 2+ months, we need to find ways for the big kids to practice being adults. Susie and I need to adjust our itinerary to provide some independent experiences. I suspect this will be hard occasionally. When your kids are nearby, it is hard not to be protective. We all know stories of college students returning home and having their parents try to manage their curfews and arrangements like they were in high school again. These same parents did not lose a minute of sleep when their children were at college, even though their progeny inevitably stayed out very late many times and always managed to take care of themselves. When your children are close, it is a challenge to embrace their adulthood and not fall into old habits.
But we believe it is important to do so – for their maturation and our sanity.
In addition, we still do need to be full parents to Virginia. She should be a high school sophomore now. While very mature, we are still several years from needing her to make all her own decisions (she might disagree on this item, but we do not plan to waiver on it). So our challenge will be to allow our oldest trio more freedom while keeping more of an eye on Virginia – all without her feeling mistreated.
I agree, a virtually unattainable goal. But we can all dream.
PS It has been truly interesting to see how each of the children uses true free time. Liam is a study in perpetual motion. I think his motto is “If you are stationary, you are not moving.”
Wiley embraces comfort and relaxation. He knows that some parent-driven trek is coming soon and he will be unlikely to wear his robe during that. His motto might be “carpe robe” – “seize the robe”.
Terrill craves goals and plans. She will regularly pull one of is aside and discuss logistics of the afternoon or help plan the dinner plans or massage schedule. Her motto is “Leave it to me . . . or else!”
Virginia must deal with being the youngest. That means all the things that it means in any family. She might get excluded from a conversation because she does not know anyone the other three are discussing. This makes her the odd-person-out frequently. But she also can completely hold