“There is no secret ingredient,” said the wise goose to his adopted panda son of his infamous noodle soup in Kung Fu Panda. Those words came back to my mind at the end of our annual summer trip this year in such a mighty way.
Every year we take our kids on a long road trip. Depending on the day of the trip and my mood, some of those trips seem longer than others. This year we traveled from Austin, through Arlington, to St. Louis, Springfield (Illinois), back to Missouri to visit Independence, Branson, and finally back home. We racked up about 2700 miles on the Coconut mobile. It was not as many as some years (last year was a whopping 4600!) but quite an adventure. I know, it seems like insanity. There are times on these trips that I question the soundness of my own mind but the benefits outweigh the momentary lapses of judgment.
Our reasoning is simple. First it’s an opportunity for us to disconnect from our normal world. Being self employed means work goes with us, but like hubby says, it’s much nicer to deal with real estate woes with a view of the Ozarks. Although work is our travel companion, we try and keep it to a minimum on these trips. Putting down the phone and computer, connecting with the kids as much as possible. We make memories, make messes, and make connections. Secondly it’s an opportunity for us to expose our kids to the world outside of their safe little bubble. It’s a chance for them to learn, to accept, and many times, to serve outside of our little field here in Texas. Most of road trips involve a stop where we spend some time serving others. Last year it was in LA’s Skid Row, another time it was in inner city Atlanta. The world is full of loud, narcissistic young people who have been catered to, pampered, and have been told that doing what “feels right” is most important. They are swamps without borders. Stagnant ponds where nothing grows but bitter leaves, mold, and algae. We are endeavoring to raise up mighty rivers with banks that channel the strength of the water, bringing life and beauty wherever they flow. Teaching them that is more blessed to give than to receive, that life is not about them feeling good, and that God expects a return on the investment He’s placed in each of us.
And finally, these trips are for fun. And boy did we have lots of that on this trip! Arlington allowed Hubby and the man child to pretend they might have a shot next draft season. I was able to merciless remind them both that they might indeed have a shot, since the Cowboys love to lose. St. Louis was full of adventure from City Museum, where we almost lost the Coconuts in the ball pit and in the various nooks and crannies that defy all safety rules to the Arch, which reminded me how I hate heights and tiny, confined spaces. Both of which one must conquer to experience the amazing views. Our adventure to Springfield was an educational journey through the Abraham Lincoln museum where I think we learned as much as our kids. Independence, MO allowed us to connect with new friends who became like family, and in Branson we were able to channel our inner child with roller coasters , dinner theater, late nights, and good food. Not to mention the fact that spending time celebrating Hubby’s parents 50th (!!) wedding anniversary was a priceless memory for us and the Coconuts.
I’m always a little sad and a lot reflective on our trek home from these adventures. And yes, a little weary of being asked, “Are we almost there yet??!!” There are thousands of blog posts out there that give advice on how to be a better parent, a better spouse, a better human. I admit, I’ve read many of them, while hiding in my pantry, sneaking chocolate to console my guilt over having lost it over that final math problem. But here’s the deal, there is no secret ingredient. That silly goose from Kung Fu Panda that I mentioned earlier got it right. There is none. Not just in noodle soup but in parenting. You can read as many books and blog posts as you’d like for advice but nothing makes up for the time you give your kids. Time that you spend with them and time you spend in prayer for them. Redeem the time.
Our oldest just turned 12. She is tottering on the precipice of womanhood. I allowed her to shave her legs on her birthday this year and cried my eyes out when she politely informed me she didn’t require my informative “how-to” commentary. We have 6 more years before she’s 18. I am committed to redeeming the time I have left with her.
And so these trips we take, although not for the faint of heart, are priceless to us. We may not live in the fanciest house, drive new cars, or vacation in the Bahamas, but the memories we make together, I would not trade for a million dollars.
Redeem the time now. Before this time is a distant memory.