I am chuckling to myself as I write this post on the day it needs to post. I also missed posting last week because after a wonderful trip to Pennsylvania to visits friends and family, I came home and woke the next day very sick, turned out to be COVID-19 virus. This affected my plans to write when I got back home as I did not have any scheduled work days as an OT until the following weekend. I hardly did anything for the first 3 days.
Planning ahead is so important for so many aspects of our life. My goal is to have blog posts completed ahead of time and schedule them in advance. I am a work in progress.
Planning for the unexpected is something we also need to keep in mind and especially as parents.
Before going on our trip to Pennsylvania, I spoke with both my 13 year old and my husband about our shared expectations. I had not traveled to visit my brother since 2019 and this was a first trip of this type with the three of us. Our older two kids both live on their own and so our household is now a family of three. Creating memories with my youngest is important to me because many family trips we have taken were when she was so young she does not remember or before she was born. Having a child 7 years after your second, 11 years after the first, creates a only child like situation. Yet because she is not really an only child she often feels left out or as she describes, so much younger than everyone else and so frustrated by that.
One of the friends I had scheduled to meet with on Friday for lunch had to cancel and I seized the opportunity to invite Lexi to make a plan. She was excited to ride the light rail from Lansdale, where my brother lives into Philadelphia. She looked up information about the train schedule and times. Don chose to stay back and we made a plan for my husband and brother who was working a half day to come down to Philly in the afternoon and pick us up from the city and then take us to a park on the Delaware River to do some birding.
Lexi loves Lansdale not only because her uncle lives there (and cousins when they are not in school in California) but also because you can walk everywhere. It is flat and there are sidewalks and my brother lives within a block of stores and the train station. She has complained about where we live and the inability to walk places from our house, other than a walk around the neighborhood.
We did not have an elaborate plan, just to get to the train station for the 11:30 train and new what station to depart to walk around and to the historic district. She had a few places she hoped we could see yet even when we did not get to all of the things, she was quite satisfied with our experience. We found a quiet place with benches to sit while we waited for my brother and husband to come and pick us up. She has developed a love of birding inspired by her uncle and asked me if it might be ok to feed the birds some cashews we had. We decided that nuts are a food birds are accustomed to eating unlike bread and so it would not be bad for them.
What a blast! she threw some cashew pieces on the ground in front of her and all of these sparrows swarmed the area. She giggled with glee, slightly anxious about getting so close to the birds and how many surrounded her. I found myself truly living in the moment watching the birds and revealing in the experience for myself and the amazing 13 year old child who calls me mom. I would never have thought about feeding some cashews to the birds and would not likely have suggested going into the city if she did not have the desire to do so.
The next day involved meeting my college friends for a long breakfast and then driving further to attend my college reunion on the campus during homecoming weekend. My husband attended to her needs while I talked to old friends, current faculty and students and immersed myself in memories from 30 years ago. Because we talked about what to expect at the campus with all the activities going on, she tolerated the crowds and was able to find a quiet place to sit with her dad whenever needed. I had shared with her the activities and she had an interest in participating in the escape room game that was happening every hour in the library. We arrived at the library at the end of a long day and she decided she was too tired to wait our turn for the activity and yet found enjoyment in some of the displays in the library.
I wasn’t sure how much she enjoyed being on my college campus yet recently she found herself reading some plaques on the wall behind my writing area in our basement. One of them, my college diploma and as she read: Elizabethtown College, she responded with happiness in her voice, “I was there!” I had shared a piece of my past, a piece of myself and gave her a glimpse into college life. More importantly, my husband and I listened to her needs and the two of us were in agreement with our plan. He gave me the time to talk with old friends and he attended to her needs. He was not resentful and I was grateful. I have done the same for him when we have visited with his family or friends.
Allowing time for the unexpected and also discussing expectations ahead of time made for a wonderful trip with my husband and youngest daughter. Think about discussing concerns with your partner and children before a visit with the grandparents, or a road trip for vacation, or any holiday party or event. Having a clear idea of what each person hopes to gain from the experience and what they are most worried about along with allowing time to check in during the event, can prevent misunderstandings and meltdowns.