Tuesday, July 5, 2016
Editing that Bucket List
"WE NEED TO SAVE SOME EXPERIENCES FOR OUR KIDS TO HAVE ON THEIR OWN."
This completely new perspective came to me, courtesy of my girlfriend with children in their late teens. Her eldest is currently backpacking with friends in Europe. I was surprised when she told me that it's his first time in Europe. As a family, they have been on African safaris, explored all that New York City has to offer, and spent many ski seasons in Australia, Canada and US. How is it that she has never taken her kids to Europe, I wondered aloud, especially since she and her husband lived in London for a few years before they started a family.
My girlfriend explained that in the early years, the kids would have been too young to appreciate it, and in recent years, preferences and schedules of each family member resulted in other destinations taking priority. Then she added, "Besides, we need to save some things for them to experience on their own."
A lightbulb went on in my head. Yes, she's right! Until then, I had been quietly compiling a family "bucket list" of all the places to visit and things to see before my children grew up. I had become so enthused with the idea of witnessing all the "firsts" in my children's lives -- first words, first steps, first plane ride, first day of school, and on and on -- that I fully expected to selfishly grab as many more "firsts" as I could well into the distant future. I had forgotten that my role is to help my children forge their own paths, not to be holding their hands all the way down that path.
I happily recall the first trip that my husband and I took together. We had only been dating for a few months by then, and we chose Paris because I hadn't been and he thought I would love it. He was right, and the fact that it was my first visit to the City of Lights made it extra special for both of us. My husband loved playing tour guide while we visited landmark sites together; I suspect his level of enthusiasm would have been lower had I already known Paris well and went equipped with my own list of favorite restaurants and places.
Going further back in my fading memory, I remember my first time skiing. I went with my high school friends to a local mountain one wintry Saturday, and they taught me how to ski. My parents were not there to take photos nor cheer me on when I managed the bunny hill after a few attempts. In fact, I continued to go with my friends for years, progressing to night skiing after school and weekend trips to Whistler Mountain, and never once did my parents feel the need to be a part of this. My independent ski life did not diminish the closeness between my parents and me, but it did bring me so much closer to those friends who skied with me. Win-win.
No matter how wonderful any experience is, nothing ever beats the first time. And thus my mind wandered and I anxiously pictured my daughters ten, twenty years from now, with their "been there, done that" attitude when seeing a Broadway show with friends or gliding down a canal in Venice with a new romantic interest.
So I will need to edit that bucket list, and make the choice to save some travel and other experiences for my daughters to enjoy without me. My brain tells me this is a wonderful idea. My heart wants to say, "Sniff, sob."
[NB - I had wanted to finish off this entry with some book recommendations about children having adventures and first experiences without their parents, and realize that this is the premise of about 96% of all children's literature. We can start with Maurice Sendak's entire body of work, and move all the way through those great fictional characters who are recognizable by their first names: Alice, Pippi Madeline, Eloise, Huckleberry, Mowgli, Bod, and Ottoline.]