I love traveling. I push my kids to travel. In fact, Kyle has eagerly anticipated our summer travel.
“Mom, I could be gone all summer.” He enthusiastically said.
Then yesterday, day six of our trip, Kyle proclaimed:
“Mom, you know how we normally take like nine day trips? I wish this one was nine days. This trip is too long. I want to be back home with my friends.”
Alas, Kyle is a teenager. Teenagers and their moods are my realities. Most often it is Eli who wants to be home. This time it is Kyle. Ok. And in truth, so does Eli. But because he knows Kyle is currently riding the “I miss my friends” train, Eli has risen to the occasion. He is pleasant & even grabbed my hand yesterday. (Um and Yes, to hold it.)
Guess what? I want to be home too. Well, yesterday I did. Ok. Maybe I did not want to be home. I certainly did not want to be here. I white knuckled it the whole way as we winded through the super narrow high-hedge-lined roads to the town we we are staying in: Dartmouth. We arrived and found an awesome parking spot. We checked into our AirBnB. Then the boys and I walked half a block to the local Marks and Spencer’s. Finally able to catch my claustrophobic breath, we settled in for the night. Oh dear God and then it began! The seagulls! They would not stop. Their squeals are like a thousand crying newborn babies. Add the broken washing machine, the incurable jet-lag, and the super bad wifi, I will admit I went a little crazy. Sure, one would argue that these are sissy, first world and privileged problems. They are. We are not starving. We are traveling. We are seeing the world. Kyle can deal with missing his friends and I can find some drying racks, earplugs, and melatonin. Done!
So last night when Kyle told me he was done being here, my heart really did drop. See, typically Kyle is my travel wingman. When Eli and Dave are all bent out of shape, Kyle will say things like,
“Mom, next time we can travel without them,” or, “I will travel with you as long as you will have me.”
[insert achy throat crack]
My boy is growing up. He needs to spread his wings. And as much as I want to tether these two amazing teen humans to my side, I must let them fly. Still heart achy, I went to bed determined to save our trip. Here is where I will pause to offer a
#Pro Tip: The pictures people post on Facebook may not be an accurate reflection of their reality. ( I am sure you already know that. )
In fact, this moment filled me with growth, you know that kind, where your bones throb because they are growing so fast? In that super-speed-growth moment, I had to chosen to move forward, or to bury my head in my tears. I chose to move. See, I love my boys. I want them to love travel and love our amazing world. And once I got over myself (a little), I realized that Kyle was actually handing me a gift. By telling me he prefers nine day trips, I was able to consider why. And then I was able to push forward and remember how we survived longer trips. In fact, Kyle and Eli often say there very favorite trip is when we went to Italy, Spain and France two years ago. We were gone for 1 month, not nine days. So in essence Kyle’s frustration offered me an opportunity. I thought, “What did I do differently?” Structure. While in Rome, Barcelona and Southern France each day had structure. The kids were doing online school at the time. We always made time for homework. Dave needs to put in a full work day. So similarly, on this longer trip, we have to cut our days short, or better, we have to make space for the less desirable responsibilities such as online school. When Dave is back working, Kyle gets bored and then longs for his friends. I get it. I get bored and miss Dave. Sure, we walk around the town, but that gets boring too. There had to be something I could do. I remembered the boys have summer homework. I also reminded them that we would could not fly home just because they missed their friends. I was definitely a little dark and completely truthful when I told them,
“Hey, this trip has kind of sucked for me too. The high-hedge-lined roads are making me insanely claustrophobic and those seagulls are making me go mental!”
And that is when we decided to make a plan:
After sightseeing, the boys would work on summer homework. Then we would hang out and see the town or watch a movie, and maybe even work some more. While in Dartmouth, we tried our new plan. During the day we visited two National Trust sites: Coleton Fishacre and Greenway, the summer home of Agatha Christie. We decided that, as usual, we preferred the airy servants’ quarters at the Coleton Fishacre home. We gave the gardens a seven out of ten. We still prefer Lanhydrock and St. Michael’s Mount near Cornwall. As we walked into Greenway, Eli said,
“Dad, I am getting a little burned out on the English country homes.”
I am with Eli. So instead of reading every little placard or examining every blooming flower, we worked our way through the gardens, lost Kyle, who was distracting himself with Pokémon Go, relocated him and made our way to Agatha Christie’s boat house. There were not a lot of shady spots for Dave and I to sit, but there were a lot of rocks for the boys to skip. Our boys love skipping rocks. In fact their favorite memory of the Cliffs of Moher are skipping rocks in a pond on the edge of the cliffs. Homesick-Kyle and overall-meh-Eli needed this moment. Dave and I sat in the sun while the boys gathered as many flat rocks as they could hold. Over and over they skipped and skipped rocks. They held the one rock up. It looked like a cheese cracker and then we said, “this looks like a cheese cracker.” I may or may not have slipped it into my purse. Then I offered the boys a hundred dollars if they could skip a rock far enough to hit one of the passing boats. Done skipping rocks, we found our way back up a long, winding path. It led us outside of the trust site. The people at the front joyfully let us back in. Instead of making them read every sign, or wait for Dave to read every sign, we breezed on through.
“Mom, really. At this point. I just don’t care.” Kyle said as we entered a few steps ahead of Dave.
He was right. I heard Kyle. As a result I suggested we see how fast we could make it through Agatha Christie’s house. In reality, I know nothing about Agatha Christie’s boat house and not much more about her country house. I honestly do not think it matters. Further, we have seen so many estate homes filed with tiny beds, table settings and portraits. Really? Who paints all of these pictures? Of course I know if they really want to learn about Agatha Christie, they can Google her. My guess is they won’t. Instead, quickly discovering her creepy doll and obscure can collection, having both Kyle and Eli laugh and editorialize the inaneness of Agatha’s thimble collection, and then comment on her super large wooden toilet, is an experience I cannot recreate. Soon (because we saw the house in like three minutes), we met up with Dave on the first floor. He was ready to go up to the second. I know this because he said,
“Are you guys ready to go up to the second floor?”
We all laughed and said, “Done.” Then I said, “Seriously, take you time.” In all sincerity, I want Dave to enjoy Agatha Christie’s summer home too. He did.
And while he did, the boys and I sat outside. Soon Dave joined us. We made our way to the car. Of course I commented on the couple wearing the red shirts. I looked at Kyle and said,
“In this scenario they will be the first to die.” To which Kyle said, “Almost as good as what I said the other day.”
“Mom, when we were near St. Ives, high above the shore, we could see some instructors in yellow and blue shirts. In between them were situated a dozen or so young children — all lined up in the crashing waves for surf lessons. The children were wearing red shirts.”
Kyle was correct. His red short story was awesome!
Now back at the car and singing along to “Hamilton.” Of course we were also making our way down another high, hedge-lined grass luge run, I mean two-lane road. Dave is a rockstar and finessed his way through the insane drive. We made our way to Kingswear, where we waited in the heat for our ferry to Dartmouth. Once in Dartmouth, we grabbed dinner: end of day half price cornish pastys. Then we made our way back to our AirBnB. The kids are in much better moods. I feel a little less crazy. We realized this is the moment we are in. We all let off steam and let go. I made videos about the seagulls. Kyle went out to the water and worked on his art journal. Eli and I spent a long time filling out his Fitness for Life questionnaire. At one point he had to answer questions about my siblings and Dave’s siblings. Dave has two siblings, I have five. After answering questions about Dave’s two siblings, Eli looked up at me and said,
“For these questions I am going to say you only have two siblings.”
Obviously I supported his plan and suggested,
“Let’s just say that three of my siblings were also wearing red shirts.”
Our new structure worked (at least for today). The kids are sleeping. The seagulls are squeaking and my laundry is drying in the humid air. And really, a big reason travel is completely transformative is because it pushes us out of our safe and comfortable spaces and then reminds us that we can.