Just a few weeks ago Paul went on his first big trip without mom and dad. His class from school made a multi-day trip to the Pali Institute, in California. As other parents before me have no-doubt experienced, this involved a wide variety of feelings for me. The excitement of seeing him go somewhere for two nights without us. And the nervousness of seeing him go somewhere for two nights without us.
I was in 4th grade when I made my first big trip like this, and still remember it vividly as our class got onto a bus and drove for about seven hours from Colorado Springs down to Mesa Verde National Park. We spent two nights away from home, and learned about the people who lived there and built the amazing cliff dwellings. I remember feeling grown up on that trip, and didn’t feel any uncertainly or worry that mom and dad weren’t right with me. Talking to my son after his trip, it seemed he was the same, with his entire focus on the adventure and not being away from home. I’d like to think that reflects on having done a sufficient job preparing him for being away from us at that point, but there was still all the nervousness in me as a parent, having him that far away. Here’s how it all played out in my simple, fatherly mind.
As mentioned, the trip to Mesa Verde was exciting for me, and based on Paul’s stories when he came home, Pali was just the same for him. It seems everything about the trip was fun: the adventure of the bus ride, being with his classmates outside of school, everything he learned about and did, etc. He even raved about the food and ate things there that we normally have to push him to eat at home. We were excited as parents because he never showed any fear or reservation about being that far away for several nights. I have to believe that a big part of what prepped him for this was that he’s spend more than that many nights away from home. They just weren’t out of town. If anything ever went wrong or he decided he wanted to come home in the middle of the night, we could have just gone and picked him up—no problem. Whether Paul has stayed at a friend’s house, or with his grandparents, he’s never asked to come home early for any reason.
But this trip took Paul away from the local area without us. If he got sick, had a horrible time, or anything else went wrong, it would have been a drive to another state to get him. Not a crisis of course, but this was the farthest away from us he’d been. Steph and I had been away from him longer than two nights before, but when that happened he was always with his grandparents. This time he had no family nearby and it honestly made me nervous. I know that doesn’t make me special or unique, but I had finally hit that point in the parenting timeline when those nerves came into play. I managed this by focusing on the excitement and adventure he was experiencing, and by openly admitting to my wife (probably too many times), that I missed him and was nervous. I also knew he was with two teachers—both of whom we obviously trust a great deal.
In the end, dad and lad both came through just fine. I was reassured by all the stories he had ready for us when he returned home, and by the fact that nothing went wrong. To add to easing my mind, his teacher periodically texted all the parents photos of what the kids were doing—something that my parents never could have benefitted from when I was in elementary school. Frankly, short of a phone call, there was no word about the progress of my young trip to Mesa Verde. But thanks to today’s technology, we could get amazing updates for Paul and his classmates as the trip unfolded.
So with that hurdle cleared, I know the next one will be easier. Right? Riiiiiight? (Okay, I’m a big enough man to admit in advance, I’ll probably still be a little bit of a wreck…)
It’s great to be a dad!