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Reflections September 2016

Tunnel Visions

Baby, You Can Drive My Car

By Bonnie McCune

Best of all, we became closer with our family's next generation, and they learned more about us. As Sean said at the conclusion of our trip, "Grandpa is my new best friend." What can beat a result like that?

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Seven-year-olds can have real conversations in which they state opinions, mull information, and ask questions. Just give the kids time and a little direction. You'll get highly original points of view while building the bonds between the generations.

"Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness." - Mark Twain

Of travel, writer Henry Miller said, "One's destination is never a place, but a new way of seeing things."

Since a major benefit of grandchildren is that they also provide you a new way of seeing things (poking a roly-poly bug with a finger to study the resulting tight and tiny circle, or licking the latest flavor of ice cream in total anticipation of delight), add grandchildren to travel to come up with an unforgettable experience.

With this in mind, my husband and I set off to one of our favorite locations, Mesa Verde National Monument, with our two grandchildren in tow. We wanted to share this treasure with our curious and questing offspring, not just for their benefit but for ours, too: a different perspective, new challenges, and renewed appreciation.

Mesa Verde requires a nine-hour, four-hundred mile voyage from Denver to its cultural, historic and archeological wonders. So we loaded up Lola, age ten, and Sean, age seven, for an expedition long enough to challenge us and short enough not to resemble a purgatory.

We were realistic. No, we couldn't expect the children to be quiet the entire way. Yes, we knew distractions had to be planned. No, we had no hopes of a clean car interior, hands, faces, and clothing.

In addition, we favored HUMAN interactions over electronics. Television wasn't an option, for our lodge had none. And we would use the portable DVD player minimally.

Each child brought a backpack of books, colors, and toys. The distractions Grandma and Grandpa supplied tended to be based on our own interests pointing out the routes traveled by pioneers, noticing areas which forest fires had decimated. These made welcome breaks in the routine and also led to. . .

Conversations! Seven-year-olds can have real conversations in which they state opinions, mull information, and ask questions. Just give the kids time and a little direction. You'll get highly original points of view while building the bonds between the generations.

We used the trip to test and try new things. A shower that functions differently from that of the home bathroom (we struggled several times before discovering the "warm" setting), people who speak in other languages (America is not the center of the world), life lessons through observations of human behavior ("See that careless child littering?"), broadened the children's knowledge and experience.

Traditional ways to create our own fun centered around games like Clue, good for all ages. In the car the long-beloved activities like car Bingo, nonsense songs, license plate sightings, all passed the time in positive ways.  I hardly dared suggesting one pastime: reading aloud. I feared the kids would think this a chore. But remembering their parents' fascination three decades before with a narration of The Great Brain, I wanted to try. I didn't have to. Lola brought Harry Potter and read it to all of us, thereby providing entertainment, improving her reading skills, and making Sean eager to try reading subsequent volumes by himself.

Our four-day adventure was chockfull of fun, exercise, new sights and experiences, and a few disagreements from which we all learned. Sean challenged himself to climb tall ladders; Lola became an expert at detective work. None of us will forget the deer nibbling grass right outside the lodge room or the eerie yet exhilarating fog that spread over the entire landscape one morning.

Best of all, we became closer with our family's next generation, and they learned more about us. As Sean said at the conclusion of our trip, "Grandpa is my new best friend." What can beat a result like that?

 

Bonnie McCune is a writer and has published several novels as well as other work. Reach her at www.BonnieMcCune.com.

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