Thursday, May 31, 2012


1 b : to direct on a course or in a direction

Our family has been on vacation in Philadelphia this week.  If you read my last post, you know all has not been lightness and joy. Yet after a bit of an attitude and expectation adjustment on the parts of J and I, the week has (in most ways) gotten better as we've gone along.  Part of the key to this has been letting my children take the lead.

After doing what I wanted to do on Monday by visiting an art museum, we got up early Tuesday morning and headed straight for the Liberty Bell.  This particular item was the catalyst for our entire trip and it was our hope that by arriving near its opening time of 9:00, we would not face long lines.  In fact, we were inside the air conditioned walls of its building in less than 10 minutes.  Was it all we had hoped for?  Perhaps not.  The girls read the exhibits lining the hallway, then quietly walked around the Bell, looking intently.  Finally, A said, "It's smaller than I thought it would be.  I thought it would be as big as K."  B and K quickly agreed.  It's a good lesson for them to realize that many mythic objects aren't as large as our imaginations make them.  They weren't exactly disappointed, just surprised.  And I was thankful we only waited in line a few minutes on Tuesday rather than joining a line that snaked around the building on Sunday.

After seeing the Liberty Bell, the girls begged to ride one of the sightseeing buses that circle the city, dropping you off and letting you back on at various historical, entertainment and cultural spots.  I'll confess here that I would never choose to take one of these buses were I not traveling with my children.  I much prefer to do a bit of research, make my choices about what I want to see and then do it on my own.  I'm sure this comes from my junior year of college, when I lived in England and traveled around the UK and Europe on a college student's budget.  I could never have afforded a sightseeing bus tour back then, so I learned to do it my own way.  But the girls were insistent and we had a good parking spot with an early bird discount.  So J paid the hefty fee and we boarded an air-conditioned trolley with a guide who was both well-informed and entertaining.  After eventually making our way around the entire loop provided on this tour, I will admit it was a worthwhile investment.  The girls were so pleased to have seen so much of the city and we learned things we wouldn't have otherwise learned.  Even better, the girls were happy and satisfied.  (In part, I think, simply because we followed their lead and took the bus.)

Wednesday morning I woke feeling ill and only felt worse as the day progressed.  By early evening, I was in bed with a fever and chills.  So our day in the Pennsylvania Dutch Country didn't go as I'd envisioned.  The highlight: a train ride on a coal powered train outfitted like a train from the early 1900s.  I was disappointed, but the girls have been wanting to ride a train for years, so the day wasn't a total wash.  Instead, it was a lesson for me to pare down my plans.  If I had been honest with myself upfront, the train ride was always going to be the part of this day that they found most exciting.

Today's trip to the Morris Arboretum really brought home a key takeaway for me from this vacation:  vacation - and our family life together - goes best when I alternate leading with letting the girls lead.  I choose the Morris Arboretum for its kinship with one of our favorite Nashville places: Cheekwood.  And while I still wasn't feeling great during our visit, we did feel at home there right away.  We did many of the things we do at Cheekwood: picnic, admire sculpture and play in the creek.  We left tired, but relaxed.

Vacationing really isn't all that different from parenting: it requires some advance planning, but I tend to do best when I can relax, loosen my grip and let my daughters lead.

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