Here we are in the midst of spring break and I am busy planning our final road trip in which we will set foot in our 50th state. Wow...I can hardly believe it. It's only taken us 12 years and 17 trips but our journey is nearly complete. When we embarked on this epic adventure my kids were 4, 6 and 7, today they are 16, 18 and 20. People often say "Where has the time gone" when they find their children have grown, but when I look back at all our trips I definitely know it all didn't happen in the blink of an eye. We laughed we cried, we fell down, we got back up, but no matter what...we kept going and we've got 17 trips worth of photo albums to prove it. And now, the best lesson I can impart to you dear readers with kids, if you want your teens to be engaged the best thing you can do is set a goal during their early years and turn it into a family ritual in it's completion.
It's been a challenge planning this trip now that everyone's got their own agenda. Joel will be traveling with his class to Poland and Israel and then interning before participating in a college application seminar and starting his last year of high school. Isaac will be attending orientation at George Washington University before getting a summer job and then packing off to move into the dorms and start his first year of college. Lilia will be interning with a tech startup at the UC Irvine this summer as well as working before heading off to her Junior year at the University of Maryland. My kids are incredibly busy with their own lives, social schedule and numerous activities. I wasn't even sure they would want to go on one last road trip with good ol' Mom. When I asked them...Boy was I in for a surprise.
When I gave each kid the option if they wanted to go, they all looked at me crosswise as if I was kidding. "What???" they asked.."Are you kidding me? Of course I am going...How could I not go, are you crazy?" When I heard their answers, I thought I was going to cry. I thought for sure my jaded kids had had enough of our crazy adventures and had grown out of our road trips. I could not have been more wrong. This has been our family goal from the very beginning and they are as committed as ever to finishing all 50 states. More importantly and maybe even a little bittersweet, I think they recognize this is may be the last time we travel together-the 4 of us laughing, bickering and riding along on one last family road trip.
If you've got kids, I can't urge you strongly enough to start annual road trips when they are young. The payoff is as teens they will most likely be as committed to the journey as your are. It's beyond heartwarming to know it's the sweet memories of their childhood the they will most likely want to hold onto before they grow up, spread their wings and fly away.