The Lie of 18 Summers: Why you need to travel with your kids now

Ice Skating Atlanta
Ice Skating Atlanta
All is right with the world. Love having everyone together. And that hot chocolate was to die for!

By Sue Rodman
I’m feeling desperation creeping over me. It’s the same feeling I had before my third child was born. It’s as if a window of opportunity is closing and, when it does, something (or someone) will be missing from my life.

My oldest son will be 16 in a few weeks, and I already feel him slipping away. Lately his busy schedule doesn’t often leave room for afternoon field trips to the latest exhibit opening, or weekend road trips with the family. Now that he’s in high school, taking him out of school for adventures is harder. When my second oldest enters high school next year, things will only get worse.

My husband rolls his eyes at me. “How can you miss someone who’s right here?” he says. “Live in the present, and try not to worry about things you can’t change!” He points out that, even after our oldest leaves the nest, we still have two other sons to travel with.

But it’s not the same. I’m the mama bird. I’m happiest when all my little chicks are together, under my wing. I want our flock to fly together.

New York City with Kids
Riding ‘the Beast’ in New York City. I was nervous going into the city alone with the boys, but they were such great travel companions and helped navigate our way. We were the only ones on this tour that spoke English. It was entertaining.

They say 18 summers is all you have to vacation with your kids before they’re gone.

But it’s a lie. If you’re lucky, you might get 13 or 14 before sports or other activities become the priority. And since that clock starts ticking when the oldest child is born, the youngest child gets even fewer family vacations. As the baby in my family, I always think about the youngest.

Who wouldn’t love hanging out with someone who brings a toy lightsaber with him to DragonCon so he can duel Darth Vader! (The lightsaber was the one he had signed by Jedi Mickey on an earlier trip to Star Wars Weekends at Walt Disney World)

I love hanging out with my boys. As my mom used to say, “they’re good company.” And they’re funny. Their off-handed comments can keep me chuckling for days. Once we were driving past a Food Lion grocery store, and my oldest started to roar like a lion. The others quickly joined in. I asked from the front seat, “What are you doing?” My son replied, “There’s a Food Lion.” The other son countered, “Oh. I thought we were randomly roaring.” It still makes me smile.

Strayboots Tour
It was hysterical watching them try to bargain in Chinatown. In the end, they wound up with this tiny Buddha, which I am turning into a Christmas Tree ornament.

I love our inside jokes: We know all the dialogue from The Incredibles and Madagascar 2, and recite our favorite lines frequently. I love that their iPod includes Irish songs from my aunt’s old CDs, and enjoy joining in on the chorus of “Whiskey on a Sunday” as we drive to church (thank goodness it’s a short trip, as we only know the chorus).

Now that they’re older, I love to see them take charge. “You know, mom, that fort we just passed is the only 17th Century fort still in existence in the United States.” Those words led to one of our favorite field trips, to St. Augustine’s Castillo de San Marco.

An offhanded comment by my oldest lead to one of our favorite field trips, The Castillo de San Marco in St. Augustine, FL

I love how, even as teenagers, they still want to go apple picking each fall. On a recent field trip, after finally taking their eyes off their electronics, they were incredulous– almost wounded– to discover that we were not at “OUR” apple house. “What do you mean we’re trying something new? Why?!”

I love how they’ve introduced me to Edgar Allen Poe beyond “The Raven.” I love how they don’t understand (any more than I do) when their social studies teacher says that many of her students don’t like history. How could you not like history?

How can you not love two teenagers who quietly wait coloring. We put their pictures up on the fridge.
Apple Picking
Selfie at the apple orchard. Last year I tried a new place, but this year we ended up back at “our orchard” Even the older ones want to know when we’re going to pick apples. They make room in their schedules for this simple trip.

In my heart, I know that we still have time. The window of opportunity hasn’t closed yet, but the opening is getting smaller and smaller. There’s still so much to do. So many places we haven’t been yet. This is probably the year where I’ll have to stop waiting for everyone and just go with whoever is available.

I’m thinking about expanding the blog beyond Atlanta. To do that, I’m going to have to travel more. And I do love to travel. When we’re on a field trip, I feel more present, and less distracted by the minutiae of the everyday world.

But, at the same time, I don’t want to miss anything– or anyone– at home when I’m gone. I’d much rather have all my baby birds with me. But I fear those days will be gone before we know it.

Trust me, you don’t have 18 summers to travel with your family. Don’t waste a single minute…

About Sue Rodman 174 Articles
Sue Rodman is the mom of 3 boys and publishes Field Trips with Sue, an award winning family travel blog about the Southeast and fun places to visit from the Southeast, covering outings, day trips, weekend getaways and family vacations. Field Trips with Sue is a Nickelodeon Parent’s Pick Winner, a Red Tricycle Best Family Travel Blog and a best blog nominee. Sue has been interviewed on Family Travel in the Atlanta Journal Constitution, The Northside Neighbor, Publix Magazine, and on all three major networks. For four years, Sue produced a Field Trips with Sue travel segment for CBS Better Mornings Atlanta, and has filled in for the host of WXIA Friday Freebies. Sue offers inside information about must-see Atlanta attractions and more in her popular book “100+ Free Things to do in Atlanta.”

25 Comments on The Lie of 18 Summers: Why you need to travel with your kids now

  1. Sue, Great post! I love it! I would much rather my child have memories than “things” and our traveling memories bring lots of smiles to us. You do so much with your boys and it’s fun to read all about it! Good job!

  2. Thanks Angie. I agree, the memories are worth so much more and I think the shared experiences will keep the boys closer.

  3. This post really resonated with me. I’m right there on that brink. My kids are 20, 18 and 17. I’m definitely in panic mode right now. My oldest is preparing to move out and just had his 2nd interview for a great 1st job outside my husband’s company. My middle child just swore in to the Air Guard and my baby is preparing to leave home as soon as she turns 18 to serve as a missionary. I feel the crunch, and yet I know that as a homeschool family, I’ve had more time with my kids than most. And I’m so grateful.

    We’re actually setting out on a 10 day road trip this Sunday for what will realistically could be the last trip will take while all my babies are under the same roof. Future trips will be different, but I know we’ve made some amazing memories and I trust there are many more travel moments that we’ll share ahead. Those moments may just include girlfriends, boyfriends, spouse and dare I say…grand babies?

    Yes, I know my site will be transitioning as well.

  4. Tonya, it’s sends chills up my spine to read this. I do know that my parents really enjoyed us all coming back and sitting around telling stories about when we were younger. You kids will have lots of stories to tell and I’m sure you’ll hear parts of it that you’re glad you didn’t know!

  5. Mama bird, I love your sharing and like to follow your steps to many family trips. I am also a mama bird with three boys — 12, 10 and 7. Thank you for sharing your good time and good ideas for us to create more unforgettable family trip moments.

  6. Sue, I know how you feel. My son is 14 & we have really forged a wonderful bond over traveling. Now that he is getting older those day trips into the city are not as frequent as I would like because I am competing with his friends. We did go to the west coast this past summer and he still enjoyed exploring, but is more excited about exploring on his own and will be going on a study abroad trip next summer with People to People. Even though I am sad that I seem to be losing my travel buddy, I am happy that I have given my son both “roots & wings”.

  7. So glad to have found your site. I too am a mom who loves to travel with her kids. We traveled full time for 4 years with our two kids, ages 6 and 10 when we left the US. Now I have a 16 year old senior and a 13 year old 8th grader. I can’t tell people enough to have adventures with your family. Have fun. Those 18 summers are gone before you know it.

  8. You know my pain! This summer was the first that we spent apart; my eldest in Austria, while my son and I traveled across the USA alone. And don’t even get me started on rarely being able to include my husband!

    This fall, facing the last year before my daughter heads to college, we had a war meeting to find one weekend a month and one week for the YEAR that we can spend together. Ugh!

    But I’m holding on to the hope that even after the kids have flown the nest, they’ll return because they like traveling with their parents.

    And if that doesn’t work, I hear that it’s never too late to try bribery.

  9. I love this post. I can so relate. My oldest baby bird is 17 and a senior in highschool. We’re busy applying to college and for scholarships and this will probably be my last summer if I get that will all of my chicks together. BooHoo. I’m super excited for the adventures she will soon have but sad for me and the other kids. Things will be so different.

  10. We love to travel with our family. Often my friends wonder if we ever stay home. One goal of ours was to travel cross country with our kids. Finally in 2008 we bought a travel trailer and took an 8 week trip exploring the southern 1/2 of the US west of the Mississippi River. My oldest was 19 and only able to join us for 2 of those weeks. I will never regret that time and all the memories we made & thankfully we still have a 7 y.o. around that we’ll be able to travel for a few more years. One blog that really helped us in our planning was, a record of a family that took 2 weeks per summer to explore our country. Enjoy your travels!

  11. I couldn’t agree more! Like you, I have 3 boys ages 11, 10 and 5. The oldest will be 12 in a couple of months and we’re taking a mom/son trip to Disney before some of the magic slips away!

  12. Just stopping in to say high after seeing you recommended on Peanuts and Pretzel’s family blogs to watch in 2014. As a parent of a 7-year-old this is a great reminder. He’s already so busy in sports, and it’s only going to get worse on that front.

  13. Thanks Lance. It does go by fast, but he’s at the perfect travel age and you seem to take advantage of what’s around you too. I’m calling you when I plan my trip to Memphis! (I’ve never been!)

  14. I really appreciated this, so very much. As a new bonus mother (we don’t say step – those are for staircases), when my husband’s 14 year old showed concern about spending summer with us because our dates would possibly overlap with the dates of her annual trip to the river with her friends, my heart shattered into a million pieces. His girls live in another state in a very small town where they can see their friends at anytime. I couldn’t wrap my head around it. Perspective. Teenagers. Ahhh. I can’t imagine what my husband goes through. We have an epic road trip planned this summer (and she’ll still go to the river haha). I just became their bonus mom and already I am not looking forward to the day she chooses a European adventure iwith her friends over us. Though I will always encourage it (within reason, of course)… 🙂

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