Posted by Nancy S.
I'd like to think of myself as a young mom, but the truth is my oldest will be going off to college in 2011 just as my youngest will embark on his high school journey. Next December, my daughter will be on a school trip during winter break, so you can see the urgency I had to plan what was possibly our last family vacation this past December.
When I came upon this realization in October, I started to dream about where to go and what to do to surprise my family. I needed time with them, time to talk, sightsee and discover new places together. I settled on a week-long trip south to Panama City Beach, Fla., by way of Nashville, Tenn., and Montgomery, Ala. It would be a family road trip with several stops along the way. I checked with my husband to make sure he was on board with the idea. Of course, I knew he would be because he loves to drive and see the country. I had visions of revealing the exciting news to my kids. "Guess what! Instead of being at home this winter break, we're taking a road trip to Florida! Isn't that great?"
My kids were less than enthused. "A road trip? Really? Can't we fly there? Why are we going to the northern part of Florida? It won't be hot or sunny enough to get a tan? How many hours in the car?" What was I possibly thinking? Here I was in my Brady Bunch world while my kids were in The Simpsons mode. I refused to give up. "OK," I said matter-of-factly, "you guys can stay home and Dad and I will go." No, it will be fine, they both said half heartedly."
As the days grew closer to the trip, I called a family meeting. Everyone gave their input of what they wanted to do during the vacation. We scoured the books we checked out of the library to choose the most interesting sites. My son wanted to fish, my daughter wanted to hike, my husband wanted to see the country and I just wanted to be a family on an adventure. By the time we started our trip, my kids were buzzing with excitement. They looked forward to the part of the trip they helped plan.
I am happy to say, it was more than fine. We did it all. We saw Belle Meade, an historic horse plantation in Nashville; got an education on the Confederacy and the Civil Rights movement in Montgomery; caught 11 fish deep sea fishing aboard the SS Jubilee and hiked/climbed the jetties of St. Andrews State Park in Panama City Beach. My kids returned happy, more enlightened about other parts of the country and even a little sun burned! We shared lots of laughs and I honestly can't remember any fighting.
I knew the trip had made an indelible mark on them when my son beckoned me to admire the art he had been working on for days following our return. It was a painting that integrated the shells he picked up on the beach in Florida. His art was sunny, vibrant, but most important it was his expression of what the trip had meant to him.