As parents it is oddly important to us that we introduce our children to the world. These new experiences could be the things we always wanted in our lives but didn’t have. It could be memories of things that we experienced and remember fondly. So we go through the effort of taking our kids places, paying for things, and wearing ourselves out to fulfill this endeavor. My most recent adventure was taking my children to Washington D.C. for an overnight trip. A city I’ve been to many times before, but it suddenly became new through their eyes. My daughters are age four and six. They won’t REALLY remember this particular trip to D.C., but as I see it I’m adding layers to their childhood memories, little bits at a time.
So a two day mini-trip was plenty for us. When asked what we might do down there I ran down a rather ambitious lengthy list of options that seemed impossible to accomplish. There was a puppet show, the Air and Space Museum, the outdoor ice skating rink, the Museum of Natural History, and on and on… In my heart of hearts I knew that the truth is you can plan all of that stuff and then kill yourself trying to achieve it. So while I entertained the notion of visiting all of these places, I knew I didn’t stand a chance in the world of getting it all done and so I entered the city with NO plan, NO map, just a starting point, and even that didn’t go so well. The good news is it didn’t really matter that it didn’t go well, because going well wasn’t part of the plan.
While down there I did encounter parents who DID plan their day, and were soldiering on incessantly, almost immune to the protests of their children, but you could see the hopelessness in their eyes. They didn’t want to be doing it any more than their kids did, and yet, they pushed at it like it was a competition. In the end we did make it to quite a few places, but it was at a mosey. Yes, we enjoyed the Air and Space Museum, they really do have some COOL stuff to explore, and it is well-geared towards young kids. The Natural History museum was ‘eh, so, so’ to the girls, a place I remember solely for the big elephant that still graces it’s central gallery. Oddly they enjoyed the architecture just like I do, pointing out beautiful buildings, columns and statues that grace our beloved nations capital. We didn’t ice skate due to a lost glove, protecting soft little hands is so much more important.
Our ‘agenda’ was disrupted happily by carousel rides, ice cream pit-stops, magic dirt, circling fountains endlessly, the wonder that is the D.C. Metro train, a hole-in-the-wall delicious D.C. café, and a game of tree hide-n-seek. Their favorite thing? The hotel room. Oh, the luxury. Oh, the entertainment…two beds three feet apart make for quite a splash of fun. Speaking of splashes, they enjoyed ‘spa treatment’ baths and manicure/pedicures and indulged in the hotel robes, shower caps, and other little delights found there. I’m pretty sure their jaws didn’t leave the floor during the entire Metro ride, and the only hiccup there is that my younger daughter didn’t realize that the subway was NOT Subway, and she was disappointed at the lack of sandwiches in the joint. They loved the golden doors of the hotel, and the huge sparkly chandeliers. The bellmen were especially kind to us, spoiling us some, perhaps out of sheer amusement at the amazement painted heavily across my children’s faces.
We still have the magic dirt rocks. Those made it home with us. All these years that I’ve been to that city and never once did it occur to me that there was magic to be found in the dirt paved sidewalks of the mall. Now, a little piece of that magic lives on in our home. No, it’s not moon rock such as the display encased in glass in the museum with a description of the where, when and how it was retrieved from outer space. OUR rocks are sitting in our rock collection (don’t all families have a rock collection?) and the where, when and how we got them is fairly simple, just a one hour jaunt away, a wonderful weekend in November.
And, the magic of those rocks is the girls remember that trip and all the oddly fascinating experiences of the Metro, the hotel, the water fountain and the architecture every time they see them. So much for the White House, the Monument, The Capital Building and Smithsonian. The experiences they walked away remembering may not have been the ones I’d imagined for them, but I love what it became to us. I should have known it would be that way.
After all when I remember my visit to Rome as a young adult, my most enjoyable and perfect memory was laying barefoot on the grass, with a great friend and a bottle of wine, surrounded by a gorgeous Italian garden on top of a raised fortress overlooking the city. So much for the Vatican and the Roman ruins….