If you know me at all, you quickly learn I am a cheesy, tangible, sentimental guy. So as my son prepares to start kindergarten, I decided to plan a trip to commemorate his “rite of passage.” It was one of my best (both in terms of joy and significance) experiences as a parent to date.

Our schedule was fairly simple (though longer than necessary) for the four day, three night trip. Travel and camp by the family pond on day one. Catch a St. Louis Cardinals game on day two. See my alma mater, Union University, and do fun “guy stuff” on day three. Finally, visit the church of my college roommate and travel home on day four.

What follows are reflections (some playful; some serious) from the trip, written just as I have arrived home (pictures available on Facebook).

  • Do this with your kids! I would not trade the last four days for the world. We both arrived home with tears in our eyes.
  • Keep the biblical lessons you want to impart to a couple of key points that fit the child’s upcoming transition. We discussed Luke 2:40 and I Corinthians 10:13 on a couple of occasions for each passage. But don’t count on “before bedtime” as the best time to talk.
  • Prepare a picture album of the child’s life up to that age (thanks Gran). It makes the sense of life transition more real for both of you.
  • For younger kids life skills like pumping gas, ordering at a restaurant, checking into the hotel, or keeping up with the room key make “getting bigger” seem more real to them.
  • If you get the nachos supreme as your pre-game supper, then don’t try exploring the top of the stadium as your 2.5 hour rain delay entertainment tactic.
  • If you are going to do a rugged outdoor portion of the trip, put it in the beginning before you are getting tired and get used to having a continental breakfast.
  • Teach your children unique parts of your story if you can. Taking my son to the place I proposed to Sallie and to see my kindergarten classroom made for several good conversations.
  • Have fun! Fishing, getting an Aussie Cheesefry (he calls us the “high cholesterol boys”), swimming at the hotel pool, rolling pigs (hard to explain), and getting a late night ice cream cone gave the trip life.
  • Pick something selfless for your child to do. Attending my college roommate’s church was not as exciting as the rest of the trip (for my son that is, sorry Lee). But asking my son to take pleasure in my joy as I did in his, and then to see him do that was a special mark of maturity and bonding.
  • Say “I love you” a lot.
  • As a working dad (papa), it is a rare thing to get 96 continuous hours with my children. What I learned in that block of time was unique even as compared to a family vacation.
  • Teach them to tell their story. Both the simple short story (I cannot tell you how many times we talked about him catching a turtle) and their life story (the picture album and travel time were a great time to review life).
  • Don’t forget the purpose of the trip when things get off schedule (types the compulsive schedule keeping papa). Nothing I had hoped to say or do but didn’t detracted from the purpose of spending four days concentrated on enjoying my son and preparing him for the next season of life God has for him.
  • Finally, regardless of time allotment or activity, find a meaningful way to make the life transitions of your children and bond with them during this time. It will do wonders to place all the “grown up stuff” you do in perspective.

If this post was beneficial for you, then considering reading other blogs from my “Favorite Posts on Parenting” post which address other facets of this subject.