One of the things I have found most satisfying as a parent is defining special occasions and major lessons with a memorable trip. In previous posts I have discussed the kindergarten right of passage trip I took with my first son and a trip we took when he was especially discouraged at school. This post is about the kindergarten right of passage trip I recently took with my youngest son (pictures on Facebook).

With each trip I am learning things I would do differently. But the memories and value of each trip far outweigh the changes. Our schedule for this trip was to leave early Friday morning and get a cinnamon roll breakfast (his favorite) before going to the Tweetsie Railroad amusement park (he loves trains).

marshallWhen asked what he wanted to do on his special trip, he immediately said, “Climb a mountain.” So Friday night we stayed at Ridgecrest Retreat Center and climbed a mountain. Saturday we drove to Atlanta to catch a Braves game that evening. On the final day we went to the Georgia Aquarium (he loves animals) and got steaks (his other favorite food) on our way home.

Here are my thoughts on the trip (some serious, some playful).

  • It was worth every minute of planning and dollar we invested in the trip. It doesn’t have to be elaborate or expensive, but I highly recommend this discipleship and bonding activity.
  • I believe my son knows that he is headed into a new season of life. As his father, I want to frame the significance of the moments instead of letting them slip by or be defined by someone else.
  • For a younger brother who adores his big brother (often using him as a security blanket), taking this kind of trip on his own was important for his sense of independence and confidence.
  • Tailoring the trip around your kid’s interest (trains, animals, and favorite foods) is a great way to remind them that you know them and enjoy them.
  • Keep the Bible study time simple. We mainly focused on Luke 2:40. I looked for several occasions to emphasize how Jesus grew in wisdom, strength, and favor with God. Several times I prayed over my son out loud asking for these things for him and that God would use him to change the world.
  • Setting my son up to succeed was a joy. I could tell going into the trip he feared his mouth had written a check (climbing a mountain) his feet couldn’t cash. Our “climb” was a ¾ mile walk up a paved, steep hill to a great view. When he got to the top, he felt like a champion.
  • Improv to build the memories. There were “Beware of Bears” flyers at the camp ground. Again, my son faced his fears to climb the mountain. Later we stopped at Bass Pro Shop to get his picture with a stuffed bear. We told Mama about the flyers after we got back down.
  • My son was so excited about having climbed a mountain that we had to do again in the morning before we left for Atlanta. He was thrilled to tell his brother and be the only kindergartner who had climbed a mountain. On the way up the second time he said, “Papa, I love you with the same love I love Mama with.” That was a gold standard promotion coming from a little boy who usually growls at anyone (including Mama) who says, “I love you,” to him.
  • Go out for late night ice cream. We’ve done this on each trip and the quality of conversation has been incredible. Kids tend to talk when they know they should be asleep.
  • Use gifts to cement the memories. A children’s pack of binoculars and compass made the outdoor adventure more real. I pray each time he plays with these he remembers our adventure.
  • Things you should say frequently on this kind of trip, “I love you… I enjoy being your Papa… These are memories I’ll never forget… I believe God will use you to change the world.”
  • Don’t tank as a parent when something goes badly. The baseball game was a complete dud. My son was bored and disinterested. All he wanted to do was to climb to the top of the stadium (still enamored with his mountain accomplishment) and explore the cheap seats.
  • Make sure you leave time for rest. If your child doesn’t get time to sleep because the schedule is too full, the end of the trip will likely go poorly.
  • Teaching him to eat cold pizza for breakfast was another fun way to reinforce that he is getting older.
  • Don’t compare. The experiences with my oldest and youngest son’s trips were very different. At times I could feel myself wanting to recreate what I enjoyed about the first one. That would have robbed this trip of its unique joys.
  • Review the trip together. On the way home we talked through our trip – activities, meals, conversations, and silly stories. It was a subtle way to reinforce the lessons I wanted to implant and help to cement this experience in his memory.

Note from Special Trip II: Six months after that trip, we were doing family worship and came to Matthew 5:13-16. I asked my oldest if he remembered that passage. Without hesitation he said, “That was what we talked about in the hot tub on our special trip when things were going bad at school.”

As a parent, that is what I want. I want my boys to remember the significant and challenging seasons of their lives were times when Papa was uniquely present and that the Bible spoke into those moments in special ways. When my son can connect those dots that clearly six months later, I become even more excited about these trips.

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.