As a gift to my oldest grandson on his 14th birthday, I decided to take him on a trip. The mission was twofold: to spend important bonding time with him, and on a more ambitious level, to begin transferring the family mantle (it's a man thing, I guess).
Quick Tips for a Fun Trip
- Gear your trip to your grandchild's unique interests and hobbies, not just yours.
- Be open to changing directions if a particular activity isn't going over as well as you'd hoped.
- Think like a kid. Schedule some fun and games in with walking tours and museum visits.
- Choose a few activities that stimulate conversation. A monster truck rally is a lot of fun, but it's not a good place to talk about the meaning of life!
- On communicating: A lecture is not a conversation. Practice your listening skills. Encourage your grandchild to ask questions — and you do the same. You may not think you'll learn something new, but what's the old saying? — "out of the mouths of babes . . .?"
Joshua was interested in the Civil War so I took him to the prisoner-of-war site in Andersonville, Georgia, a three-hour drive from where we live, near former President Jimmy Carter's birthplace.
We toured the site, the cemetery and the excellent POW-MIA museum where we saw a replica of the type of cell in which my friend Lee Ellis spent five years at the Hanoi Hilton in Vietnam.
Joshua and I talked about different things, including the sinister side of humans who would allow 26,000 men to be confined in an area intended to hold 13,000. At one time the prisoner count rose to 32,000 and disease caused by lack of sanitation killed thousands.
That night, we checked into a local motel. It was a hot, dry July so we swam in the pool. Later we ate good local barbecue. It was a terrific experience for both of us. We returned home the next day. Our little adventure allowed us 60 uninterrupted hours together. Joshua's memories of our days together may be more vivid later in life than now. I know I'll never forget.
The next year our second grandson turned 14. He has excellent artistic skills, so I thought we'd go to a nature site he'd never heard of. My hope was that we would see an abundance of wildlife Justin could treat as subjects. Though the reality was he didn't take all that well to our trip to the Phinizy Swamp, we did find an excellent art museum along the Savannah River in downtown Augusta. We also visited the Fort Discovery National Science Museum. Echoing my earlier time with Justin, Joshua also swam in the motel pool, and we enjoyed steak dinners.
Next year our oldest granddaughter Kathryn turns 14. It will be my wife's turn to do some specialized grandparent bonding. She hasn't decided where they'll go and what they'll do, but you can be sure it's going to be a treasured experience for both.