I’ve seen some amazing things.
Now, before you get all uppity and start asking me “what makes you so damn amazing?” let me remind you I said I’d seen some amazing things, not that I, myself, the author, am amazing. That’s just egomaniacal.
But I have. What I worry about is whether I’ve pushed my kids to see and do those same amazing things?
I never went out with a plan to see and do these things. They just happened. Many of them were for work. Many were not. It’s not like a post I made some time ago about doing things on a “bucket list.” I often think about the things I’ve done and wonder about the world and environment in which I’ve raised my four children. Is it the same one that I had? Is it better? Is it worse?
I had a great childhood. Whatever issues came from my teenage years were my own, nothing to do with the people that raised me. I was insanely fortunate to have been born to amazing parents. Many of you might say the same thing. Others of you may not.
It’s an odd balance, particularly since I’m it now on the parental front. You want them to open up and be friendly and play around and have fun. They also have to know that you’re the one in charge and when things go wrong the consequences will not be good. You might call it a healthy dose of fear. I call it reality . . . along with some self-preservation.
But I look at my oldest, Abbi, and think about where I was at her age. She faces a lot of similar issues: dating; lack of a date for the dance; anger at misunderstandings….
But where I lacked the confidence and had an abundance of shyness she excels, even when she says she “hates people.”
But before her age: at 16 I had driven from Nebraska to Colorado – by myself – and visited my brother in college. Think about that: no cell phones. Middle of nowhere in Nebraska, Wyoming and Colorado. What if I’d broken down? What if things went haywire? Why did my parents let me do this?! Two reasons, I think, though I’ve had no discussion about it: they and I trust(ed) my older brother. They also gave me the tools – figuratively and literally – to limp along if something went wrong. I had the ability to change a tire, tighten the plugs, check the distributor, all that. In my 1977 Buick I was able to get to Colorado and back. The result? I went to the top of Mount Antaro. I drove a 4×4 on a logging road. I froze my a** off due to my brothers’ friends’ stupidity. I had stories to tell…stories that got better every time I told them. I saw the Who live, and the Doobie Brothers, and Steve Miller and a major festival with Taj Mahal, BB King and Stevie Ray Vaughan at Red Rocks. All in those Colorado trips.
I turned 19, went to college, and taught myself to play the guitar.
But I guess it wasn’t enough.
My lack of confidence and willingness to blame everyone but myself for that loneliness and anger was also what spurred me to do the job I do. The result has been my working hard at my industry – as a journalist – and seeing amazing things. I’ve met presidential candidates; covered presidents; met amazing people. I went to Afghanistan (okay, I went to Germany, flew to pick up wounded soldiers and spend 2 hours on the ground in Afghanistan…but I was still there!) I saw the Pentagon right after 9/11. I found pieces of the Space Shuttle Columbia on the ground. I found a charred mission patch and wondered…”why do I do this?” only to be told…because you tell stories and people need to know.
But the thing I’ve realized is that I’ve had these adventures – and they were adventures – and never really shared them. Some my partner and wife didn’t have any desire to have. I’ve always wanted to see the Pyramids at Giza…she didn’t. I was in awe of Germany and told her I wanted to take her there . . . and she simply said “meh!” Sure, we had some together…climbing a waterfall in Jamaica; driving a motorcycle in Grand Cayman. But those were early. In the last 10 years, even, very little.
I’ve tried very hard, particularly in the last couple years, to let my children know that life can be adventurous. You don’t have to go to Afghanistan or Germany. You can go to Gettysburg or Yosemite or even London. Life is the adventure and we’d lost it. I don’t know where or how or why, it just went dark somehow.
But now . . . I’ve taken Abbi to New York, forcing her to see the Statue of Liberty. I took Hannah to see the Who!, like her father did at 16. Would I let my kids drive across several states like I did? I doubt it, but then . . . they didn’t have my brother to go visit, either. But they travel to my parents and my brother every year. That’s an adventure!
What I want is my kids to have the adventure, the drive, and the skill . . . and the confidence to know they can do it. I see them all able to do their own, amazing things . . . I just want them to remember they can do them.