On a summer road trip, a mother, two daughters and a grandmother discover each other
By Candace Derickx
In the summer of 2008 I hit the road with my daughters (aged three and five at the time) for a road trip across Ontario. To them it was more time with mommy; to me it was a chance to show them they can go places. I never want them to hesitate to travel, I don’t want them to feel they have to wait for a man to join them and most of all, I want them to feel the rush freedom brings.
Since then, my girls and I head out on a yearly adventure we affectionately call Chick Week. This trip happens with the full support of my husband (truth be told he probably loves the quiet) and much to my mother’s chagrin. Raised in the pre-feminist era, she finds the thought of traveling without my father foreign, and also thinks it’s dangerous. Raised in the post-feminist era, I can’t imagine not having the freedom to travel when, where and how I want.
Last summer, I invited my mother to join us as we hit the road for a week to explore Kingston, Prince Edward County and Muskoka. Expecting her to decline, I was pleasantly surprised when she accepted. On a hot July morning, the four of us piled into the SUV and set off to learn about new destinations. En route, we ended up learning more about each other than ever expected.
Lesson #1 – Age is Only a Number
Leaving our driveway I braced myself for cries of “I’m bored”—and not just from the kids. Would it be possible to amuse three generations for a week? Turns out that was the easy part. There is no doubt my children have hit the parenthood sweet spot: there are no diapers, they have longer attention spans and they are better conversationalists. But where the years really melted away between us was in our play.
I got in touch with my inner child at Clevelands House, jumping off floating icebergs with my daughters into the clean, cool water of Lake Rousseau. At Santa’s Village, I’m not sure who had more fun paddle boating—my mom or my oldest daughter. And when a sudden downpour forced my youngest and I to take cover fast, we found ourselves trapped with Santa himself. Since we both had his undivided attention, we shared our lists fast before the rain stopped, then giggled all the way back to the car about how we had cornered Santa Claus. One night while sharing a pizza on the floor of a Bed and Breakfast, we all lingered a little longer, enjoying the moment. Joy and laughter were shared, along with the pizza, and age didn’t matter one bit.
Lesson #2 – Sharing History Teaches Big Lessons
Experts suggest if you want to have a good conversation with your kids, do it in the car. I’ll add to that: if you want your kids to really open up, take them on a road trip. For whatever reason—Seating arrangements? Lack of testosterone?— the story-sharing on this trip was memorable.
My girls asked questions that dug a little deeper into puberty, boys and peer-pressure, and my mother and I revealed a little more than we ever had about our experiences growing up. When I revealed that I cried for half a day in Grade 5 after a boy at school broke up with me, their jaws hit the floor.
They laughed uncontrollably when my mother shared stories about trips to the outhouse in the middle of the night and what it was like growing up with 15 siblings. Privacy, as she was quick to point out, was a luxury. Light bulbs went off as my girls realized we had been their age once and might actually have valuable advice to share.
The Best Souvenirs Are Memories
The girls probably can’t tell you what they brought home from our week traveling. Ask what they did though, and you may want to take a seat. They’ll tell you about the amazing smell inside Abbey’s Bakehouse and how, to get there, they walked across a dock over hundreds of lilies in bloom in a pond. They’ll go on about how shallow the water was along the shores of Presqu’ile Provincial Park and how they could walk out forever. By the time they’re done with you, you’ll no doubt want to race to Slicker’s in Prince Edward County for some Toasted Marshmallow ice cream. They will put their fingers in their ears when they tell you about the boom of the guns at Fort Henry, and how they learned to dive in a lake for the first time at Clevelands House. As time goes on, the specifics of that trip may fade but they will always remember the summer they took a road trip with their grandmother and their mom. It’s a keepsake more valuable than any souvenir.
Mirror, Mirror on the Wall, I am My Mother After All
Every daughter has that moment when words come spilling out of her mouth sounding eerily like those of her mother. It wasn’t until we went traipsing around Ontario, though, that it really hit home. I am my mother; she is me.
For years I’d been living under the assumption we are more different than alike, but I now know for the stuff that really matters we are in sync. The a-ha moment came when my girls asked to go to the park with a little girl they met in a small town where we stayed. Without hesitation, my mother and I said yes at the same time.
As it turns out, I’ve been parenting from the playbook my mom wrote. She was, in fact, a free-range parent before free-range parents were cool. And the rules for this are simple: let them try, let them fail, let them succeed and live on their own terms, but always be there if they need you.