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Just Take the Trip

grove family safari

“Mom, I can’t go,” 

I heard my 16 year old son say as he walked down the entry hall.  

I was loading the dishwasher and the dryer buzzed. The usual clamoring that occurred in my head around the 5 o’clock hour continued. Practices, homework, piles of items that were requested to be put away days ago all lay in front of me.  

“Mommmm, I can’t go.”  

He said it again, and this time I heard an inflection in his voice that paused the internal noise.  

What was he talking about? His little brother’s baseball game. Are we supposed to be at dinner with his grandparents? 

I looked at him and shot back.  “Where? Where can’t you go, Hunter?”  

“I can’t go on Spring Break, Mom. I can’t go with you guys.”

A multitude of emotions flew through my being as I processed his words. 

In the past, we had always been able to arrange our trips around him and his commitments. His little brother and sister are 7 and 8 years younger than him, so they had a flexible or non-imperative schedule. But, now, as they’ve aged, their little lives have grown to be less pliable.

“What do you mean you can’t go?”  

I came across with anger as if he had some sort of control or choice over the statement. This was a family trip we had been planning for seven months. 

A big one. An expensive one. One where memories would be made, gosh darnit!

For this Spring Break, we had decided to go outside of our norm and show our kiddos the world of the mountainous terrain out west. Skiing, snowboarding, tubing, all things snow!  We were hoping for solid quality time together in a new and awesome place that we had never explored before: Colorado.  

I took a breath as I looked at his face and – in that moment – I saw a young man standing in front of me. My be-bopping, moppy haired boy was not just standing taller than me, but also leaping fast and furious into a new chapter of his life. One that I didn’t see myself being as much a part of as I thought I would be.  

I had heard about the teenage years and the cliche of only having 18 summers. Gosh, I would love to have 18 summers. But, guess what… you’re lucky if you get 18.

For some, it’s about 12. 12 summers. 12 Spring Breaks. Once he hit the teen years, we were met with commitments. Much more significant ones. And also, the voice inside my head told me that I had to follow through with supporting what I had always told him,”If you make a commitment, you have to see it through!!” 

Commitments aside, by the age of 12/13 or so, kids start having opinions about how they want to spend their time. Maybe you can make them go… but they won’t be happy about it.

How had I just been coasting along and not seen this coming?  

Because: life.  

Because each morning, I wake up and fall forward to wade through the insurmountable day-to-day obligations: take them here, pick them up, wash uniforms, someone has a field trip, the dog ate a shin guard and soccer is tonight, one kid needs an orange shirt on Thursday but hates orange and doesn’t have one, three kids need a parent at three places and last time I checked there are only two of us, and what, they want to eat, too?  

My head crashes into the pillow and then…rinse, wash, repeat. 

That’s how I didn’t see it coming. 

Sixteen years of “rinse, wash, repeat” came to a screeching halt as I realized I couldn’t get one single day back. 

Not one day.

Not one week.

Not a spring break or a Christmas, a summer or a little league game.  

And now, not an opportunity to take a trip.

That stupid Facebook post that I’ve seen a million times haunted my mind… the days go slow but the years go fast. It’s that simple. It’s really that simple. 

I looked into his eyes and I realized that this was as hard on him as it would be on the other four of us. Maybe even harder. I said I was sorry, but we both knew that there weren’t words at the moment, or maybe ever, that would help.  

He explained that there was a tournament during that week that he felt he couldn’t miss. It wasn’t mandatory or because his coach made him feel he had to be there. It was because he knew it was the right decision.  

I gave him a hug and said, “We’ll figure it out,” knowing good and well, there was no figuring it out.  

That night, I laid there thinking of all the years that passed that we had reasons to delay or put off trips: finances (trips are expensive!), timing with work and really, Mom Life.

As I continued to lie there, I couldn’t help but think of my littles and what I wanted to (quickly) change about the years that I have left with them.  

Take the trip. Just take the trip. 

I thought of the missed opportunities and the regrets. I’m not one to dwell on the should-haves and could-haves because I truly believe if we are raising kind, happy kids, it’s okay to miss a lot of things.  

But this one really bothered me.   

If only we would have paused and realized the utter importance of the gift of travel as a family.  

While I will never forget leaving a piece of my heart at home while the plane took off to Colorado, it ended up being an important lesson as well as a trip that has quite possibly changed the trajectory of my daughter’s life. This meek and anxious 9-year-old, who had not a lick of self-confidence, found herself skiing down a mountain like she’d been raised on one.  

“Hi Mom!!!”  She waved and smiled so brightly a day after completing beginner’s ski school. “I’m moving to Colorado when I grow up and I’m going to be a ski instructor!” 

With that, off she went and hopped onto a ski lift after apparently checking any fear back at the gate.  

skiing success

Was this the child I’ve known and loved for 9 years? Did that actually just happen? In one week, my daughter transformed. All because of the trip. 

Days and then weeks (eventually months) after our ski trip, it became more and more apparent to me as to what a profound impact travel can have on children, families, spouses and friends. 

Maybe it’s a quick getaway or maybe it’s that once-in-a-lifetime family bucket list destination.  Or maybe it’s a long weekend to reconnect with your spouse. No matter what it is, just take the trip.

Vacation, trips, whatever you want to call them, are experiences. They are memories that will be taken with each of us no matter where life goes. They can be impactful, even life-changing. 

As I reflect on the last sixteen years of motherhood, I have a few profound takeaways. 

It’s not what our children can hold that they will remember, it is what they felt

Grove Family skiing - family travel

Memories and experiences from trips aren’t left in a toy box or on a shelf. They aren’t under a bed collecting dust or eventually dumped in a donation bag. They aren’t phased out as our children enter a new age and stage of maturity. These memories get quietly stored in a section of their hearts and minds that eloquently and gracefully make their presence known throughout their lives, that help shape who they are and who they’ll become.  

So where are you going this year? 


Jen Grove is a travel advisor for Living with the Magic Family Vacations ~ Cruises, Beaches and All-Inclusives

Email her or check her out on Facebook to start planning your family’s dream vacation.


  1. Avatar of Dahlia

    Oh, I love this. My kids are still little, so we mostly stay relatively close to home, but they don’t care; they just love family vacations, and it means so much to me to be able to give them to them. You’re absolutely right that these are the things that last forever in their own ways, and I’m going to keep this in mind whenever I’m feeling hesitant about it or just need a little positive reinforcement for a trip we’ve decided to take anyway.

  2. Avatar of Mary Beth

    I love this. It’s so important for kids to experience travel with family. Everything is exciting to them: going through the airport, getting a window seat on the plane, landing in a place with palm trees. And months after the trip, when the kids are reminded of a place they’ve visited, they can say, “Hey, I’ve been there!” and as a parent it’s great to hear them excited about places they’ve been and that they look forward to planning the next adventure.

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