One of my primary goals as a mom is to transfer the treasures of my own upbringing to my children while protecting them from the traumas.
My childhood was a mixed bag of wonderful reckless abandon and stormy turbulence. I admired and respected my hard-working mother, yet often missed her presence. I fought without fear, but wish I had had fewer opportunities to do so.
But one of the incredible gifts of my childhood was watching the way my father could magically transform disappointment into adventure.
The man is no saint and has a knack for turning nearly non-existent molehills into stormy mountainsides, a trait I inherited and rebuke, but I learned at a very early age by simply being in his presence that every moment provides us with choice, and that a simple change in direction can move you immediately out of one experience and into another. As his partner in crime and frequent co-conspirator, I often encouraged and participated in his schemes, sometimes to the dismay of my mother, but almost always with fantastic results.
One of my favorite memories occurred in Williamsburg, Virginia, where my older brother and I were vacationing with our parents. We were both in elementary school at the time and the long drive south from Pennsylvania to learn more about early American history seemed like a fun idea. The sweltering temperatures were far less fun. A couple days into the trip, my family and I parked in a sandy lot and walked into old town, checking out brick building after brick building, reading one plaque after another, dripping with sweat in humidity like I had never felt before. My mom and brother were completely content and looking forward to an upcoming guided tour. My dad and I had had enough. I don’t remember the details of the following negotiations, but without much finagling, my dad and I went from shooting each other a couple complaints and knowing looks to handing over the car keys to my mom, hopping in a cab, and spending the rest of the day at the hotel pool.
You don’t like your situation? Change it. No apologies.
Two weeks ago my daughter and I flew to Walt Disney World on her 11th birthday as part of an event focusing on all there is for tweens to see and do in the World. The night before we left brought enough snow to cancel school, yet not enough to ground our flight. For three glorious days we gallivanted around the parks, thrilled to have time alone together and honestly just as excited to be away from the snowy north after another long winter.
And then an ice storm canceled all flights back home.
Our final day of the trip was enjoyed under the shadow of phone calls, emails, and texts as I tried to determine where we’d be sleeping that night and when we’d eventually return home. The airlines were saying it would be days. The resort wasn’t immediately sure about room availability. My husband needed to return to work, not stay with our son. My daughter needed to participate in state testing. My phone battery was dying and there was no way we’d be able to stay in the parks with our friends for dinner and fireworks. We had to get back and get sorted out.
And that’s when I upgraded my daughter to co-conspirator, the modern day me, my role becoming that of my father.
No dinner? No flight home? No big deal. I had a credit card, a room service menu, and a television showing non-stop Disney programming.
Emma and I hunkered down for the night and as the Disney team arranged for us to stay one more night on property and return home the next day on newly booked flights, we ate sundaes in bed while watching Jessie, I Didn’t Do It, and Girl Meets World.
It was perfect.
Misfortune into magic. Thanks, Dad.