Oh, how I love a good field trip! To the woods and the water, the more novel the better. I adore spontaneous outings, but also relish having fun to look forward to on the calendar (because anticipation is *almost* as much fun as the actual experience of it, but yes, I digress). The trick sometimes, though, with kids, is just getting them out the door.
You know how when they were younger, if we suddenly found ourselves short on diapers or diversions we simply scooped up our littles and off we went? The kids weren’t always game for such adventures, at first, but tears and tantrums were no match for us. We simply hugged them and kissed them, buckled them into carseats, hummed the tune to “Mission Impossible” to rally any recalcitrant troops, and made a run for it. Remember that? (After all, some things really are nonnegotiable. You know, like wearing diapers.) Yeah, those were the days. Seems I can’t just cart them to the car, anymore, one on each hip. (I just watched my son deadlift 485 pounds of heavy metal a few days ago. SO not happening.) So if I want my kids to play along, I must now negotiate.
Seems everything is subject to negotiation, these days. If you’re parenting teenagers, you know what I mean. And hey, that’s how it should be! I have to pick my battles about the limits I set (and I do set a few), but by and large, nearly everything is up for debate.
Being taken seriously at this stage makes for a more confident adulthood, in my opinion, but I’m still up to the challenge. And I still love a good field trip. But I’ve had to become more clever. Yes, indeed. For example, it’s high time we cashed in on the cool “cave cove canyon paddle” (a guided kayaking trip in Wisconsin) I purchased for my nature boy’s birthday last year. Time got away from us and it never happened, but time is running out — so on the calendar it goes, right? But my kids now straddle both sides of "legal adulthood," and have minds and ideas of their own — so it’s not that simple.
First, I tried the old "would you prefer this date or that date?" trick. No dice. They wanted to go, but like typical teenagers, they also wanted to keep their options and weekends open in case better offers came along. I get it. But still, spots in kayaks don’t always materialize when the spirit moves us, so decisions had to be made.
Next, I tried tempting them with the other stuff we could do on the way:
“The farmers market in Madison!”
“That’s something YOU would like,” Noah said. Yes, yes it is. Foiled again.
“The University of Wisconsin!” School? Really? I was being ridiculous.
“How ‘bout a water park?” Noah countered. Oh. Gah! This kid's a tough negotiator. I’d rather poke my eyes out with a hot poker. I do love a good water slide, but if I had my druthers, I’d prefer a more natural setting, away from that theme-park vibe and those crowds. But I really want to get my offspring in the same car for one last hurrah before school begins, and the window had finally cracked open — so I jumped through it.
“YES! Of course! A water park!” I practically slapped my forehead in an effort to be convincing. And, quick as a bunny, before the kid changed his mind, I got on the horn and made the magic happen. Just like that, I sealed the deal. He can’t back out now, since the room’s already paid for, right?
Favorite local, free spots I’ve fond memories of dragging my kids to: Leroy Oaks Forest Preserve in St. Charles (head down to the stream — great wading!), the Japanese Tea Garden in the Fabyan West Forest Preserve in Geneva, and the Red Oak Nature Center in North Aurora (don’t miss the cave!). Check out their websites, flush those kids outdoors and make a memory before they head back to school.
Jennifer DuBose lives in Batavia with her family. Her column runs regularly in the Kane Weekend section of the Kane County Chronicle. Contact her at email@example.com.