|N with his Gram at the Newseum|
When I was 5 years old I started spending a week during the summers visiting my grandma, first by myself and then with one of my younger sisters. At the time my parents and siblings and I lived in the country in northern Minnesota, outside of a town of 200 people and my grandma lived on a busy street corner in St. Paul. I felt I was in a foreign, exotic place when I fell asleep at her house with the bright streetlights and traffic noise glaring and blaring (so it seemed to me) through the windows all night long. Grandma took us to the zoo, took us "bumming" (her word for shopping!) so she, the mother of two boys, could buy her granddaughters matching frilly dresses, took us out for the greasy food she loved to indulge in at places like Kentucky Fried Chicken, Sirlin's Sirloins, Mickey's Diner, and Ember's Restaurant. None of these were things we did in our regular, rural, healthy, hippie life at home! We loved visiting Grandma by ourselves.
It was easy for me to go on these visits. I was a confident child and it never even occurred to me to worry about being away. I loved my home, but I was never homesick when I visited my grandma, or later my aunt, or my friend in the country after we moved to the city, or when I went to camp. When I was N.'s age I happily flew with my Grandma from the Twin Cities to Washington, D.C. for a 2-week whirlwind bus tour of all the major sites in the capital, as well as Gettysburg, Mount Vernon, and Monticello!
|Me, about to board a plane with my Grandma (1984).|
But it seemed to me that pushing N. to go before he felt ready would not be honoring his emotions as real and legitimate. For me, it was just as important that his concerns, feelings, and preferences are valued and respected by us as that he learn that his worries might be unfounded. In the end, I just couldn't bring myself to force him to go before he thought he was ready. He had such a good time on this visit to his grandparents, however, that I hope this will be the first of many independent trips and experiences, including more visits to family, and even summer camps!