My husband recently asked our 12 year old son to name the provinces of Canada. To his dismay David could only name one or two and then guessed a few major Canadian cities (Calgary??). Granted, he probably had no interest in answering his father's query, however, it is obvious that our children are quite ignorant of basic Canadian geography.
Today I found a crumpled hand drawn map of Canada on our living room floor - I assume from a recent family geography lesson. A few moments ago I overheard our two youngest children reading the labels from the map to each other while playing school. As I listened to them, I wished that the map meant more to them than a bunch of names and squiggly lines. They have no concept of the enormity of this gorgeous country that we live in: they've never seen a mountain, an ocean, the prairies, an ancient forest. They've never seen Niagra Falls or any other Canadian wonder.
Until this moment I have had absolutely no desire to travel anywhere with my children. We have taken them to Ottawa a few times and Toronto once or twice. We travel into the States a bit for hockey tournaments and dance competitions - hotels, arenas, snowy highways - but never just for the sake of seeing the world. In my limited experience I have learned that family travel is the ultimate test of patience, sanity, and creative distraction techniques. The very thought of being packed into a mini-van with five children (and a husband) for 8 straight hours gives me the distinct feeling of wanting to fling myself from the moving vehicle.
Also, we live in paradise - a beautiful island with my parents' beach just a short walk away. My only ambitions each summer are to stock up on beach towels, good snacks and sunscreen. The thoughts of packing our car and facing traffic, paid parking, heat and crowds are unappealing at best.
And travelling is so expensive. Just the cost of gas is prohibitive. I have had other priorities. And still do.
But suddenly my thoughts on travelling with our kids have taken a drastic turn. I want to show them more of the world than our little corner of it. They are the perfect ages to take on adventures - no baby strapped into a seat crying unconsolably, no teenager rolling her eyes and complaining of constant boredom. They are young enough to want to travel with their parents yet old enough to remember and enjoy. And I think it's time.
I feel a bit of urgency in fact. As parents - a duty - to teach them, to enlarge their world. It's time to make a plan.